It has been one week since the Tampa Bay Rays were eliminated from the post season in an epic game five battle against Cliff Lee that ended with the Rays on the losing side of the historic event (although they’re not new to that). As we reflect on the implosion, it would be irresponsible to say that no one saw this coming. While the Rays in the past three seasons proved that they could compete in the never-ending marathon known as MLB’s 162-game regular season, their Achilles heel once again proved to be their in ability to finish the final three laps, aka the post season.
From the last two weeks of the regular season the Rays were incapable of producing quality wins. There were a lot of solid pitching performances, unearned runs, and fortunate defeats that helped the Rays obtain the division title. Although they were able to edge out the New York Yankees for the AL East title, it is very evident that it was not done as convincingly as during the 2008 season. Some argue that they backed into the title with the injured Red Sox and the struggling Yankees. While no one can take the title away from them it is hard to disprove that school of thought. The record speaks for itself, but dropping games to Seattle, Baltimore, and Kansas City spoke volumes of their endurance and capabilities.
The Rays were exposed for their lack depth in key making players. During Evan Longoria’s absence and Carl Crawford’s struggles, the Rays failed to produce a play maker at bat. The combined efforts of BJ Upton, Kelly Shoppach, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Sean Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist, Dan Johnson were only enough to salvage a few runs. Only by the graces of David Price, Wade Davis, Joaquin Benoit, and Rafael Soriano were the Rays only truly able to establish their legitimacy and even that was often hindered by lack of run support provided by the aforementioned battling lineup.
It would be a lie to say that I’m not disappointed that the Rays weren’t able to win the World Series. Anyone who takes solace in “at least they made it to the playoff” shows that they do not understand the killer instinct necessary to win as the Rangers showed in the ALDS and ALCS. The 2010 season promised accomplishment and achievement only to deliver consolation prizes and many unanswered questions. I understand that I am not an authority or sports or that my opinion doesn’t matter (which it does not), but as a fan who annually attends games, buys merchandise, and invests pride in the local team I need to get some answers to some very important season wrap-up questions. Specifically, all the problems from the rotation, Maddon’s decisions, and mindset come into question. Why did James Shields started in game two? Why did Kelly Shoppach get picked over John Jaso for game five? And probably the most important question is what will be the next move (figuratively and literally speaking) for the Rays?