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What We Learned In Tampa

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With a stacked deck going into a series that would have been difficult to win without injuries or gaffes, the Rangers went to St. Pete and got swept by the Rays. What does it mean? Well, not as much as you might think.

No one likes to see their team lose. Not even when they are up a large amount in their division. What happens then is you start to get the feeling, when things aren't going well, that perhaps the team is coasting. I don't think the Rangers are coasting. Here's what we need to realize and remember about this series in Tampa Bay:

  • The Rays are really good. We shouldn't forget that.
  • The Rangers had exactly three guys from their opening day lineup playing in this series. One of them, Andres Blanco, was playing then as he is playing now, as a replacement for Ian Kinsler who is injured. Another one is Julio Borbon and he would likely be on the bench if Nelson Cruz were not on the disabled list. In all, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, and Michael Young missed all or almost all of this series.
  • Joaquin Arias played.
  • As I mentioned in my series preview on Lone Star Ball, the Rays were rolling out their top three starters while the Rangers were going with their 1, 4 and 5 guys.
  • The Rays are seriously very good. Even completely healthy and with front-loaded pitching match-ups, beating the Rays in a series at their place wouldn't just be a cakewalk through Candy Mountain. They aren't cupcakes. The Rays are delicious is what I'm getting at. Delicious at baseball.
  • Evan Longoria played and he's amazing and I hate him in the way that I love him and wish so much that he were a Texas Ranger.

Perhaps the worst thing about this series was a continuation of a developing trend of the Rangers inexplicably blowing fantastic pitching performances from Cliff Lee. What happened on Monday night was excruciating and inexcusable. Hell, even Ron Washington was mad as hell and not taking it any longer and the folks that kicked the game were his people. Joaquin Arias, in the words of Ron Washington, did what he do. Way back in the day when I would read reports on Joaquin Arias, after he came over as the other piece in the Alex Rodriguez trade, I would read how he was a marvel defensively but he was someone that had an air of nonchalance about him. Not a swagger like Julio Borbon or a suavis of Elvis Andrus, but a legit lack of interest displayed in his game. There was this idea that he just didn't care all that much about baseball but played it because he was good at it. Do I think Joaquin Arias doesn't care? No. I'm sure he does considering he might be on his last leg as a Major League ballplayer. But do I think he is baseball smart the way someone that actually cares about the game would be? Absolutely not. I think Joaquin Arias is severally baseball stupid and every time he is counted on to perform in a large capacity we are likely to see games like Monday night from him. Perhaps the miscues won't always be as bad as they were on Monday night, but Joaquin Arias is a liability.

I know Tropicana Field gets a lot of bad words thrown in its direction for its lack of atmosphere, unusual structures, and general terribleness for being baseball indoors on a plastic field but in thid series, it's hard to say every word hasn't been earned. That place is a tomb where baseball goes to die. The fact that a Cliff Lee versus David Price match-up that actually ended up being an exciting comeback win for the home team only drew what amounted to a 200 person walk-up ticket take is baffling and troubling. However, if I were a Rays fan, I don't know how much more I'd want to be in Tropicana rather than just on my couch watching the game either.

You know, I don't like being that guy that complains about umpires when my team doesn't win a game, and I get that we as fans are privy to information almost instantaneously now where we once had to just trust the men in blue behind the plate, but thanks to this abundant wealth of information it is becoming increasingly clear to me that umpires are bad at their job and are poorly impacting the game of baseball. The home plate umpiring in this series was atrocious for both teams. The only thing worse was the umpiring in the series before that and that's only topped by the umpiring in the series before that and on and on. Essentially, MLB is at a crossroads here and I'm praying that they do the right thing and allow some of this easy-to-use technology to help the umpires. No one wants to emasculate the poor guy trying to do his job but eventually, if we continue having guys just guess out there, while we all sit at home and know instantly without a doubt that they are wrong, the credibility and sport is taken out of the game. 

There are a lot of complaints about this series because the Rangers were swept, but ultimately, as per the list above, it wasn't a surprise. At most the Rangers were probably looking at only being favored to win one of the games and they blew that one to holy hell in a terrible 8th inning. But that doesn't change the outlook for this team. It shouldn't change your outlook, either. Don't forget that this is a team that had just come off a series win versus an almost equal Boston team and was another terrible late-inning collapse away from sweeping a superior Yankees team. As the team slowly gets back to health, and puts some of their more Oklahoma-y parts back on the bench or waiver wire where they belong, they'll be fine. In the meantime, baseball might be a grueling affair to watch for a little while. You sat through the 2002 Texas Rangers though, you can do it for a couple of weeks.

So what did we learn in St. Tampa Bay?



Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.