Few things in life are certain. The old saying tells us that only death and taxes are guaranteed, and I might add a few other things, such as: beer will always taste good, I will always be terrible at golf, and working a real job will never be fun.
After yesterday, I can now add one more:
The Blue Jays will always struggle against Tampa Bay.
It is a phenomena that I can’t explain. Look at the Rays lineup from top to bottom, and tell me what you think. Crappy, righit? Will Rhymes? Chris Gimenez? Elliot Johnson? Their best player is on the DL, their potential superstar centrefielder doesn’t appear that he will a) reach his potential or b) become a superstar, and their power hitting 1B spends more time bunting to third than swinging for the fences.
Yet, they still beat us. All the time.
I actually considered this latest series a success because we weren’t swept.
Yes, you can say that manager Joe Maddon is a great manager who does crazy things and squeezes every ounce of ability out of the club. That’s true.
Yes, you can say that Tampa has great starting pitching and (somehow) a solid bullpen, one that despite trotting out an array of broken down closers on an annual basis, always seems to come through.
And yes, we all know that Tampa turned their fortunes around in 2008, morphing into a perennial contender. But even before the Rays turned things around, Toronto still fell behind the rest of their AL East counterparts when facing Tampa Bay.
In their first 10 years of existence, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were 327 games under .500 for a winning percentage of .399. With the unbalanced schedule, this was a golden chance for the big boys of the AL East to fatten their records. While all of them did, Toronto failed to win as many games as the other teams in the division:
In the 5 seasons that followed, Tampa Bay dropped the “Devil” from their name, and dropped the losing from their ways, turning out a record of 395 – 298 and a winning percentage of .570. Suddenly, they became a much tougher foe for the AL East, and actually posted a winning record against all teams but the Yankees. But they haven’t just posted a winning record against Toronto – they have DESTROYED the Blue Jays:
It’s not even constrained to the AL East either. Look at Tampa Bay’s head-to-head records against the other 29 clubs in MLB, and you’ll see that Toronto is their 6th most favoured opponent. However, when you remove the small sample size numbers of interleague play (Tampa has had success against Arizona, the Cubs, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia in a limited number of games), the Blue Jays move up to second. Tampa Bay only enjoys playing Kansas City more than Toronto (.575 vs. the Royals, .518 vs. the Jays).
So the stats prove the theory that Toronto can’t beat Tampa, but they don’t really do the reality justice. Watching the Jays play the Rays is beyond frustrating. It’s a miserable experience watching Toronto take a lead but lose it, or fall behind and fail to catch up. It’s even worse when Tampa hits home runs that travel 280 feet and hit a low hanging catwalk…
The bottom line is this: I hate the Tampa Bay Rays. I hate watching their games, and I hate watching them whip the Jays each and every time they meet.
But I have to suck it up – the teams meet 10 more times this season. What’s worse? If the season ended today the Blue Jays would make the playoffs as the second wild card, setting up a one game playoff with….
The Tampa Bay Rays.