Thursday, August 13, 2009

Disapointment settles in

I'm finally experience a new emotion as a Rays fan: Disappointment.  Never in the history of the team have I ever really felt this level of disappointment in the Rays.  The World Series? Nah. The fact that they were so far beyond my expectations last year lessened the sting.  This west coast trip was like a tornado ripping through my expectations.  When it all settled in Anaheim yesterday afternoon, I finally realized that I'm looking at a team that's probably not going to make the playoffs.

Coming into this year, I scoffed at the experts who picked the Rays 3rd in the AL East. The pitching rotation was pretty much intact.  The Rays added a few bats to the lineup.  The young guys were a year more experienced. BJ Upton was going to be the best lead-off hitter in baseball. Pat the Bat was going to bring a power element to the Rays that was going to benefit both him and Carlos Pena.  Evan Longoria was going to cruise as the AL MVP. And the Rays were going reaffirm the new AL East pecking order... showing the Yankees that money can't buy a championship.

Yet, here we sit. 114 games into the season and the Rays are chasing a wild card. They're 10 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and 3rd among 3 teams in the wild card standings. With a chance to pick up some ground over the last week, the Rays folded and went right back to the mediocrity that they've shown all season.

Of course, this team could still get hot and make a run. It's happened before. But, was there anything that really showed us this week that the Rays are capable of making the type of run needed to get back into this thing? I'm not sure there was.  All that I'm sure of is that the Rays are in third place this morning and that each day that goes by the playoff hopes grow dimmer and dimmer.

Here are some things I noticed in the Angels 10-5 victory over the Rays:

  • Carlos Pena, team leader and home run leader. I will give Pena credit for picking up his game yesterday. He looked like a man trying to get his team out of a funk by example. Unfortunately for 'Los, his power surge was wasted with a homer by the 8th guy in the Angels lineup.
  • Jason Bartlett, the good and the bad.  You really can't argue with 4 for 5 from the leadoff guy, unless the throws a ball away and gives up an extra run. Or maybe he lets a flyball drop between him and the left fielder. Don't get me wrong, I love 4 for 5... but, the Rays need tight defense more than offense from their shortstop.
  • Jeff Niemann's day.  Give the big man credit,  he was able to keep the damage to a minimum most of the game. But just like Price and Garza before him, he fell victim to the Angels lineup. Some may complain that Joe Maddon pulled Niemann too early. To that, I say didn't you watch the other games against the Angels?
  • Bullpen problems. The bullpen seems to not be immune to the funk going around the team. Grant Balfour served up a nice one to Gary Matthews, Jr to blow the Rays lead.  Dan Wheeler didn't fare much better.  Kevin Kennedy seems to believe that the lack of quality starts is causing the bullpen to fall apart.  I just think they've got the same funk going as the rest of the team.
  • The Angels are really that good. I've been harping on how bad the Rays look, but let's face it... the Angels are a pretty good team in their own right.  That team comes at you from every different angle. It doesn't matter who's up to bat. It doesn't matter how many outs there are. That team knows how to win games.  The Boston Red Sox took the same 6-game west coast road trip in May and went 2-4.  The Yankees got a series in Seattle coming up... and in September, they get to do the Seattle/Anaheim roady.  If the Rays are close enough to strike....

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