It seems the 2009 Rays can't keep anything going. For every step forward they take, they seem to go back two more. Momentum seems to be absent from the vocabulary. And after spending 2 days above .500, the Rays drop back below with a loss to the Yankees in the abomination of a park.
Normally, I would recap the game and tell you what I noticed. But, those posts seem to be eerily similar after each loss. So, is it over? Is it time to realize that this is nothing more than a .500 team? Should we begin thinking that the 2008 Rays team played way over their head. Or are the Rays just in a funk that a long win streak could fix.
Here's a look at 5 things from the pessimist in me, and 5 things from the optimist in me. You tell me where you fall.
Pessimist: A team below .500 in June has no chance of coming back in the second half of the season, especially in the AL East.
Optimist: Even though they're hovering around .500, this team can still make some noise. They have yet to play the Toronto Blue Jays and still have plenty of late season match-ups against AL East foes. If they get hot at the right time, they could get into the playoffs.
Optimist: David Price is improving with each start. He gives the Rays a serious chance to win each time he's out there. Matt Garza and James Shields are just getting into a groove. Jeff Niemann is pitching better than anybody expected. As for Scott Kazmir and Andy Sonnanstine, they just need to work out their kinks and they'll be back better than ever.
Pessimist: Scott Kazmir is done. He's a shell of his former self. Andy Sonnanstine needs to leave the team and never come back. The Rays waited too long to bring up David Price. Jeff Niemann is just a rookie. And Garza and Shields don't get any run support.
Pessimist: Good riddance to Troy Percival. Hopefully that Jason Isringhausen guy will be right behind him. Grant Balfour truly was a one-year fluke and will never be a solid middle reliever. The only reason Dan Wheeler still gets run out there is because of his father-in-law and J.P. Howell is just too inconsistent. Don't even get me started on that Vulcan dude Joe Nelson, he's up there pitching batting practice every couple of days. Maddon should just send Lance Cormier out there every time.
Optimist: The bullpen's having trouble getting into a groove because of injuries and the starting pitchers. Once the starters begin regularly getting into the late innings, Maddon can give his bullpen clearly defined roles. Percy's the key. If he can come back healthy, the Rays can quit the closer-by-committee and commit to everyone's roles.
B.J. Upton/Dionar Navarro's hitting troubles
Optimist: Bossman's still trying to get his groove back after his surgery. He had to over adjust his swing for the torn labrum and he's just now getting it back. Once he's got it going, you'll see why Maddon kept him in the leadoff spot. As for Navi, he'll come around. He was an All-Star last year and he's going through a rough patch.
Pessimist: Bossman's a lazy turd who has no business in the starting lineup. He jogs to flyballs and lets way too many get over his head. At the plate, the guy strikes out too much and is overrated offensively. The only thing he's good for is stealing a base or two. He should be at the bottom of the order, right in front of Navi. Speaking of the catcher, the guy not only can't hit, now he can't catch. He's letting too many balls go by and making throwing errors. The Greatness that is Michel Hernandez should be the everyday catcher.
Pessimist: Why are these guys even on the team? They bring nothing to the table except the occasional at-bat. Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce should be getting all the playing time in right field. Gabe Kaplar should go back down to managing in the minors and Gabe Gross should head back to Auburn for summer football camp.
Optimist: The Gabes are professional baseball players who bring a stability to the locker room. Gabe Gross was instrumental in last year's playoff run. Kaplar was brought in specifically to deal with the left-handed pitcher problems. We're half-way through the year and at some point these guys are going to win us a few games.
The Edwin Jackson trade
Optimist: It's good to see Jackson doing so well in Detroit. The Rays had a logjam with starting pitchers and someone had to go. The Detroit Tigers were willing to give up a power-hitting right fielder in the trade. It's a good deal for both sides. Once Matt Joyce really turns it on, everyone will forget about E-Jax.
Pessimist: I wish we still had Edwin Jackson pitching every fifth day instead of Andy Sonnanstine. Why couldn't they have gotten rid of the "crafty" pitcher instead of the flamethrower. Detroit got one over on us and they'll probably go to the playoffs and we'll sit around and watch E-jax tear it up.
Pessimist: You can't blame injuries for the Rays troubles. They were playing like crap before all the injuries. That's the danger when you're playing .500 ball with your best lineup, lose a couple of those guys and watch the season tank.
Optimist: The Rays are still persevering, despite the injuries. Once Evan Longoria gets healthy again and Pat Burrell comes back, Carlos Pena will resume his tear. The Rays will be scoring runs by the boatload and we won't care who's pitching.
Optimist: Maddon is the best manager for this team right now. Look how he creatively uses match-ups and statistics to get the most out of his team. His managing has hepled keep the team even-keel when they could've taken a nose dive at any point in this disappointing season.
Pessimist: Maddon is the worst in-game manager I've seen. He never calls for a sacrifice bunt. He's constantly showing loyalty to guys in the bullpen who don't deserve it. He's looking at this entire season through rose-colored glasses. He's not going to realize that the Rays aren't going to make the playoffs until it's too late
The Season Overall
Pessimist: Stick a fork in it. These guys are done. They played over their heads last year and they can't capture lightning in a bottle.
Optimist: It's 162 game season and we're not half-way through it yet. The season woes are nothing that a good 6 or 7 game win streak couldn't cure.
Tell me what side of the fence you're falling on right now. You can leave a comment below or find me on Twitter. That's where I give real time musings on the Rays. Don't forget to sign up for my RSS feed on the right. You can get this insight delivered right to your inbox or your the feeder of your choice.