Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

ALDS Game 3: Rays' legacy at stake tonight vs. Red Sox

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon addresses the media during a press conference Sunday after batting practice at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon addresses the media during a press conference Sunday after batting practice at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG — It's funny how baseball works.

Just a few days ago, we all were applauding those pesky Tampa Bay Rays for showing up anywhere at any time to play anybody in a do-or-die game.

Toronto? No problem. Texas? Sure thing. Cleveland? What time do you want to start?

The Rays brought their bats and gloves and kicked in the playoff door for the fourth time in six years.

But after a couple of days in Boston, the Rays now find themselves in a game that has more than the season on the line.

Not only are the Rays playing this evening to keep their season alive, they are playing for their legacy. History is at stake. How we judge this franchise, how we look at it years from now, very well could be riding on these playoffs, starting with tonight's Game 3.

See, it's one thing to go down valiantly, courageously, to go down kicking and screaming and hitting and running. It's another to go down the way the Rays are going down in this series.

The lasting memories cannot be Wil Myers running away from a fly ball like it was a swarm of killer bees. Or ace David Price doing a better job bellyaching on Twitter than pitching on a pitcher's mound. Or the Rays playing the bug to Boston's windshield.

And if the Rays do lose tonight, or even in Games 4 or 5, how will we look back at this Rays team?

"It's a dramatic success," owner Stu Sternberg said last week. "Even if we had lost (last) Sunday (in Toronto and had missed the postseason), it would have been a dramatic success as well."

You can see why Sternberg would say that.

Considering their small-market payroll, it's remarkable the Rays won 92 games, especially when the starting rotation, the backbone of this team, had one injury after another.

And considering how lousy this franchise was forever, it's stunning it has won at least 90 in five of the past six seasons. Sometimes we do forget, then probably take for granted, how far this organization has come.

When you look at how to build a franchise and how to do things the right way, the Rays are the model. It's hard to find a general manager who has done a better job than Andrew Friedman, and there is no better manager than Joe Maddon.

But, at some point, winning 90 just isn't enough. Just getting to the playoffs cannot be the finish line. At some point, you have to do something in the playoffs, like win the whole shebang.

No one could have predicted when the Rays went to the 2008 World Series that it was the beginning of a phenomenal six-year run. But, if I had told you that the Rays would go on such a run but not win another playoff series (well, except for that one-game wild card against the Indians on Wednesday), would you have been okay with that?

Of course not. And the Rays shouldn't be okay with it, either.

Making the postseason is swell. It means you have given your fans more good nights than bad during the course of the regular season. The Rays have been contenders each of the past six years, something very few teams can say. There are plenty of franchises, including the Yankees and Dodgers — teams rich in history and bank accounts — who would love to have Tampa Bay's recent success.

But the Rays' window can't last forever, and each passing year without a championship makes their accomplishments less significant.

Throughout this run, the Rays have lost pivotal links in the chain — Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, James Shields, Matt Garza. Sooner rather than later, they are going to lose Price.

Eventually, that has to catch up to you. You can't overcome such losses and keep on winning year after year after year.

The Rays will argue how they continually overhaul their roster. Tonight's starting lineup will feature only one player (Evan Longoria) who started Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. The entire starting rotation has been replaced since then.

But no team's window is open forever, particularly when you count every penny like the Rays. That's why being more than a one-and-done playoff team is critical.

Is it fair to judge how good a team is by how it plays in a handful of playoff games? Probably not. But, that's how it works.

You remember the champions, not the ones the champions beat along the way.

In the end, the Rays are a wonderful organization. But if they lose tonight and end another year two rounds shy of a championship, it becomes a little harder to call the season a success.

That's why tonight means more than just keeping 2013 alive.

ALDS Game 3: Rays' legacy at stake tonight vs. Red Sox 10/06/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 7, 2013 1:04am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays' Blake Snell erasing memories of his poor start

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — As Blake Snell strides up the mound at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night with an 10-game unbeaten streak, doesn't the miserable start to his sophomore season, when he was winless in eight starts and got demoted to Triple-A, seem like a long time ago?

    To him, too.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) in the dugout during the fourth inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Turning Point, Week 3: Overreaction vs. reality

    Bucs

    "None of us really know how this group of 53 guys is going to come together and how we're going to play this season."

    Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs torched a porous Bucs secondary Sunday with eight catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. [Getty Images]
  3. Jake Dotchin on rule violation: 'It's hurting me'

    Blogs

    While defenseman Jake Dotchin continues to practice with the Lightning, it's uncertain when - or if - he'll get any preseason action.

    Jake Dotchin violated an unspecified team rule, which is why he hasn't played in the first four games.
  4. PolitiFact: Trump's Mostly False claim that NFL ratings are 'way down'

    Bucs

    The statement

    "NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country."

    Quarterback Jameis Winston is sacked during the first half of the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings on Sunday. (LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times)
  5. Bucs couldn't connect on or stop deep passes in loss to Vikings

    Bucs

    If two things were established as storylines entering Sunday's Bucs-Vikings game, it was that Tampa Bay was still struggling to establish the deep passes that were missing from its offense last year, and that …

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) gets into the end zone for a long touchdown reception as Bucs free safety Chris Conte (23) cannot stop him during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]