The Summer of Baseball is over tonight. The Texas Rangers just beat my beloved Rays in the fifth game of the American League Division Series in St. Petersburg. Cliff Lee is an amazing pitcher, and the Rays were no match for him this series. I was prepared for the inevitable after Game Two last week, but the Rays won two in Arlington to force an improbable Game Five today. Though I hoped they might have momentum on their side, it wasn’t to be. I am not heartbroken. The Rangers legitimately played superior ball, and they deserved the win. I will cheer for them to crush the hated Yankees.
I suppose this is the last time I’ll see Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano in Rays uniforms. I’ll miss them. They both contributed substantially to the outstanding season the Rays had. Let’s not forget: the Rays had the best record in baseball for much of the summer, and concluded the regular season as the best team in the American League – ahead of the wild card-winning Yankees.
I watched an obscene amount of baseball on television this summer, from the April games played in the Chicago cold, to the stupid inter-league games, to the games played to nearly empty stadiums in Toronto, Baltimore, and, sadly, at home. The games I saw in person at Tropicana Field will remain wonderful memories. This season saw another perfect game. There was a no-hitter. There was fantastic small-ball, and a few giant walk-off wins. My cousin Phil even got to sing the national anthem! There was plenty to enjoy.
This was the Summer of Baseball – the first summer since my childhood in which I allowed myself to become completely immersed in the world’s most perfect game. It was totally worth it.
UPDATE: Gary Shelton knows way more about sports than I do, but I think he’s got this thing all wrong.
Let’s face it. Teams lose. And if the Rays had lost a 2-1 pitchers duel, you would probably grumble for a day and let it go. If the Rays had lost 8-6, you could probably live with it.
But this? This defeat was so miserable, so one-sided, that it’s bound to induce amnesia. … When people remember this season…it will be for the dismal way that it concluded.
One sided? True, the score read 5-1 when the game was over, but let’s remember that the Rays were only down by two going into the last inning, when Soriano allowed a basehit and a home run. The game was one-sided in that the Rays didn’t perform to their usual standard and Cliff Lee pitched like a hero, but this wasn’t the kind of one-sided game that sends fans home in the fifth inning because there’s no hope. The Rays have won plenty of games in the last two innings when they’ve been down a couple runs.
Shelton is right that next year’s Rays team will be very different. And it will hurt a little to lose Crawford and Soriano, but the Rays have done pretty well with new talent this year, and I think that next season will have its surprise standouts, too. Will they win the division again? Who knows. The hated Yankees are always going to be contenders because they have all the money. Boston will always be tough. And Baltimore won’t be lousy next season. So the Rays have an uphill battle. But everybody does. That’s baseball.
Is it disappointing that the Rays didn’t win the pennant this year, when they played as well as they ever have? Sure. But for Shelton to gripe that the Rays “barely won the AL East” seems a bit unfair. The AL East is almost universally acknowledged to be the toughest division in baseball. Only one team in the AL East finished below .500 this season. The Rays’ record this season would have put them atop every other division except the National League East, where Philadelphia had one more win. The Rays finished six games ahead of Texas, two ahead of Minnesota, plus four games ahead of San Francisco, and five above Cincinnati.
So, be disappointed that the Rays lost, but don’t claim that this season ended in some pathetic rout. Texas won fair and square. That’s the game.