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Pardon us, but Rays are ‘not interesting nor charismatic’?

Rays Tales | ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” host says there’s not much to see despite the team’s latest success. Plus, rumblings.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco (5) celebrates with centerfielder Brett Phillips after Tampa Bay beat Boston in Franco's first major-league game in June at Tropicana Field.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco (5) celebrates with centerfielder Brett Phillips after Tampa Bay beat Boston in Franco's first major-league game in June at Tropicana Field. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]
Published Aug. 14
Updated Aug. 14

The Rays are a good story, right?

Always playing with a significantly smaller payroll than their American League East rivals (and few if any of the marquee names) and, for most of the past 14 years, competing with the big boys for a playoff spot.

Handling the myriad challenges of the pandemic-delayed and abbreviated 2020 season to make it to the World Series for the second time in 13 seasons, falling two games short of their first championship.

And looking maybe even more impressive this year.

While overcoming their own financial-based decisions to part ways with two of their top starting pitchers (Charlie Morton and Blake Snell), as well as a litany of injuries that sidelined their top returning starter (Tyler Glasnow), best reliever (Nick Anderson) and more than a dozen other pitchers, to head into the final seven weeks with the AL’s best record.

Pardon the interruption.

Because one of the hosts of ESPN’s popular talk show, Pardon the Interruption, doesn’t find the Rays to be such a good story.

St. Pete-based 1771 Designs produced this shirt in response to comments about the Rays on an ESPN show.
St. Pete-based 1771 Designs produced this shirt in response to comments about the Rays on an ESPN show. [ Special to the Times - 1771 Designs ]

Asked Wednesday what was a more interesting story, the rise of the Rays or the fall of the Red Sox, Tony Kornheiser replied:

“So let me be honest, the Tampa Bay Rays are not interesting, nor are they charismatic in any way. Now it’s admirable what they’ve done. They’ve put together a really good team on really not much money at all.

“So it’s sort of like, if you’re at an outlet, and you find a nice off-the-rack suit and you buy it and you like it. But if then somebody says to you, but I can get you a Zegna suit, or I can get you a Canali suit, you’re probably going to want to do that. Other than Kevin Cash yanking Blake Snell in the World Series, I don’t see a lot of intrigue there.”

Kornheiser, the longtime Washington Post columnist, said seeing the Red Sox struggle is more interesting because, like the Yankees, Dodgers and, more recently, Astros, they are “a national brand” that evokes strong feelings.

“Boston is a team that represents to me wealth and power and privilege,” Kornheiser said. “So when they start losing, people are happy. And we know Boston, we see them, they play the Yankees 50 times a month on this network. Everybody knows them. We know their history. We know their triumphs. We know their heartaches. And that’s why the Boston thing to me is a bigger deal.”

As for the rising Rays?

“But what do we really know about Tampa Bay other than Tom Brady and they used to have Bern’s Steak House? Maybe they still do. I don’t know.”

Understandably, Kornheisier’s comments drew some interesting reaction.

Naturally, there is also a T-shirt, the always nimble St. Pete-based 1771 Designs making a catchphrase out of “Not Interesting Nor Charismatic” on Rays blue ($22).

Not surprisingly, someone affiliated with the Rays saw it and some shirts are headed to the clubhouse this week. Maybe some Rays will wear them for batting practice. Maybe someone will send a photo or video to ESPN and Kornheiser.

Maybe they’ll recognize a good story when they see it.

And see that Tom Brady is far from the only thing going in Champa Bay, such as, um, the Lightning winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. And, yes, Bern’s is still open, and pretty good.

Rays rumblings

The Rays were welcomed to Target Field in Minnesota Friday with a scoreboard video "honoring" manager Kevin Cash.
The Rays were welcomed to Target Field in Minnesota Friday with a scoreboard video "honoring" manager Kevin Cash. [ Special to the Times - Tampa Bay Rays ]

The Rays were welcomed to Target Field Friday with a scoreboard video — clearly the work of Twins manager, ex-Ray and known prankster Rocco Baldelli — to “recognize reigning American League manager of the year, dog lover, and possible Hall of Famer, Kevin Cash,” with a collage of candid photos, including some shirtless after pregame runs. … The upside of getting back injured pitchers such as Nick Anderson, Chris Archer and Ryan Thompson who are on the 60-day injured list will present tough decisions on clearing spots on the 40-man roster. Given other recent roster additions, those discussions may at least include some familiar names such as Mike Brosseau, Brent Honeywell and/or Kevin Padlo. … Remember Josh Sale, the Rays’ talented but troubled 2010 top draft pick who got no higher than Class A and was released in February 2015? Now 30, he is playing again for Gastonia (N.C.) Honey Hunters in the independent Atlantic League, hitting .258 with a league-leading 24 homers and 66 RBIs. … First CHAMPA BAY. Now SLAMPA BAY is going around on social media after Brett Phillips last week hit his third grand slam, and the team’s single-season-record eighth. … Among scouts working the series in Boston was Chuck LaMar, the original Devil Rays general manager, now a Padres pro cross-checker. … With former Rays manager Joe Maddon selling his Tampa house that was previously owned by Bucs coach John McKay, wouldn’t the Lightning’s Jon Cooper be the perfect buyer to complete the triumvirate? ... After being called up Thursday, traveling to Boston, clearing COVID testing, getting in uniform and making it to the dugout, recently signed (and since dropped) pitcher Evan Phillips double-checked with a Rays staffer that the person on the bench talking to media was indeed Cash before introducing himself to his new boss. … A scoreboard graphic at Fenway had the right players but the team name last used in 2007, listing the “D-RAYS’ leaders. … Next Sunday is Chomp at the Trop day for UF alums. … During his time playing at FSU for Mike Martin, Cash also got to meet legendary football coach Bobby Bowden, who died Aug. 8: “A special person. The impact that he had throughout college football and certainly Florida State was pretty special.” … Hard-throwing 19-year-old Sandy Gaston was promoted to Low-A Charleston (S.C.) after striking out 32 in 19-2/3 innings in the Florida Complex League. … Foco.com is selling a Wander Franco bobblehead for $60, with supply limited.

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