The Rays are headed back to Philadelphia this week, and for the handful of remaining personnel from the 2008 team, the memories of their World Series experience in the City of Brotherly Love are anything but good.
"Heartbreak," said 3B Evan Longoria, the only active remaining player. "Just heartbreak."
Losing was bad enough, obviously, as the Rays, coming off their exhilarating seven-game elimination of the Red Sox in the ALCS, split the first two Series games at home, then dropped three straight to the Phillies.
Their last-to-first, hard-to-believe, how-did-they-do-that dream season came to a cruel and disappointing end, Game 5 loser J.P. Howell sitting in front of his locker sobbing, and he wasn't the only one with tears on his face.
But nearly as bad — and certainly as memorable — were the conditions they played in: brutally cold and wet weather stripping them of their advantages in speed and defense and causing major disruptions to the schedule.
There was a 90-plus minute delay at the start of Game 3 and a 46-hour — yes, hour — interruption in the middle of a tied Game 5, forcing the Rays to Delaware to find new hotel accommodations (thanks to yeoman's work by former travel director Jeff Ziegler), as well as to "start" reliever Grant Balfour when play resumed in the middle of the sixth.
Equally stunning was the rude way they and, more so, their friends and family in the stands were treated by some of Philadelphia's finest fans.
Though the Rays have been back to Philadelphia twice since, for preseason exhibitions in 2009 and a three-game series in 2012, that 2008 experience still stands out, and always will.
Here are some memories from '08ers still with the Rays:
OF Rocco Baldelli:
I hate doing this. This is awful. This is like tortuous thinking about this.
We were obviously excited to be there because we were in the World Series, we just played an incredible series against the Red Sox, we're playing well and we roll in there, and it didn't take long for us to realize that it was not going to be a very friendly environment.
Anybody who talked about the city of Philadelphia at that time, nobody is exaggerating any of those thoughts and comments. Whatever the opposite of hospitable would be to you, that's what the people of Philadelphia were to us at that time.
It didn't seem like the people of the city were happy that their team was in the World Series. It seemed like they were more happy and excited to take out their anger on the opposition and to degrade us.
They were lined up on the street "gesturing" at us. Many, many gestures. They were banging on our bus.
And, to say the least, I don't think our family and friends who were at the games were able to enjoy it as much as they should have been able to.
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The weather was not like anything I had ever dealt with, and I grew up in Rhode Island. Those were the worst conditions I ever played in, and they happened to be in the most important games I was ever a part of. It doesn't seem you should be deciding a World Series in conditions where you can't feel your hands and you're dealing with sleet storms.
And beyond all of that, which was most important, we didn't play anywhere near as well as the series before. And that was the most disappointing thing to us — it seemed like the Series was almost over before it really got going for us.
3B Evan Longoria:
The heartbreak sticks with me the most. The hardest part of it, aside from the losing, was the way we had to do it. It was a little bit easier for them because they were home, and when we had all the weather issues, there we were out of a hotel and we were moving and there was some uncertainty as far as what the plan was.
Just the weather in general was miserable. I'm sure if you ask the guys on that Philly team, although they won and that kind of smooths everything over, it was less than ideal conditions to play a baseball game in. I think just the losing and the way that we ended up losing, that just made it that much tougher to deal with.
3B coach Tom Foley:
It stunk. Not a whole lot of good memories of Philadelphia from 2008. It was a great year, it just ended badly. And it ended there.
Bad weather, terrible weather. Sitting around, going from one hotel then to another in Delaware, trying to get the games in.
The biggest thing I remember is going back in the clubhouse after we lost, that was tough. I remember hugging J.P. That was a tough deal going around saying goodbye to everybody after that game.
Bullpen C Scott Cursi:
It was a very passionate crowd for the Phillies. I'm trying to be politically correct. It was a tough crowd. They were on us from batting practice until the last out was made. There was a kid by the bullpen cursing at us and there was a cop there just laughing. There were a lot of colorful metaphors from the fans.
