I started to write a few different times yesterday but was unable to complete any thoughts due to client meetings and family obligations. Looking back on the half-thoughts I got out, it is probably best that I waited 24 hours.
Last December if I offered you the choice between a safe, reliable, but otherwise stodgy team that would predictably win 95 games and an electrifying but infuriating, club that would be totally unpredictable every night, you’d have picked the former. After all, we all have a little Al Davis in us.
But, looking back now, after 166 games of the most entertaining baseball I have ever seen, I am glad we got the latter team because they reminded us that baseball is fun because it’s baseball, not because we are winning or not losing.
Yes, an ALCS appearance or World Series appearance would have been great this fall. But, I’m not sure I’d trade the fun we had just to avoid the end we saw.
After some reflection, I think the single greatest thing about the 2011 Rays was that they were never boring. Not once. Every single night, for six solid months, they came to the park and did something that you were sure to talk about the next day. Sometimes they stole a game they should have lost with an improbably come back or a totally unexpected pitching performance. Other times they turned in total stink bombs just when you thought they had finally figured the whole thing out.
We watched every single night (despite what you read about in the national press, we DID watch every night) because we had no idea what would happen next. And neither did they. Nothing could be predicted. In some ways, they achieved what every reality television show aims for. They were compelling in their volatility and they made us all feel like junkies. The highs were incredibly high and the lows were incredibly low.
In fact, the Rays’ final at-bat epitomized their crazy summer. No baseball fan would feel like they had a chance against Neftali Feliz if they were sending Sam Fuld, Sean Rodriguez, and Casey Kotchman to the plate. But, we believed. Why wouldn’t we? Getting a run from two journeymen and a utilityman wouldn’t have been the biggest miracle of the season. When they failed the low set in. But that’s ok because nothing in life is free. Without the lows we felt yesterday, we could never have had the highs we got last week.
The Yankees and Rangers and Tigers are great. But they are Volvos. Safe, reliable, certain. The 2011 Rays were a Harley. Most times, you pick the Volvo (or, if you’re like me, you crash your car and you inherit your wife’s old Volvo so she can get a new SUV). It is the safe choice. But, you never tell stories about the times you drove a Volvo. The stories come from the time you drove a Harley.
[please note, in the example above, I think the Red Sox are a Yugo. Right? ... ZING!]