“Prey” or “Pray”?

I was standing in line getting a cool and wet Polar Pop fountain drink at Circle K this afternoon and accidentally spit out a bit of my Diet Dr. Pepper onto the clean floor when I spied a unique and compelling headline on the back page of an out-of-town publication nestled on their newspaper rack.

Upon seeing that headline, “Tampa Prey”, I did give out a little school girl’s chuckle and snicker, much to the chagrin of the poor New York Yankees fan 5 people behind me. But that is what late August has been for these two behemoth Major League Baseball programs as one emphasises growing talent from their farm system bumper crop, while the other uses their massive wealth to sometimes just pluck the ripe fruit it desires.

Two uniquely different approaches to the basic premise of baseball, and all it has done is produce the last 4-straight American League East titles for these two opposite ends of the monetary world. Some within the boroughs of NYC saw the Rays 2008 first A L East snatching as a gift from the “Baseball Gods”, and after the Yankees were witness to the Rays first banner raised to the rafters of Tropicana Field, they were on a mission to not let than happen again. 2009 saw the Rays falter while the Yankees drove their wagon straight into October, but crashing and burning before getting a chance at the World Series.

2010 the Rays basically took it to Game 162 before the Yankees and Rays budding rivalry ended as the Rays went into extra innings in Kansas City knowing their destiny as the Yankees played their way into the post season via the Wild Card. Back and forth since 2008 the Rays and Yankees have traded barbs, animosity and A L East titles with the Rays garnering their banners in even numbers years while the Yankees have dominated in odd-numbered seasons.

With this being an even number year, some have already speculated and boasted it will again be the crew from St. Petersburg, Florida who find themselves on top of the hill after October 3rd, but with 37 contests still to be decided, and 2 3-games series between the pair to still be played, there is still a large chunk of chances for either team to rise or fall. Even as the Rays take to the AstroTurf today at the Trop., this pesky Rays bunch find themselves 2 ½ games behind the Yankees but not on solid turf yet.

Even as the Bronx Bombers have dropped to an even 5-5 record over their last 10 games while the Rays have escalated their chances with an impressive 7-3 mark, it is starting to look like a possible replay of the 2010 showdown that came to the last outs before a victor can be truly announced between the pair. With the Baltimore Orioles slowly fading back, and Boston over 8 games out at this point, it looks like a 2-horse race for the 2012 A L East laurels. But as we all know, a lot can chance in a matter of 10 games, possibly making the race more of a jog than a sprint.

Still, the headline also did get me a bit concerned. Not that the Yankees will reach down deep into their historical bag of tricks and find a miracle, or even a way to sweep the Rays at home no less during the upcoming Labor Day series. There is still a span of 9 games before the two teams meet under the Trop’s dome, with the Rays playing 7 of those contests on the road where they boast a 35-27 mark. Then again, the Yankees have pretty much gone toe-to-toe with the “road warrior” idea this season sporting a 33-28 mark themselves to this point.

Some will quickly say the Rays are an unbalanced ship this season having seen their pitching excel while their offense has sputtered and gone silent on occasions. Even now the Rays are just emerging from that Perfect Game cloud and back into the sunlight sporting a pretty even-steven home (35-28) and road record (35-27) that shows that even with their slew of early season mishaps and injuries, the Rays have found way to post victories.

But just as quickly we have seem the Rays push out winning streaks and impressive series only to derail themselves a bit. Consistency from this Rays squad will devour and dispose of the 2 ½ game lead the Yankees have at this moment. Pitching staying stellar and hitting reaching new heights and distances down the course of these 37 contests.

Maybe that is why the headline of “Tampa Prey” seemed so humorous. Not that it isn’t true, or can not happen, but just as easily the Rays could provide another stumble. I am hoping the ghost of 2009 doesn’t awaken and take the glory away from this crew as the Rays conclude their 15th season.

In a heartbeat that “Tampa Prey” title could just as easily need a vowel change and become “Tampa Pray”.   Right now the Rays are the team with the momentum and chance to gain an advantage, but just as quickly tides can turn and praying could become a daily ritual. Funny how one simple letter within the context of a word can change not only the meaning, but the conclusion of the word.

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