I kinda like the Rays. I like any team that wins without spending a lot of money. It's the salary-cap hater in me. The Rays, the A's, this year's Pirates … pretty much any successful low-payroll team that isn't the Padres because screw those guys. And I know a few things about the Rays:
1. They're much better than the Giants
2. They started the season like the Giants, in that the pitching was supposed to be a strength and the hitting was supposed to be a weakness, but for the first two or three months out of the season, everything was backward. But then the Giants stopped hitting without pitching much better. The Rays' pitchers snapped out of it and went on a goofy run, but the team didn't stop the surprisingly effective hitting. The Rays are doing what I was secretly expecting the Giants to do.
3. They absolutely crush left-handed pitching because they would use a player like Jeff Francoeur against left-handed pitching only. Or, and I'm just riffing here, maybe they wouldn't have a player like Francoeur at all.
4. Their manager makes the team listen to T. Rex, which is awesome
5. They're probably the best-run organization in the majors. There aren't many teams that would trade James Shields two years before free agency at this point in the success cycle, but the Rays were confident enough in their stockpile of young pitchers. It's all working for them right now.
But that's a weak excuse for a series preview. Here's a much more in-depth preview:
That'll do. The Rays are probably going to turn the Giants into a fine powder this weekend, but think of all the unhappy Red Sox fans! There's a silver lining in everything if you look hard enough. Really, both teams have the same record over the last three games, so maybe I'm selling the Giants short. They're in this thing.
When I think of the Rays, though, there's always one thing I dwell on: There but for the grace of Magowan go the Giants. I've never been to Tropicana Field, but I find it hard to imagine watching a Giants home game there. And so this comment starter is for the old-timers and Brandon Crawfords among us. Here goes:
If the Giants moved to Tampa before the 1993 season, where would you be right now?
I'd have a different job, for one. I'd probably be a anesthesiologist, what with the convenience of online college courses these days. But more importantly, I'm talking about your fandom. There are three options:
Option #1: Become an A's (or other) fan
The A's would have a new stadium somewhere, I'd reckon. Maybe in San Francisco, maybe in Oakland, maybe in San Jose. And all sorts of Giants fans would have switched allegiances instantly, as if millions of panda hats suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
Option #2: Follow the Giants to Tampa
There are still a lot of Giants fans in New York, you know. In this scenario, we're thrilled with the advent of MLB.tv and satellite networks, and we can finally watch our beloved team's every game. Maybe we even take a pilgrimage out to Tropicana Field every couple of years. We wear our TG hats proudly, and reminisce about the good ol' days at Candlestick.
Option #3: Later, baseball
Forget it. 49ers, Warriors, Sharks, maybe even Earthquakes to fill the void, sort of like what Seattle has done with the Sounders in the absence of the Sonics. Anything but baseball. Too painful.
I'm almost certain I would have gone with Option #1, but I don't know how seriously I would have taken it. I was 15 minutes away from Candlestick growing up, which made it so easy to grab a some snausages and a barbecue and drive up at the last second on a Friday night. It wouldn't have been like that with the Coliseum -- the extra 30 minutes would have made a difference in the spontaneous decision to go to 20 or 30 games a year when I was in high school, which is when the future of baseball dorkdom was guaranteed.
In all of these scenarios, Barry Bonds signs with the Yankees or Braves, you know.
There's a poll. Don't get clever with any alternate futures, like the Giants getting the expansion team that eventually became the Rays. Options one through three, that's it. But before you make up your mind, let's look back at the vicious Giants/Rays rivalry over the years.
|2002-06-18||San Francisco Giants||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||L||3||8||0||1||J. Kennedy||L. Hernandez|
|2002-06-19||San Francisco Giants||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||W||8||0||1||1||J. Schmidt||R. Rupe|
|2002-06-20||San Francisco Giants||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||W||10||2||2||1||R. Ortiz||T. Sturtze|
|For 2002, NYG and SFG won 2, TBD and TBR won 1.|
|2004-06-08||San Francisco Giants||@||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||W||7||3||3||1||J. Williams||D. Waechter|
|2004-06-09||San Francisco Giants||@||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||L||3||4||3||2||D. Baez||T. Walker|
|2004-06-10||San Francisco Giants||@||Tampa Bay Devil Rays||L||2||5||3||3||V. Zambrano||K. Rueter||J. Colome|
|For 2004, NYG and SFG won 1, TBD and TBR won 2.|
Aubrey Huff, Jose Cruz, and Rey Sanchez in the same 2004 lineup, everyone, with a guest appearance by Jose Bautista. Baseball, you inscrutable bastard, I'll never understand you.