That is the text message I got from friend and Yankee fan Ian Power last night around 11:30. Ouch indeed.
That loss stings but, I am not as upset about it (or the loss earlier yesterday morning) as I expected I’d be. I think that is because I have not bought into the “make-or-break stretch” and neither should you.
If the Rays continue playing this stretch against Boston and New York at their current pace, they’ll finish it about 10 games back of first in the East. That is a big margin but, it isn’t an insurmountable margin. Particularly with 64 games left to play, 19 of which are against Boston and New York.
Look, I am not saying that I am happy the Rays have used this mid-season opportunity to fall off the pace rather than take control of the division, but I don’t think they are nearing the end of the plank either. But lets be realistic. It’s the AL East, baseball’s version of the SEC, if you stub your toe and miss one step of the race, everyone puts 100 yards on you. Every mistake in this division is outgrown. In fact, at 50-44 the Rays would be 0.5 games back in the AL Central, 4 games back in the AL West, 8.5 games back in the NL East, tied for first in the NL Central, and 4 games back in the NL West. Every other division in baseball, sans the NL East, would accommodate the Rays inconsistent play. So, let’s not pretend these 10 games decide whether or not the D-Rays are back in town.
If the Rays are going to make up those hypothetical 10 games however, they are going to have to right the ship quickly. I am confident they can turn it around for two reasons. First, they are young and stupid. Being young makes you bad at math when it comes to computing odds. This club is just naive enough to tilt at windmills. Second, and maybe more important, they have already crossed this particular mental barrier once in the season’s first month. I think it is possible to sell these kids on the idea that bouncing back from a rough stretch that some overlord decided was important is no different than bouncing back from a horrific start. Each is simply a small part of a long season.
In the end, this stretch may simply be the best argument yet for Friedman & Co. to add a piece or two at the trade deadline. Partly because playing Boston and New York has further exposed this club’s known weaknesses. But, more importantly, adding a piece at the deadline tells the fans (and the remaining parts of the clubhouse) that the club doesn’t see this stretch as a breaking point. New blood can encourage the rest of the team to relax and play their game. Which is all they’ll need to do if they are going to run down New York and Boston.