Pitching coach Jim Hickey:
I really, really remember the weather at the time and how long it took them to stop Game 5, which was absurd. It should have been stopped long before it ever was. There was standing water on the infield. I still, to this day, don't know how it happened, how it wasn't stopped sooner.
My ex-wife was there and she was appalled at the behavior of their fans, especially toward ours. At one point she went to get the security guard, who was actually an on-duty police officer, and he laughed at her and didn't help at all.
The fans lived up to their belligerent level. They revel in that type of thing. They wear it as a badge of honor, but it really ought to be a source of embarrassment to them.
I also remember thinking if we would just get it home, we would win it, no matter what. But obviously we didn't.
The '08ers: Where are they now?
An updated look at the Rays' World Series roster:
Still with Rays
OF Rocco Baldelli, 1B coach
3B Evan Longoria
BOLD Playing elsewhere
OF Carl Crawford, Dodgers
LHP Scott Kazmir, A's
RHP Matt Garza, Brewers
LHP J.P. Howell, Dodgers
RHP Edwin Jackson, Cubs
C Dioner Navarro, Blue Jays
LHP David Price, Tigers
RHP James Shields, Padres
OF B.J. Upton, Padres
INF/OF Ben Zobrist, A's
Retired/out of majors
INF Willy Aybar
RHP Grant Balfour
SS Jason Bartlett
RHP Chad Bradford
OF/DH Cliff Floyd
OF Gabe Gross
C Michel Hernandez
INF/OF/DH Eric Hinske*
2B Akinori Iwamura
LHP Trever Miller
1B Carlos Peña
OF Fernando Perez
RHP Andy Sonnanstine
RHP Dan Wheeler
* Replaced injured Cliff Floyd
• Joe Maddon, manager Now: Cubs manager
• Brian Anderson, asst. pitching Now: Rays TV analyst
• Tim Bogar, quality assurance Now: Angels special assistant
• Tom Foley, third base Now: Rays bench coach
• Steve Henderson, hitting Now: Phillies hitting coach
• George Hendrick, first base Now: Rays special adviser
• Jim Hickey, pitching Now: Same
• Dave Martinez, bench Now: Cubs bench coach
• Bobby Ramos, bullpen Now: Marlins catching coordinator
• Don Zimmer, senior adviser Passed away in June 2014
. Any fan voting is going to be subjective, and even prejudicial, but there is no logical explanation for OF Carl Crawford not being among the Rays' Franchise Four announced last week. He deserved to be ahead of RHP James Shields and INF/OF Ben Zobrist, and on par with 3B Evan Longoria behind LHP David Price. CC spent nine years with the Rays, made four All-Star teams and held many of their franchise marks. Was it because he left as a free agent (even though the Rays made it clear they weren't going to re-sign him)? Because he went to the rival Red Sox? Or something else?
. Tremendous gesture by the Rays to offer free tickets to all military personnel and their families. Those poking fun at how they have plenty of room at the Trop are missing the point.
The Rays are tentatively slated to open the 2016 season at home (again) vs. the Blue Jays (again), and play interleague vs. the NL West, including home-and-home series with Andrew Friedman's Dodgers. … Double-A LHP Blake Snell made quite the impression at the All-Star Futures Game, no less an expert than Peter Gammons speculating whether Snell is more likely to pitch in relief or start when he gets called up in September. … Scouts were also impressed with 3B Richie Shaffer's batting practice, but more than one questioned how he will handle breaking balls. … Still not sure how commissioner Rob Manfred confused getting encouragement about the team's future from talking with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (which makes sense) and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (which would have been bigger news). … The impending return of OF Steven Souza Jr. seems bad for either OF Joey Butler (who has options) or OF Grady Sizemore (who could accept a Triple-A assignment). … RHP Chris Archer was an All-Star hit with players, MLB officials and media. ... Team investor Tim Mullen's Chicago-area mansion, which was listed for $18.75-million, sold last week, per media reports. ... Per ESPN's Buster Olney, the Rays have the fifth easiest remaining schedule of the 15 AL teams. … Odds on the Rays winning the World Series went up from 25-1 to 33-1 at the break per the on-line Bovada site; the Royals are now 6-1 favorites.