Tampa Bay Rays: Champions of the American League
A quick shout-out to all the Tampa Bay Rays fans out there ó particularly those whoíve been following the team, and its many futilities, for years. More than owner Stuart Sternberg (who didnít own the team until 2004), general manager Andrew Friedman (who didnít GM it until 2005) or even the players (who did the heavy lifting, but whose senior member, Carl Crawford, has been with the club all of six years), this pennantís for you. You supported a crappy club. You went to a crappy stadium when there was no hope. You cheered on a team that was last place in its division every year but one of its existence, that never had a record above .500, that never fielded a superstar. Seriously, drink up.
Iíve been rooting for the Rays all year, certainly more than I have for the Mariners, and only slightly less than I have for the Twins. Didnít know how much I cared for the Rays until the collapse in Game 5, the finger pulling in Game 6, the twisting into pretzels in the 8th inning of Game 7.
I think I was rooting for the Rays not merely because they were the underdog of underdogs but out of some measure of schadenfreude as well. The freude I felt wasnít so much for the schaden done to the Red Sox (whom I like), or even the Yankees (whom, everyone knows, I despise) but to the Mariners, who were once my team but whose front office effed things up beyond measure throughout the Ď90s and into this decade, until the Mís, who were the Rays of the Ď80s, are now the Rays once again: the worst team in baseball.
But how does the Raysí success hurt the Mariners? The subhed here says it all. Now that the Rays are World Series-bound, the three teams who have never won a pennant are the Senators/Rangers, founded in 1961; the Expos/Nationals, founded in 1969; and your Seattle Mariners, founded in 1977. And the Mariners are the most embarrassing of the bunch.
Why most embarrassing? After all, havenít the Mís been around the least amount of time? And havenít they done the best of the three? Going to the ALCS three times? Fielding future Hall of Famers like Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson? As well as superstars like Edgar Martinez (who should go to the Hall), Jay Buhner and Jamie Moyer?
And thatís the very reason the Mariners should be most embarrassed. This team shouldíve gone to the Fall Classic at least once. Hell, they shouldíve owned the damned thing. Because every one of those players mentioned above was on the team at the same time. Future baseball historians are going to look back at the mid-to-late Ď90s Mariners, at the talent stuffing that team, and at how little they accomplished, and go: WTF?
Every team gets a shot. The Mariners had two: the Griffey-led team in the Ď90s, and the Ichiro-led team in the early Ď00s. Neither took. Now look. The Mís are in a hole itíll take years of smart moves to dig out of; and I donít know that they have the guys to make those smart moves. I think, despite all the firings, they have the opposite.
Enough of that. Hereís to a team that did the most with its shot. And hereís to seven games.