Any knowledge about baseball will tell you there are five teams that call the AL East division home. Tampa Bay Rays fans would obviously say that the best team for this coming year is the Rays, with that other four teams trailing behind. Yet Rays fans don’t acknowledge all four with the same level of ire. I must admit that I am an avid fan of the video baseball game,MLB: The Show, and of course, I always play as the Rays. I always leave the force trade option in the game on so I can manipulate rosters, and the first thing I do is make the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox very bad. It got me to wondering if other Rays fans would do the same. The answer, in all likelihood, is yes. That prompts a question: why are Rays fans more tolerant of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles? They are enemies as much as the big two. After all, the Orioles were the ones who stole the Rays playoff spot in 2012, and this past season, the Blue Jays nearly knocked the Rays out of the playoffs in the last series of the regular season. And what about Blue Jays and Orioles fans? Is the tolerance of Rays fans towards them mutual?
When considering the Yankees, the obvious answer is jealousy and I cop freely to it. In their illustrious 112-year tenure, the Yankees have won 27 World Series titles and 40 AL pennants. Heck, they have lost more World Series’ (13) than the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that has won the second most championships (11). In 2013, Forbes Magazine ranked the Bronx Bombers as the fourth most valuable sports franchise, behind three soccer clubs. Furthermore, their history is littered with icons. Even Wally Pipp, a historical footnote, has become an icon in his own way. From Lou Gehrig to Derek Jeter, much of baseball’s royalty has probably donned a Yankees’ uniform at one time or another. The worst part: with the Yankees’ spring home being in Tampa, much of the baseball fans in Rays country are supporters of the Bombers.
The Boston Red Sox haven’t had quite the success the Yankees have had, but they are another of baseball’s most storied franchises. They have featured baseball icons from Ted Williams to Pedro Martinez and took their franchise to a new level when they broke their 86-year curse after dealing Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Forbes rated them the 11th most valuable franchise in sports and they have won three of the past nine World Series, and eight overall. They play in a national monument to baseball, Fenway Park. Oh, yeah, and they beat the Rays last year in the playoffs. In terms of franchise prestige, clearly the Yankees and Red Sox have a leg up on the Blue Jays and Orioles. But have New York and Boston really been any better against the Rays then their lesser-touted division mates?
Overall, the Rays are 110-165 against the Yankees but, as expected, a lot of those wins came when Tampa Bay was bad. Since 2008, the Rays first winning season, the Rays are 55-54, and they are 41-32 since 2010. The Rays have won eight of the last ten meetings. Tampa Bay is 122-168 overall against Boston. Since 2008, they are 53-57 versus the Red Sox, and since 2010, 40-37.
Comparing them to our rivals farther north, it seems that the Rays are luckier. Against Toronto, Tampa Bay is 147-129 overall. Since 2008, the Rays are 72-37, the high point being 14-4 in both 2009 and 2012. The past couple of years, though, the Jays have gotten better, and it could be this year that they finally become a force to be reckoned with. After the Jays almost eliminated the Rays last year with a team far off from where people thought they would be, if their team comes together this year, things will be tougher for the Rays.
Against the Baltimore Orioles, the overall win total is tighter at 141-136 in favor of the Rays. Since 2008, though, the Rays are 66-43, the best year being 2008, when the Rays were 15-3. The Rays have won 11 of their last 13 games against the Orioles, but Rays fans can’t forget 2012, when the Orioles beat the Rays 10 of 18 times to ruin any chance at the Rays coming back in the Wild Card.
Ultimately, there are two very different reasons Rays fans may “dislike” Boston and New York more than Toronto and Boston. With the Yankees, it’s more likely jealousy of the most storied and richest of franchises. They are the snobby neighbors in the gated community. By contrast, the “dislike” for the Red Sox has been forged on the field. Twice the Rays have faced them in the playoffs, winning one and losing one. Dust-ups and some bench clearing brawls have spiced up the “feud” and made it one of the best and most exciting rivalries in baseball. No doubt adding fuel to the fire on the other side, the Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to have a nine-game lead in September and not make the playoffs. The team that took their spot? The Tampa Bay Rays. Big games are what makes rivalries and, so far, the Boston Red Sox have been the ones most involved, be it in the playoffs or in 2011 when the Rays dramatically punched their ticket into the playoffs at Boston’s expense.
Given all that, the rivalries with Toronto and Baltimore can heat up without warning. Either team could put together a magical season and win a playoff spot, or play spoiler and eliminate the Rays from the playoffs. While there is currently a bigger rivalry with Boston and, to a lesser extent, the Yankees, Baltimore and Toronto can never be taken for granted. No matter what jerseys they wear, division foes always have a way of messing things up.
Tags: Tampa Bay Rays