Sometimes a Loss is Not a Loss

Chris O’Meara/AP 

I still get irritated every time the Tampa Bay Rays lose a contest. Some people would say that after 10 years from 1998-2007 of experiencing sub .500 records and years of watching your aspirations for your teams dissolve like sands in that proverbial hourglass until the top of the glass is empty and wanting. I have had a ton of those days, days where the hurt and pain of the loss stands still in the pit of my stomach until I enter the Trop. the next night to attend another round of constant emotional wrestling hoping for a win, or a reason to have hope.

For some reason last night I did not feel that surge of twisting emotions and loss, but instead I experienced a ” we will get them next time” mentality. Maybe it was the fact the Rays showed the 19,000+ in the blue seats that this team has shed their 2009 ways of accepting a one-sided score and showed the fire and intensity needed to compete long into October. It was a great sight seeing the Rays battle tooth-to-tooth trying to crawl back into last night’s contest up to the last swing of the bat. I finally believe that lightning does strike twice, and it has in a place that used to be called the Thunderdome.

Usually it has been the modus operandi of the Rays in the past to take players out of the starting line-up and save them for another day. Last night, we again saw the maddening mind of Rays Manager Joe Maddon as he again dropped the Designated Hitter spot for the second night in a row to bolster his offense and provide an additional chance to come out on the winning side. I saw a strain of emotion late into the bottom of the ninth inning that were missing last season, but was reborn in 2010, possibly with the seeds planted firmly during Spring Training.

We again saw the majesty of Rays slugger Carlos Pena providing a example of never giving up and sending his second Home Run in as many days into the seats in Section 139 right beyond the Leftfield foul pole. We saw the grit and determination of Pena again not giving up on a short fly ball in front of the plate by his hustle down the First Base line and rewarded as Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino dropped the easy out onto the Trop’s turf. Faith had reared is magnificent head again, and it was favoring the Rays and giving them a chance of redemption in this game.

Chris O’Meara/AP

That was missing from this team in 2009. This Rays 2009 team did not visualize a sense of gritty determination and hustle last season but accepted their lot in the Major League Baseball season and let their physical downfalls limit their game plan, and also accepting their fate without a scrappy reprise. But seeing the Rays fight the good fight last night and toss those usual notions of playing for another day aside and individually deciding amongst themselves that this game was within their grasps, up until the last swing. And I love that transformation of this team and it starts with the guy who has hit homer after homer over the last few games, honestly leading by example.

And this is one of those emotions that is contagious and infectious in a good way. And the way the Rays fought hard last night showed they have their priorities in line and are striving for more this season. Rays/ Hess Express Saturday Night Concert performer Dierks Bentley has a song, “Feel that Fire”, hopefully the Rays take a look at that songs lyrics and embrace the fiery emotions needed to boost themselves to that next level.

So I walked out of the Trop. last night not upset the roof was not orange, and we did not finally seal that 40th win of the season. The aspects of blossoming accountability and self sacrifice witnessed last night shows this team is on the cusp of something again that is magical and will send all of us home again with multiple smiles in the near future. The Rays might have lost the physical game last night, but they gained in the mental and emotional aspects of the game, and that in itself can be a solid victory and provide more clarity and focus for the future than a simple “W”.


Losing is never easy to swallow. But sometime we know after having watched our team, if the loss in the standings really tells the whole story. Some losses are totally understandable; some losses we can find no fault. When apathy, laziness and absence of mental preparation and lack of fundamentals rear their ugly heads…..Big Problem. Do you think last year was a little hangover from ’08? Or do it just not go their way? But you’re right about them seemingly having the same sense of purpose this year.

As a former professional athlete, I know just how much a lopsided loss can dig at your confidence and your reality to push you towards dark places. The way the Rays disregarded that darkness ands still tried to pull out of it after going down 9-0 is why this team is among the elite this season.
Playing in a division where 90+ wins might not get you a playoff berth is a sweat induced bundle of emotions and mood swings far beyond the usual.
But with the Rays pushing, prodding and poking their way out of that dark place, they showed they have what it takes to be the best abd remain on top…no matter what.

Rays Renegade

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