Rays-Sox: ESPN, and the world is watching
Last month, the Rays made the cover of Sports Illustrated, and then The Sporting News. Now they're the cover story on the upcoming issue of ESPN, The Magazine.
Actually, the story is a "letter" from Raymond (the furry blue mascot) to Bud Selig (the ... commissioner) about all the good things going on with the team and at the Trop.
In closing, the real writer, Steve Wulf, types:"You see, Bud, things have changed here. We're not the cute, cuddly D-Rays anymore. We're the power-of-the-sun, don't-mess-with-us Rays. The on-pace-to-win-98-games Rays. I know we need a new stadium, but that's still a sticky issue, so we're not going anywhere for a while. We'll just have to see if winning does the trick. In the meantime, come back and see us. How about this October?"
Plenty being said and written in advance of the showdown series that starts tonight at the Trop, including a prediction by ESPN's Steve Phillips that the Rays will finish behind the Red Sox in the AL East but will play the playoffs as the AL wild card team.
Phillips said the Rays will keep the division race close but the Sox will prevail because of their power bats and their experience.
But he says the Rays will win the wild card based on "the depth and balance of the roster, the outstanding young pitching in the rotation, the veteran experience in the bullpen and the athletes on the field. They play defense, they pitch and the Rays will go to the playoffs as the American League wild-card winner.''
Sox OF Manny Ramirez had an "incident" with the Red Sox travel director in the clubhouse in Houston on Saturday according to the Providence Journal, reportedly pushing him to the ground and yelling at him, "Just do your job!" as they had to separated. Ramirez reportedly apologized and the team said it was no big deal, but that phrase just might become a popular chant in the leftfield stands this week at Tropicana Field.
MLB and the Sox have reportedly sent security personnel to St. Petersburg, not because of the Rays-Sox series, but due to a threat made against black and Latin Sox players. According to the Boston Herald the team received a mailed threat, believed to be postmarked from Memphis, Tenn., against specific players and they could be targeted at Tropicana Field or the team hotel.
The Boston Globe takes a look the significance of the series, noting that "no one, outside of Joe Maddon's immediate family and closest friends,'' dreamed this would be bigger for the Sox than their Fourth of July trip to Yankee Stadium,
And the Boston Herald says "the fight of the Red Sox' young 2008 lives" begins tonight and and that "the starting gun for the race for first place" in the AL East is being fired.
(Pictured: Boston 's Coco Crisp, right, takes a swing at Rays pitcher James Shields after Crisp was hit by a pitch and charged the mound June 5 in Boston. AP photo. Click to enlarge.)