I'm gandering at the shoutbox, where I see Madisoncubaholic and cjaxson talking about Tampa Bay - a team that has won for the first time ever, supported by fans who provided them with one of the worst attendance figures in baseball in 2008. They finished the year 26th in the league, having averaged 22,259 - far and away the worst of any team that reached the playoffs.
Unlike probably most of the GROTA Army, I've been inadvertently following the Rays since March. I say "inadvertently" because I listen daily to a radio show that is broadcast out of Tampa, and they've been talking about the Rays ever since the bench clearing brawl against the Yankees during Spring Training. And although their fans suck, I've been pulling for them to succeed. Permit me to offer an alternative take on what has happened there this year:
Unlike the Cubs - yes, unlike them - the Rays are an organization that has been choked with failure at every level. Before this year, they had never won more than 70 games in a season. They've been unable to keep the few star players they've had, guys like Aubrey Huff (whose Baseball Reference page GROTA sponsors, because I love anybody with the balls to express himself honestly). They've been mismanaged and misowned, and consequently the fan base never appeared there.
It's different than with the Cubs - when Chicago was a terrible team, at least they had a beautiful ballpark. Tampa plays in a hole. I think that everybody here would agree that if the Cubs didn't have their ballpark and their history, the fan base would be perhaps a little less rabid. So when we say that the fans don't deserve the Rays, perhaps we could also argue that the Rays don't deserve their fans.
However, while it certainly is ridiculous for these crying fans to suddenly jump aboard and root for the team they've been "waiting for" all their lives - or, for the past 10 years - I think we'd be even more critical of the Rays if fans failed to appear at this point to support them.
Anyway, the short of it is this: I don't hate Tampa for in the World Series. I admire them. They are evidence that it takes more than a large payroll to reach the Series - it takes a well-built team. As much as I've come to admire Jim Hendry for putting a talented squad together, I believe he remains the most overrated GM in baseball when it comes to actually developing prospects. The Rays have reached this pinnacle because they've been well-developed. For the Cubs to become a long-term successful franchise, they'll need to do that too.
As far as the fans of the Rays go ... eh. The Cubs have had their share of bandwagoners, too. If the Rays win, I will admire them, but their fans mean nothing to me and I don't really see them as being a part of it. And while we could look at it from the simplest standpoint that this new team will have something that the Cubs do not, I think that's hardly a reason to be jealous or angry. More to the point, it's just further evidence that anything can happen, and eventually will.
I wonder if my brother is nervous about the upcoming game tonight. Then again, he probably has little to be worried about, considering that he follows a team that's won 2 championships in 4 years - which, by the way, is not what I define as a dynasty.
I think that the Red Sox fans have reminded us of just how right the Yankees have been all this time. Sure, as the rest of us whine about the Yankees competing every year, winning all the time, making it "unfair" for the other teams, what we're secretly hoping is to become the Yankees. One championship isn't enough. It becomes an issue of wanting more more more more!!
However, I think the biggest compliment I could possibly pay to the Red Sox is this: I'm not at all convinced that the Rays have it locked up. We saw it with the Red Sox last year, we saw it with them in '04, and we saw what happened to the Cubs in 2003 - momentum is a fickle thing in the playoffs, and it can go away very quickly. Very, very quickly.
Maybe it's a good thing that I don't bet on sports, because I really have zero confidence that I'd get it right regardless of the team I pick. I do know that this MLB betting sportsbook has the Rays at +1.5 for tonight's game, but that's about all I know.
And by the way, in case you're curious, said same sportsbook has a number of options in terms of following and putting money down on sports, but I don't yet see anything about the off season or next season for the Cubs. After witnessing the surprise play in baseball of teams like the Rays, Marlins, and probably a shockingly large number of others, I can actually see how it would make sense to place small bets every year on dark-horses. Hell, even in the NFL right now, the Bills look playoff bound, at the very least. How many people really expected that a few months ago?
To my great satisfaction, the Dodgers were defeated in 5 games by Philly in the NLCS. Call me bitter, but I just do not care to see the team that beats the Cubs win the Series. Let's blame the Marlins for that one.
It looks like Philly will be playing the Rays, although Tampa still has one more game to win before it's official. We've seen that a 3-1 series lead means little, and the Red Sox have come back from worse deficits. Nothing is in writing.
The Cubs, meanwhile, aren't exactly being newsworthy at the moment. Today's top stories include things like ...
The Tribune May Alter the Cubs Sale. (Pray that they don't alter it any further). Apparently, an epic financial crisis tends to affect billion-dollar baseball sales. Figures.
Kevin Foster's memorial services have been set. I've got little more to say about this - I liked Kevin Foster in the years that he was a Cub. I'll always remember that time he did that thing on the field that was unforgettable ... uh, I was like, 16 when he was pitching, y'know.
Oh, we got some mail from the Blue Jays yesterday. It turns out that some preliminary games played in the World Baseball Classic next year will be held in Toronto. Playing will be 4 teams over 6 games - Canada, the US, Italy, and Venezuela. All I have to do is buy a flex pack, which can be either 10 or 15 games and ranges from $120 to $915 in price. Except it'd actually be $240 in price, because I'd be buying two, and I'd still have to spend minimally another $100 if I wanted multiple tickets to the games. In other words, maybe I'll just buy the WBC tickets when they become available to the public, or else I need to get a better paying jorb.
Anyway, at some point today I'll have a thread open about trade ideas.