Getting The Royals Treatment

Sometimes you look at something long enough comparisons and similarities will come rushing back at you with a vengeance. You will recognize the fight and determination, the struggle from trying to banish that “underdog” label, hoping teams take you on your current talent and not your less than glorious recent past. You have to think more than one member of the Tampa Bay Rays looked across the diamond this week and peered into the Kansas City Royals dugout and possibly saw a mirror image of this Rays franchise not 8 years ago, fighting to remove the sub-par label and taking victories that on paper looked like causal defeats.

It was not that long ago teams used to come down to Saint Petersburg, Florida for a series against the Rays and felt it was a bit of a breather, a mini vacation within the 162-game grind in a stadium that seemed to welcome visiting teams with wins and special moments. Tampa Bay used to carry that underdog, under-estimated label around their necks until 2008 proved to finally break the bonds of that level of thinking.

The Royals, who as a small-market franchise had to develop their talent “in-house”, like the Rays and think long and hard about any possible free-agent acquisition or signing are currently hitting that same threshold the Rays faced in 2008. Their home-grown talent in bursting through to the big league level now and are proving some people wrong about this young club, possibly to the point of being late season playoff killers.

For so many seasons from 1998 until their final post-season coronation in 2008, the Rays knew their bags would be packed to go home after the 162-game slate. Their season effectively ended in a way by the turning of the calendar from August to September, with the latter month used to evaluate top talent and possibly give some aging veterans a well deserved rest. September for under-achieving clubs all over the Major Leagues was a chance to possibly upset title contenders, and hopefully staving off the champagne celebrations from your home turf.

It was so eerie over that 3-game dismantling of the Rays as I watched the Royals do the same things to the Rays 2008 squad did so effectively. The Royals pounced on defensive mis-cues, got determined pitching performances and took it to the Rays jugular game after game. It truly was like looking into the mirror and seeing the past 2008 team doing their magic out on that hot and humid field.

Possibly this could be a nice wake-up call for the Rays seeing the Royals take them apart with ease by doing the “little things” and coming out on top in all 3 contests. Maybe a few of the Rays need to take a step back, possibly relax a shade and let their game flow back to them instead of trying to provide “web gems” moments or rush to the aid of their ailing offense, or defense.

I remember hearing Rays Radio Guru Dave Wills today on the “Ron and Ian Show”, and Wills commented to the effect that when Sean Rodriguez plays 2B, he is our best 2B, when he plays 3B, he is our best 3B, and when he is at SS…Well, you get the drift. That is a disturbing revelation to me that whenever S-Rod lines up for a contest, there is a possible defensive shortcoming in our midst.

Maybe the Royals did the Rays a huge favor and slapped them firmly in the chops thus making it obvious to the entire roster and Coaching staff that this 2012 Rays are not the “hunters” right now, but are playing more like the “hunted”. This current situation could be as simple as the Rays finding that “hunger” again.

With the club nearing the .500 mark for the first time since they rose above that distinctive measuring point earlier in the season, maybe adjusting their thought process and just doing fundamentally solid performances with powerful results, this team can again turn the corner and claim a few much needed victories.

Possibly the Rays mindset might need to go back to this team thinking they are again on the verge of being daily “underdogs” ever time out, and again having something to prove not only to themselves, but the rest of the MLB community. Some say the Rays got royally man-handled during that 3-game series. Personally, I think the Rays getting the Royals treatment might be the best thing to happen to them. Can’t wait to see which teams hits the field against Detroit tonight.

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