Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Saddest State of Affairs

OK, I'm going to be way out on an island, all by myself, with this opinion. I'm going to be far more alone than any of my opinions on Vladimir Guerrero.

I am not happy that the Orioles knocked the Red Sox from the playoffs last night.

Hear me out...

Firstly, last night was an incredible night of baseball. Putting on my MLB fan and amateur baseball analyst hats, it was amazing to behold. But as an Oriole fan, I couldn't get caught up in the big game atmosphere.

What was in it for the Orioles exactly? They were essentially deciding which of our AL East rivals made the playoffs. And we all got excited about that? Again, as a baseball fan, amazing stuff. As an Oriole fan...what do we take away from that? It's like sitting on the floor and begging for the scraps of Boston and Tampa's big game moment. This was not a big game for the Orioles. The difference between 68 and 69 wins is absolutely nothing. We were just living vicariously through good teams. And I couldn't help but being a little depressed by that state of affairs.

This is all we got out of it: Boston fans are obnoxious and we got to send them home with their tails between their legs. A short term thrill, I'm sure. "Yeah, Boston! This is our house! We ended your season! We get the last word for a change!" Awesome.

But even if you cared one way or another how the Rays/Sox playoff race turned out, I would make the argument that Oriole fans should have preferred Boston in the playoffs.

The knee-jerk reaction to the Red Sox collapse is that this will be a devastating blow to the organization. A death blow. A failure that will result in a changing of the guard and a decline of the team into mediocrity. I would love for that to be the case but that's probably not going to happen.

Boston fans are not clamoring for the heads of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein. Nor is the Boston press. While acknowledging that this collapse was really, really horrible, measured responses are being seen in most corners. No one in the Red Sox management seems to be in danger of being forced out.

Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, John Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Bucholz and Jacoby Ellsbury are all coming back. They have prospects popping up all over the end of year Top 20 lists over at Baseball America. This is not the end of the Boston Red Sox. Win or lose, they will fill some holes, resign some guys, heal their injured and be right back among the favorites to take the division in 2012.

Tampa is a formidable organization but they have an Achilles Heel...they have no fans.

Even as dreadful as the Orioles have been, they have outdrawn the Rays 3 of the last 4 years. If the Rays start going to the playoffs on a regular basis...could the fan base start to gel? If you think battling the Yankees and Red Sox is tough, imagine the Rays with a decent source of cash flow. One of the best farm systems in baseball coupled with the cash to keep some of it? Scary.

If we had done this to the Yanks, I could see it being a bigger blow. With the new ownership, heads may have rolled in the Bronx. And they are an aging team with a fair, but not great, farm system. The Sox aren't going anywhere, not yet. The Orioles have enough hurdles to surmount without the Rays being perennial contenders too.

So I don't see the Rays as a fell good story. They aren't cute and cuddly to me. They are a threat. A sleeping giant. They are like Gremlins before they get wet. And I want to crush them like a bug before they become dangerous.

Perhaps I'm wrong about all this. Maybe this will hurt the Sox more than I realize. Maybe the Rays will always have cash flow challenges, no matter how much they win.

But I don't want to look back years from now and realize this game was the turning point that opened the door to a decade long Tampa Bay baseball dynasty. So I hope the Ranger sweep them, in humiliating fashion, right back to the Gulf Coast where they belong.