Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Zen Dayley: Cinderella times the knuckleball; Yawkey Way rhymes with Fannie Mae

Whether you buy into the notion that the Rays are a Cinderella team or reject it out of resistance to a warmed-over sports cliche ... well, it depends on your interpretation of the source material.

A Cinderella team, quote-unquote, doesn't ring up a 22-5 cumulative score over two nights against the Boston Red Sox. Then again, some would say that Cindy had it in her all along and was just trapped in unfortunate circumstances. That does apply to being a small-market AL East team whose stadium used to be a hockey. The Rays are definitely headed to the World Series. Boston has come back from being down 3-1 in the American League playoffs twice in four years; three times seems a little beyond their grasp, unless about half their team breaks out of their hitting slump all at once. Tampa Bay is a more convincing opponent than Cleveland was last year. These Red Sox don't have the same depth in their starting pitching as the 2004 Idiots.

It would be nice to say one saw this coming in April. Outside of Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections, which had the Rays down for 88 wins, no one really did. (Considering that the previous worst-to-first teams, the 1991 Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins, came during the last U.S. recession, maybe we should have. Ah, let's face it, there's no connection.)

It says here the Rays aren't less than a Cinderella team in the conventional sense. Along with being cliche, Cinderella team is a ketchup answer (hat tip to Nathan Whitlock). It covers everything. It works against figuring out how the hell this happened, how a team with a $43.7-million payroll managed to get to within one game of a World Series where they'll be heavily favoured.

Meantime, talk about a Mass exodus from the Red Sox bandwagon. In Boston, the local news is sounding the alarm about a drop-off in the demand for tickets on StubHub and in souveiner sales around Fenway Park. Boston Dirt Dogs is turning on their heroes (i.e., David Ortiz has gone from Big Papi to Big Pop-Up). The Red Sox have been a licence to print money since about 2003, but with the way things are headed in the U.S. economy, even that is not so certain.

What is certain is that Cinderella gets dragged out when people can't believe what they're seeing.

This should have been apparently much earlier

The long-time Sports Illustrated writer Roy S. Johnson pointed out that, "On the rosters of the eight teams that qualified for the postseason, there are 30 black players – a rate (15 percent) almost double that of baseball overall."

Johnson lists the Rays with three African-Americans, although B.J. Upton and Carl Crawford, the veteran DH Cliff Floyd and pitching phenom David Price make four. (It would be five if you count No. 5 starter Edwin Jackson, who hasn't pitched in the playoffs.) It is notable, considering the 2005 Houston Astros were did not have a single African-American on their World Series roster.

Other business

  • Please try to forget that Matt Stairs played for the Red Sox. He's an ex-Expo, ex-Athletic, ex-Ottawa Lynx and ex-Blue Jay, but Boston's not claiming him.
  • Stephen Brunt contends that, "Nothing negative can come from the hiring of Paul Beeston as the interim CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays." I write the same thing and everyone either ignores it or says, "what an idiot." But, oh, Brunt writes it and you say, "Brilliant, nuanced, well-considered" and applaud the use of le mot juste.

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