Since around May, I have been trying to come up with a Grand Unifying Theory for the Rays. In today's SN column, inspired by last night's Rays win at Fenway -- putting Tampa up 3-1 in the ALCS -- I think I have found it. I'm going to republish today's column lead in full, because I want the peer review:
The Rays are not the Yankees. Or the Indians, for that matter.Thoughts?
And that is why there will be no Red Sox comeback from being down 3-1 in the ALCS, like they did last season against
. Or like '04 against Cleveland . New York
More than anything, these Rays lack a sense of entitlement -- and that missing historical and emotional baggage is its killer advantage, why it is beating the brains out of
Some might argue that entitlement is swagger and "swag" is a prerequisite for any would-be champ.
But I would say that it is harder to beat a team that doesn't know how good it is-- or, at least, won't let it get to their heads after a franchise history of nothing but losing -- than a team that thinks the name on the front of its jersey demands deference.
And the (METAPHORICAL) names on the back of the Red Sox jerseys aren't having much success either: The Rays followed up a shellacking of historically dominant postseason ace Josh Beckett by throttling Jon Lester, who had been untouchable this postseason.
The barrage of home runs (3 more last night, 7 total in 2 ALCS games at Fenway) is the byproduct of how loose this Rays team is.
In the same way that Red Sox fans don't see the Rays as their "rival," the Rays have no reason to fear the Red Sox mystique.
After a decade of sucking, the Rays are unfazed by expectations – perhaps even immune. The team's "9=8" mantra means that all they focus on is the inning at hand, the single game they are playing.
For a team with as sorry of a history as the Rays, that was the only mindset that could work: Ignore history. Don't self-reflect. Aren't both what doomed both the '04 Yankees and '08 Indians?
Cinderella looked good, but she wouldn't really be the star of the party if she KNEW how hot she was.
Meanwhile, I step out for one day and the Phillies look ready to make the World Series; the Giants (and NFC East) suddenly look fairly average; and Clemson finally tires of Tommy Bowden (talk about expectations management). Full SN column here.