Around a decade ago, the Yankees were shamelessly signing everyone who was clearly on steroids with no shame. As a Bronx boy, I was a fan for as long as I could remember, but as if their competitive disadvantage wasn’t enough, they quickly went from Roger Clemens to Jason Giambi to Gary Sheffield. It stopped being fun to root for them and, well, sports without fun aren’t worth the time. It was the height of my time as a baseball junkie, so I decided to root for the worst team in baseball that had exciting young players and promise. A bit of Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford later, and I was a Rays fan. I haven’t regretted it once.
For those that somehow missed it, the Rays became one of the best run organizations in baseball under Andrew Friedman by drafting top talent, getting extra draft picks, brilliant trading, and finding awesome bargain bin players to contribute. With their quality has come success, and this is the third of the past four post-seasons they’ll be in the playoffs.
Oh, wait? Did I forget to mention that? Despite the second lowest payroll in a rebuilding year, the Rays came back from about a bajillion games down in September, the most anyone has ever been down during that month, and came back to top the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card. Those same Red Sox whose massive payroll of over $200 million is second only to that of the Yankees. To get there, they had to win their 162nd and very last game, coming down from 7-0 in the bottom of the eighth, triumphing in extra innings, and beating the Yankees. Meanwhile, the Red Sox had to lose, and did so to the worst team in baseball as Robert Andino continued to crush them and former Ray dropped a ball that allowed the game winner to cross the plate in the bottom of the 9th. What’s even the right word for that? Miraculous? Satisfying? Thrilling? Cathartic? I’ll take all of the above.
The Rays now head out to the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, another really well run team, although one with more leeway financially. Win or lose, this is going to be the stuff of legend, but win, and this is one of the most historic seasons in baseball history. This year, for the second in a row, I just cared less about baseball. I love saber and the closed-mindedness, anger and ignorance of fans and media turned me off, along with the sheer grind of the intensely long season and the seeming pot-luck of the playoffs. Well, the Rays, and their epic comeback serve as a reminder of all that’s right with the game. I won’t be tuning out of the playoffs now and am psyched for next season. Maybe that’s the best word for these Rays: Redemptive.
Tags: Boston Red Sox, MLB, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays