Don't worry about remembering the web address, On December 6th, I will be putting up a link to Bojay's Baseball Blog (hugs to anyone who begins calling it "The Triple B") on The Collective(ly) Unconscious. So be patient baseball fans, here is a sneak peak at what you can look forward to for December. And non-baseball fans: give me a break, it is Finals week and I am clearly running on creative fumes.
I used to like the Tampa Bay Rays.
Of late I have been finding it difficult, however. Don't worry, St. Pete, the Rays have done me no wrong. They didn't call me fat, or scuff my shoes, or forget to RSVP to my birthday party. No, the Rays have committed a far more insidious sin: they started winning.
I remember buying tickets to Indians-Devil Rays games every year. The Rays were so bad that tickets were always easy to come by. Even die-hard Tribe fans had a hard time watching the slaughter on a Summer afternoon. I have seen CC Sabathia shut out Tampa's team over 7 innings, Julio Lugo miss a foul-ball because a fan yelled "I got it" and Ben Francisco drive a dagger into Tampa's hearts with a 9th-inning, game-winning shot to deep left-field. And with all this failure, all this never-ending mediocrity I grew to love the little guys from the South.
I saw them in person every year, I watched them on TV whenever I could (which was not very often) and I even considered buying a Carl Crawford jersey for awhile. Why was I so obsessed with these Devil Rays? Because there is nothing so inherently charming as an awful baseball team.
Baseball is a game of ubiquity. Every summer, young men in dapper jerseys take the field to play America's game every day. And every summer, a city develops a unique relationship with these Boys of Summer. It is an easy game to understand and an easy game to critique. A fielder stands alone in the field, no one else to cover him and when he makes an error, it is obvious. Likewise, when a batter flails at a curveball for strike three, his failure is obvious. It is easy for baseball fans to see what is wrong when they look up at the scoreboard and see a collection of .212s, .243s, .198s and .222s. When a baseball team sucks, it is obvious that it does.
And that is what I love about the game. I love the idea about wage-labor drones sitting at the local sport's bar and bitching about how their teams' clean-up hitter only has 47 RBI, how the bullpen can't hold a lead to save its life and how the shortstop is 20 pounds overweight and can't get the ball to his right. That, my friends, is baseball: A community growing closer by bitching about the overpaid jerks losing games. There is nothing that brings a city closer together than a bad baseball team. City's with bad baseball teams even develop a short-hand way to communicate with each other.
In New York, citizens look at each other, shake their heads in disgust and say: "Fricking Mets."
In Chicago, citizens look at each other, shake their heads in disgust and say: "Fricking Cubs."
And here in Cleveland, there is an age-old saying that goes: "Fricking Tribe."
Even cities that are home to exemplary teams try to find something to complain about. In 2007, after the Red Sox won their second World Series in four years, fans were far more likely to say "Fricking Gagne almost blew it", than "I am so happy the Red Sox pulled it off again!" This type of close relationship between fans and the players they love to hate so much is uniquely baseball. You can't find this type of self-flagellation in any other sport.
So, that is why the Rays are dead to me. They went from being that cute little team that you could always watch flail around but always fall short, to the juggernaut that took no prisoners. And let me tell you, there is nothing cute about juggernauts flattening everyone in their path. But don't worry, Tampa and St. Pete, now that the Rays have finally earned your attention they will tear your heart out somewhere down the road. It is just the way baseball works and there is an entire legion of fans that loves the sport for it.
That actually reminds me of something I have been wanting to say since the Indians season ended in September.