Sunday, October 6, 2013

Of Nerds, Domes, and Distractions

Tonight, the Rays come home. Finally. The Rays last played at Tropicana Field on the 23rd of September, a full two weeks ago. Since the last time the gang spent the night in their respective home beds, they’ve played in five cities in two countries, and they’ve won six games and lost four.

But this time going home means more than just the comfort of a warm bed or a home cooked meal. It means shedding distractions. And over the last two games, the two key Rays have had their mental composure shook by the beatings in Boston.

While I already covered the Fenway Faithful’s Game 1 ode to Wil Myers, a much more experienced Rays player lost his cool after Game 2. After leaving one too many pitches up in the strike zone and give up a gaggle of runs, David Price could have done what other pitchers through the years have done. He could have:

But Price is too 21st century for that type of outburst. Instead he took to Twitter and ripped TBS analysts Dirk Hayhurst (another former teammate, by the way) and Tom Verducci in a tweet. Regardless of the content, and Price’s opinions of Hayhurst’s career or Verducci’s athletic ability, this isn’t the first time Price has taken to twitter to express his frustration. Little can we forget in late 2010 when Price tweeted about Rays fans, saying their attendance, or lack thereof, was “embarrassing”.

Of course, Price “apologized” for his most recent outburst as he did the 2010 comments, with a sad, cliched “if I offended anyone, then I am sorry” statement. But the distraction lives on, looming over a series that already has the Rays needing to play do-or-die baseball for the next three games.

Thankfully, the Rays are at home for the next two games, where the sold-out crowd at Tropicana Field will be behind them, doing their best to will them to win. And thankfully for David Price, he probably won’t be pitching in Boston again anytime soon. Red Sox fans might try to get under his skin with a “Nerds, Nerds, Nerds” chant.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Riding Rightfielders: Wil Myers isn’t the first

Those who watched Friday’s debacle in Game 1 of the ALDS saw an unusual sight: Rays rightfielder Wil Myers getting confused and letting a fly ball drop between him and Desmond Jennings. Of course, the ball bounced over the wall, the Red Sox scored, kept scoring, and the Rays lost.

What was particularly interesting was the fan reaction to Myers. Throughout the rest of the game, Red Sox fans in rightfield rode Myers mercilessly, chanting his name – “My-ers” “My-ers” – while he stood stoically in his position. Then, when he came to bat, the chants continued, this time joined by the rest of the stadium.

This is not the first time a power-hitting young rightfielder was jeered by the Fenway Faithful. On October 23, 1986, during Game 5 of the World Series, Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry was the target of a similar chant. “Dar-ryl” “Dar-ryl”, the Red Sox fans sang, hoping to get under the skin of the young superstar who had his own adventures in Fenway’s rightfield.

Absolutely well put by Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola, by the way.

Of course, neither Strawberry nor Mets fans let the chants get to them. While Strawberry recovered well enough to hit a dagger home run in Game 7 of the Mets’ eventual series win, Mets fans co-opted the “Dar-ryl” chant, turning a negative heckle into a positive show of love.

So that’s my recommendation to Rays fans: don’t call Red Sox fans “classless” or anything other derogatory terms because they are riding a Rays player.  They are merely chanting his name. Co-opt the chant, claim it, and own it. Use it loud and proud at Tropicana Field. Be passionate, not prissy.

As Ty Cobb once famously said, “Baseball is a red-blooded sport for red-blooded men. It’s no pink tea, and mollycoddles had better stay out. It’s a struggle for supremacy, survival of the fittest.”

The Red Sox and their fans drew first blood. It’s time for Myers and the Rays to be their worst nightmare.