Was the Seattle massacre a game-changer?

by Gary Shelton on June 6, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Morrison, Rays return to Tropicana Field./CARMEN MANDATO

Morrison, Rays return to Tropicana Field./CARMEN MANDATO

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

If the Tampa Bay Rays' most recent foray into the Great Northwest proves nothing else, it proves this: Seattle dirt doesn't taste very good.

It was brutal what the Seattle Mariners did to the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend. If Lewis and Clark had been mugged on their way to Mount Rainier, it would have been only the second-worst trip in history. The Rays were clobbered. The Rays were humbled. Frankly, the Rays were Devil Rayed. Anyone trying to spin this into something positive must be fooling themselves, because they aren't fooling any of the rest of us.

If George Custer, not Abner Doubleday, had invented baseball, this would have been what he created.

The hitting was awful, a .192 average with five home runs (four of them solo shots) notwithstanding. The pitchers couldn't get anyone out, and the fielders couldn't make a catch, and the firemen were on fire. You would have thought

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Archer hopes to stop Rays' starters' slump./JEFFREY S. KING

Archer hopes to stop Rays' starters' slump./JEFFREY S. KING

the Mariners were the '27 Yankees and the Rays were the '62 Mets. Or the Mariners were Marie Antoinette and the Rays were all of those cake-eaters.

And when it was over, all you could hope was that it was a brief return to misery, and not a re-awakening. You want to believe this wasn't a game-changer, although the Rays might have done better if the game had been changed.

Before this, of course, you could accuse the '17 Rays of being a little bit of fun. Oh, they still struck out like they didn't know which end of the bat to hold. They had a lousy bullpen which didn't have a clue as to holding a lead. They still had moments when the defense took mental walkabouts.

Dickerson hopes to help re-awaken the doffense./CARMEN MANDATO

Dickerson hopes to help re-awaken the doffense./CARMEN MANDATO

But they hit a lot of home runs, and the starting pitching was okay. Corey Dickerson has been a star, and Logan Morrison has been very good. Evan Longoria is still a pro. That forgave a lot of sins. Kevin Kiermaier is still Kevin Kiermaier in flashes, and Tim Beckham has shown some pop. If you sliced it thin, one game at a time, then the Rays could be enjoyable.

Then came Seattle. You've heard of the Puget Sound? It's the cry of pain from the Rays.

In three games, the Rays gave up 28 runs. In those three games, they gave up 38 hits. Their three starting pitchers were shredded, giving up 21 runs (16 earned) and 25 hits. Their three starting pitchers guest-appeared for only 12 innings.

It was the stuff of Tanyon Sturtze and Joe Kennedy and Paul Wilson back in 2002, if you want to know the truth. It was as if the Rays were trying to tire out the Mariners by making them run the bases.

And now what?

Oh, any team can get savaged from time to time. Any team. But the good teams bounce back. The fear here is that the Rays looked into a mirror and saw their own reflection, and it scared them. Us, too.

Remember 2015? That year, the Rays were 40-30 in June, and then they stepped off a cliff. They went 40-52 afterward, and it was like a giant hole had swallowed the team alive. Last year, the Rays were 28-31 after 59 games, which isn't a lot different than it is this year. Last year's team had a hollow, meaningless summer.

Will the team be better the rest of this season? We'll see.

Oh, the Rays look better. The '15 team had David DeJesus and Richie Schaffer and Bobby Wilson. It was on borrowed time at 40-30. Last year, it was obvious early the Rays weren't a contender.

Now? It isn't pushing things to suggest that the Rays are at a crossroad. A trip like Tampa Bay's visit to Seattle can change the way a team looks at itself. Confidence is a fragile thing, even among professional athletes.

What are the Rays going to do at second base, for instance. Brad Miller is having one of the worst seasons after a great season in baseball history. You could see it coming. He had a career year last year, and he was bound to take a downturn. But I thought he'd field the position well.

What are the trade options. Alex Cobb's contract is up. So are those of Colby Rasmus and Logan Morrison. That puts the front office in a situation where they, too, are trying to decide if Seattle was a lost weekend or the shape of things to come.

That's the immediate challenge for this team. It has to show that the Seattle series was merely a team running out of gas. It has to show that it's still fun. It has to show that the season isn't over yet.

Yeah, the Seattle trip was a titanic disappointment.

The Mariners, of course, played the part of the iceberg.

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