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From 0-6 To 5-8: Restoring My Faith In The Rays

The Rays started their season with a thud, but the last few days have given fans some reasons for hope.

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 12:  Elliot Johnson and Sam Fuld celebrate the win over the Boston Red Sox on April 12, the second in their current winning streak. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 12: Elliot Johnson and Sam Fuld celebrate the win over the Boston Red Sox on April 12, the second in their current winning streak. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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This season started in the worst possible way for our beloved Rays. Their record was terrible, their offense, abysmal. They scored 18 runs through their first 9 games (averaging a miraculously bad 1.375 runs in each of their losses.) Manny Ramirez abruptly and stunningly abandoned his team rather than face the prospect of suspension for violating the league’s banned substances policy (again). Game 2 of the young season saw the Rays’ best hitter and gold glove third baseman Evan Longoria go down for at least 3 weeks with an Oblique injury. Things were bad.

I like to consider myself a fairly rational fan. I try to use data and statistical analysis to form my opinions on things. The data showed that the offense couldn’t be that bad. Their BABIP was unsustainably low. But goodness, how it seemed the Rays liners never found a gap, their grounders a hole in the infield. Perception rules the brain of a die-hard fan. And for the Rays Republic perception was breeding cynicism in the worst possible way.

It just seemed so farfetched in my mind that this team would ever approach .500 in the 2011 season. I was already considering scenarios where the Rays would trade off major pieces for more depth in the minors to re-stock for 2012. Checking minor league box scores and hoping beyond hope to find some hope in the team’s budding stars. But to no avail: even some of the most promising stars gave cause for concern. In his first 2 starts of the season wunderkind Matt Moore’s ERA was an ungainly 6.75, and my personal favorite from the Garza Trade, one Robinson Chirinos, was 1-for-way-too-many at AAA. Despite the fact that there were positives to glean elsewhere, my mind couldn’t find them. I was forcing myself into a confirmation bias, proving to myself that the world was ending.

And then Monday, April 11th happened.

After leaving Chicago with their tails firmly between their legs, the Rays were on their way out to face Boston, another team who has massively underachieved this season. I felt a 3 game series couldn’t make, but could certainly break the Rays year (the third game would be rained out). I went in fully expecting the worst. The early-season failures had manifested themselves into full-blown cynicism. Thank god for Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Hitters

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

#P

S Fuld LF

6

3

4

3

0

0

13

J Damon DH

5

2

3

3

1

1

23

M Joyce RF

6

1

1

0

0

1

20

D Johnson 1B

4

0

0

0

0

0

15

S Rodriguez 3B

1

0

0

0

0

1

5

B Zobrist 2B

5

2

3

2

0

1

13

B Upton CF

4

3

2

0

1

0

23

F Lopez 3B

3

1

1

0

1

0

21

C Kotchman 1B

1

1

1

1

0

0

5

J Jaso C

5

1

2

3

0

0

21

R Brignac SS

5

2

2

3

0

0

13

 

On that fateful Monday a legend was realized, a winning streak born, and faith renewed. I remembered how terrible life is without baseball, and I realized that even if the team goes 60-102, there will be 60 wins, and there will be reasons to cheer. Even the worst baseball is better than no baseball at all.

I had regained hope. The Rays went on to take both games from Boston (whose continued failure in light of signing Carl Crawford this off-season gives me cause to smile on an hourly basis) and have won the first two against Minnesota. As of this writing, the Rays are in the midst of a 4 game winning streak and have gone from a .000 winning percentage on April the 7th to .385 on the eve of April the 15th. Is a .385 winning percentage good? No, but it’s a start. What is good is having an OBP of .344 over the last week, after getting on base at a mere .258 before that. What is good is having Johnny Damon Exorcize the Manny Demons that plagued the Rays with a walk-off home run on Thursday. What is good is seeing Matt Joyce's luck change, and seeing Sam Fuld do Sam Fuld things.

The Rays chances of playing in October of 2011 are still slim. The team still has question marks on offense (Felipe Lopez hitting clean up? Yeesh). But I cannot help feeling that I’ve been jolted out of the pessimistic stupor that comes with having to wait 7 games for your team’s first win. For Rays fans Baseball, it seems, is finally back.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.