Rays Tales: Time for Tampa Bay Rays to focus on the AL wild card

Wild card (wīld kärd) n 1) Team selected to compete in a tournament or playoff from among those who did not qualify by meeting the regular requirements. — dictionary.com

2) What the Rays are for the rest of this season. — reality.com

With the Yankees running away with the AL East title, the Rays have to readjust their goals, and over the next seven weeks, you're going to hear and read plenty about the wild card.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"There's absolutely no shame in it," said manager Joe Maddon, a coach on the 2002 Angels' wild-card squad that won the World Series. "This is what I've been trying to get across all along: I don't want us to aim for the wild card and then fall short. I want us to aim for the division and then happen to become the wild card. …

"The only thing you're trying to do is get to the playoffs, period. And so there is zero shame in that. I was just trying, from my side, to have our guys push for the division, which really would give us a better chance of getting there period."

What he said, executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "My focus first and foremost is on being one of the four teams (in the playoffs). … Right now we have two teams in front of us to become the wild card, and if we're able to pass them, our focus will shift to the Yankees," he said.

"You can't win a World Series without being one of the four teams to get into the playoffs. Ideally speaking, you'd like it to be as a division winner, but if it's as a wild card and it allows us to continue that pursuit, that's fine for us. There's been a number of teams that won a World Series coming from the wild-card spot."

Wild stuff

Of the 28 wild-card teams since the 1995 implementation, nine made it to the World Series and four won it:

Winners Losers

1997 Marlins 2000 Mets

2002 Angels 2002 Giants

2003 Marlins 2005 Astros

2004 Red Sox 2006 Tigers

2007 Rockies

Eastern issue

Ten of the 14 AL wild cards have come from the East:

Red Sox 6

Yankees 3

Orioles 1

Also: Mariners, A's, Angels, Tigers

Then again ...

It's not easy to make up more than 11 games from August on to win a division, but it's not impossible. Here are five teams that did, in order of how far back they were:

Year Team GB Date Leader

1951 Giants 13 8/11 Dodgers

1995 Mariners 13 8/2 Angels

1930 Cardinals 12 8/8 Dodgers

1973 Mets 11.5 8/5 Cardinals

1964 Cardinals 11 8/23 Phillies

Source: Beyond the Box Score, baseball-reference.com

Ex-Ray file

Jonny Gomes had a pretty good night Thursday, hitting three home runs for his new team, the Reds. He is one of several key members of last year's Rays team who found a home elsewhere:

Player, new team G Avg. HR RBI

Rocco Baldelli, Red Sox 44 .261 5 17

Cliff Floyd, Padres 10 .125 0 0

Jonny Gomes, Reds 62 .272 14 33

Eric Hinske, Yanks* 68 .250 6 20

Pitcher, new team G W-L ERA

Jason Hammel, Rockies 24 7-7 4.73

Edwin Jackson, Tigers 23 8-5 2.79

Trever Miller, Cards 48 3-0 2.01

The old(er) man and the C

Gregg Zaun might have to play a little longer to meet his goal of being the oldest catcher in MLB history. Rays PR whiz Rick Vaughn points out that in 1904, Hall of Famer Jim O'Rourke, at age 54, was summoned out of more than 10 years of retirement by Giants manager John McGraw to catch the pennant-clinching game.

Rays rumblings

Carl Crawford was (appropriately) voted the AL's most exciting player in Baseball America's annual Best Tools survey of league managers. … Of course Troy Percival hasn't filed retirement paperwork yet — then he'd give up the remainder of his $4.45 million salary. And it had to be news to the Rays when he said: "I could have signed a one-year deal and been happy," since he insisted on two (at $8 million plus) at the time. … On ESPN's Jim Rome is Burning, Evan Longoria said of his bosses: "I really hope that they pick up Crawford's ($10 million) option and give us a chance to win next year, and I think they will." The bigger question is whether they trade him. … Rehabbing in Durham, with trips to Syracuse and Norfolk, should be an interesting experience for 2B Akinori Iwamura, who hasn't seen the U.S. minor leagues. … Expect Jim Haslett, coach of the Rays-owned Florida Tuskers team in the new United Football League, to throw out a first pitch soon. … Related or not, there was a football in Crawford's locker Friday. … The Rays and Padres are the only teams without a player hitting for the cycle and throwing a no-hitter. … When Joe Maddon saw Trevor Bell as the first Angel to wear his old No. 70, he mockingly pointed to the retired numbers at Angels Stadium and joked to the L.A. coaches, "It should be up there."

Got a minute? | David Price

Beat meal you can make?

Spaghetti, with meat sauce — I crack the jar.

Band you'd love to be on stage with?

If I was Matt Garza, I'd say, who was it that did YMCA, the Village People? For me, I'd say Lil' Wayne.

Must-see TV?

Burn Notice.

Karaoke song if you had to?

Now they're going to make me do it now — Regulate, by Warren G.

Dream date?

(Actress) Meagan Good.

Rays Tales: Time for Tampa Bay Rays to focus on the AL wild card 08/15/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 15, 2009 8:35pm]

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