Evan Longoria is back with the Rays…and I can’t help but be reminded of that awful play we had to read in High School…Samuel Beckett’s ”Waiting for Godot” where two solitary souls endlessly wait in vain for someone named Godot to “rescue” them. Actually that image reminds me of The Trop! It seems all season long Rays fans have been marking time (and 3 hit Rays games) until Longoria comes back. At the Trop concession stands… the question “when’s Longo coming back” is right behind “when do we fire the hitting Coach” and “That much for ONE beer?”
In fact GM Andrew Freidman was so sure Longo was the slugging savior that he held on to his 15 starting pitchers instead of making a deadline deal that seemed as obvious as putting Michael Phelps in a relay race. The Rays miniscule scoring output makes the Dungy years look like a Boise State spread offense. They are last in MLB in hits. Next to last in the AL in runs scored, OPS and 12th in strikeouts.
From Friday’s 6th inning against Baltimore to the 2nd inning Tuesday night against Toronto (back to back bloopers to right field scores a run!) They went over 94 hours without scoring! There’s a better chance you will see more scoring on a Tim Tebow-Lolo Jones date! During that same time span Phelps won his Olympic record 22nd medal, 20K condoms were used in the Olympic village, Jeff Gordon finally won a race and we freaking parachuted a high tech Hummer onto the surface of Mars! I’m simply suggesting the Rays offense could use their time a bit more wisely!
Which brings us back to Longo…can he be the savior? Well let’s ask him.
“"I'm not the savior,'' Longoria said.
Whoops…I’m not sure Longo got the team talking points. He continued.
"I'm really happy to be back. And hopefully I'm able to change the complexion of the lineup. Maybe not go out and hit two home runs a night, but maybe allow other guys to see some better pitches and allow them an opportunity to get going. ... Hopefully I can provide some kind of spark and get the offense going, but I try not to put all the weight on my shoulders.''
Longo has plenty of experience coming back from injuries and his track record doesn’t suggest their will be immediate dividends and frankly who can expect anyone this side of a steroid infused Barry Bonds to hit major league pitching after spending the last two and a half months rehabbing and playing with your Playboy Playmate. Last year after injuring an oblique and missing a month his next 22 games he hit .230 with 2 home runs and 9 RBI. His first game back, 1-3, with an RBI…which on this offensively impotent team…makes you the game MVP!
Tuesday night was the second straight superb performance from James Shields since he survived his month long stay on trade rumor treadmill. Shields went 8 strong innings, allowed just 4 base runners on 2 hits and 2 walks. And there in lies the tragedy to this season. The Rays pitching has been historically sensational. Since the All-Star break the rays have the best ERA in baseball…an astounding 2.34! They also lead in strikeouts and opponent batting average (again an astounding .201). Their bullpen is the best in baseball since the break with an ERA 1.39. When you combine this incredible pitching with this horrific offense you get a weekend series with the Orioles where 7 runs were scored…TOTAL! BY BOTH TEAMS! IN 3 GAMES! There are Convents that get more action than the plate at Tropicana field!
And fans have to pay full price for this? How about we attach the price of beers to runs scored! 10 runs scored by both teams…I pay 10 bucks! 7 runs scored in the series…well now it’s time to party! Fans win either way…but I digress. The point is…this baseball team is tragically flawed and the Rays did little to fix it at the trade deadline. Frankly we shouldn’t be surprised. The Rays have never been very aggressive at the deadline.
See that’s the thing with the Rays. In the past 4 years no front office has been better than the Rays. To make 3 playoffs in 4 years in a division where you are outspent 3-1 by the Yankees and Red Sox is, to me, one of the greatest accomplishments in sports history. Unfortunately, the Rays have always talked about “playing meaningful games in September” and not really about “winning the World Series” so it seems just staying in contention is more important than going for the Gold! An argument can be made that given the fiscal inequities of baseballs financial/competitive model this is the best sustaining strategy. But for Rays fans we are left hoping that Longoria can be the savior (“I’m not the savior”). Luke Scott will be reincarnated as well “April Luke Scott “ and hitting coach Derek Shelton will make a pilgrimage to Cooperstown and find some Ruthian DNA to inject into his teams lifeless bats. Please! Somebody inject something and score some freaking runs! Sorry…I was channeling something I heard around the Yankees clubhouse a few years back…but I could have misremembered.
We will never know what Friedman was offered for James Shields or BJ Upton, both of whom will likely be somewhere else next year. The question remains…can the Rays win a World Series with an offense that is so offensive? My answer is No…but…if we can parachute a rolling movie studio onto Mars and Waiting for Godot can be named “the most significant English language play of the 20th century” than I guess ANYTHING is possible.