Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two Monumental Occurences Right Under Our Noses

With the Ryder Cup happening, this weekend vaults from another great Fall sports weekend (college football, NFL, baseball races) to one of the year's best. But I am not here to write about the Ryder Cup or football or baseball in general. Rather I just want to make sure that we are watching closely as two significant events are about to occur in baseball.

The Tampa Bay Rays are going to win the American League East.
The New York Yankee are going to miss the playoffs.

These two points cannot be oversold and need to not be undersold. Both are about as significant as anything that has happened in sports in a long time (besides the Giants beating the Patriots in the way that they did with the significance that was attached).

The Rays looked like they were just about to fold as their lead vanished and they had two more games left in Boston. Then they quickly won both and jumped back out to a two game lead. It's over. Two years ago this team lost 101 games. The best they have ever done in franchise history was win 70 games. Right now they have already won 90.

It is not like they have been on the cusp and finally put it all together. It is not like they have been a middling also-ran and signed a big name to put them over the top. It is not like they have been hovering at or around .500 for years and finally made it happen. They have never been anything but terrible in their franchise history. They made no major free-agent signings and didn't even make any trade-deadline moves. And they are beating the Red Sox in the midst of their powerhouse era and trouncing the Yankees despite their payroll being something like six times what the Rays pay. What is happening in Tampa is nothing like what the Marlins did for their two titles - they bought their rings. I cannot remember any other team in any sport doing anything remotely similar to what the Rays are doing.

And speaking of those Yankees, perhaps they are not as bad as people make them out to be. After all, they are 10 games over .500 and have suffered through many injuries. Or maybe they are as bad as they get ripped for being...they are in fourth place, and everyone has lots of injuries. And besides, they will finish the season with their supposedly crippled pitching staff allowing over 50 runs fewer than they did in any of the last four years. The problem is that their vaunted, overpaid, aging offense will score almost 200 fewer runs than they did last year.

But all those numbers and comparisons are not the salient point, which is that the Yankee are going to miss the playoffs. Derek Jeter is going to miss the playoffs. I have not been enjoying this nearly enough all year. They never really were in the race. When they struggled early on, we all said, "Yeah but they always struggle. Then they always come back." But they didn't. They just kept being a little above average, and falling further and further behind. And I never stopped to smell the roses. But now, for the final 10 games, I am going to live it up. The Yankees and Braves are both in fourth place. I won't know what to do with myself next month when I have no one to root against.

Except the Red Sox. And the Dodgers. And the Phillies. And the Cubs.

Ok, so I have people to root against. But I will also have lots of good guys too: Mets, Angels, Twins and Rays! But seriously, the Yankees are going to be eliminated from the Playoff chase by the end of this weekend which makes it one of the truly great sports weekends of the year!

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