When the Tampa Bay Rays were battling the New York Yankees for the right to represent the AL in the World Series, I had a hard time figuring out which team I wanted to win.
“I do not like the Rays,” said someone very close to me. “Most boring team in all of sports, including ….”
Ah, it doesn’t matter who he was including. Finishing that sentence will only get me in trouble. The point here is I wasn’t crazy about Tampa either. But I also wasn’t very familiar with the team.
I knew the Rays had three good starters in Cy Young- winning lefty Blake Snell, 6-foot-8 flamethrower Tyler Glasnow and wily veteran Charlie Morton.
I knew they had a Kevin Pillar-like centerfielder in Kevin Kiermaier, that their “best player” was a second baseman, Brandon Lowe, who would not be called that on any other team, that the little-known Randy Arozarena was forging a reputation as the Mr. October of 2020 and that they had a backup infielder, Mike Brosseau, for whom I gained instant respect when he belted an Aroldis Chapman 100-plus mph heater over the fence to win a game just a few weeks after he was almost killed by an Aroldis Chapman 100-plus mph heater.
But now, not only have I learned more about the Rays, I’m starting to like them. Mostly for two reasons, the first of which is obvious:
In this pandemic shrunken season, Tampa had the third lowest payroll in baseball, at $28.3 million just ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. The Rays’ World Series opponents, the Los Angeles Dodgers, forked out $107.9 million to their players, second most after the Yankees.
That’s a ridiculous payroll discrepancy. Of course the Dodgers should win. They’ve bought a champion.
The other reason I’m liking the Rays is their character. Seldom has baseball seen anything like it.
After losing Game 1 by a score of 8-3 on Tuesday, the Rays did what they do. They bounced back with a vengeance for a 6-4 victory the very next night.
Immediately afterwards, the crew at FOX presented a stat/chart that is sure to impress you. It listed the best records following a loss of four-or-more runs since 1900, including post-season play:
The 1929 Athletics, 13-0;
The 1947 Yankees, 14-1;
The 1906 Cubs, 9-1;
The 1942 Cardinals, 8-1;
The 2020 Rays, 8-1.
Isn’t that crazy? To be among the top five teams in the history of baseball, in any positive category, is a tremendous accomplishment. To so often dust yourself off and deliver a strong shot of retaliation — the way Brosseau did to Chapman — is awe-inspiring.
I don’t know if the Rays are going to win this World Series, which resumes Friday, but I would bet they won’t go down quietly.
Call these Rays whatever you want. But boring they are not.
OFF THE BAT
One year ago I missed an opportunity to cover the World Series for the first time because of a concussion. This time, any chance I had was crushed by my colonoscopy on Tuesday. Crappy luck, eh? … The NHL has cancelled the 2021 Winter Classic, which was scheduled for Jan. 1 at Target Field in Minneapolis. It would have been a great way to begin the season, which leads you to believe Gary Bettman no longer thinks he can hit the targeted start-up date of New Year’s Day … The NHL also cancelled All-Star weekend. I don’t know when or where that was supposed to be, and I don’t care.
OUT OF BOUNDS
Nick Foles has acknowledged he was snubbed by Tom Brady when trying to shake his hand after the Bears beat the Bucs last Thursday. “You know, it’s happened a few times,” said Foles, per our friend Stacey Dales. “Someday Tom and I will have a great conversation about it and probably laugh about it. It is what it is. I think he’s a tremendous player.” And a poor sport, but whatever … A column on Sportsnet.ca speculates five potential destinations for free agent sniper Mike Hoffman. In order, they are: Nashville, Columbus, New Jersey, Boston and Carolina. I’d say there’s as great a chance of Hoffman signing with the Blue Jackets as with Ottawa. He’s a rich man’s Anthony Duclair, and John Tortorella couldn’t wash his hands of Duclair quick enough.
ON THIS DATE
Exactly 75 years ago, Jackie Robinson signed a contract with the Triple-A Montreal Royals … Exactly 27 years ago, the Blue Jays successfully defended their World Series title with a 8-6 victory over the Phillies in Game 6 at the SkyDome. Paul Molitor was named WS MVP … Soccer icon Pele was born 80 years ago on this day.
In case you missed it, Phil Michelson is 2-for-2 on the Champions Tour after following up a win in his debut earlier this month with a victory at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic last weekend. Michelson finished minus-17, three shots better than Canada’s Mike Weir. “I was low right-hander,” said Paul Goydos, who was third at minus-13. When was the last time two lefties finished atop any leaderboard? … The San Jose Sharks new third jersey has been described as a replica of the California Golden Seals (which yes, does sound like a floor wax) uniforms in their final two seasons (1974-75, 1975-76). The Seals were 182-401-115 in their nine seasons and 46-90-24 in their last two years. Why would anyone want to look like them? … Come to think of it, I can imagine Erik Karlsson rocking the white skates Seals owner Charles O. Finley had his players wearing for two years when they were in Oakland … Ottawa businessman Jeff Darwin reminds us it’s been exactly 11 years since the passing of his father. Howard is still very much missed, not just by his many friends but as a man with integrity and influence on the local sports scene.