According to the Gods: a 2011 Team-By-Team Preview
Tampa Bay Rays
I intended to finish these oblique predictions by Opening Day, but my persistent failure to ably navigate the technological complexity of the modern world kicked that intention in the nuts a while ago, dropping it to the sidewalk in some pain, and so this project drags on into the first days of the 2011 season, carrying with it, inevitably, an unavoidable sense on my part of how the season is actually proceeding. When, before the season started, I first blindly pulled this shiny 2008 Carl Crawford card from a “miscellaneous” rubber-band packet in my shoebox that includes puny clumps of Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins, Nationals (who I keep separated from my Expos), and Devil Rays/Rays, I figured that to write about the card and about the poor bereft Rays I’d have to wrestle a partial muzzle onto my own insufferable smugness as a Red Sox fan on the brink of Without A Single Doubt What Will Be The Most Dominant Season In Red Sox History, this vision of omnipotence most concentrated in thoughts of the new left fielder, surely (so the vision went) the greatest combination of speed, competitiveness, and extra-base-smashing batsmanship to rip a gaping swath through the major leagues since Ty Cobb. On the morning of Opening Day, I predicted to my fellow Red Sox fan friend Matt that the first inning of this season of can’t-miss glory for the Red Sox would be highlighted by a sizzling Carl Crawford RBI triple. That night, I ended my periodic day-long back and forth with Matt by saying “Ah god damn it.” The Red Sox lost the next game, too, and the next and the next and the next and the next and now stand 0-6, and Carl Crawford is batting .174 with 1 run scored and no extra-base hits. Carl Crawford’s former team isn’t doing any better. They’re 0-6, too, the only other major league team besides the Red Sox without a win. The Rays’ pitching has been better than that of the generally run-hemorrhaging Red Sox’ staff, but the Rays can’t score. Two aging former Red Sox stars, Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, are at the epicenter of the ineptitude, sporting batting averages, respectively, of .053 and .059. One has to wonder if Damon and Ramirez are nearing the end, and also if the brief golden age of the Rays, forced to scavenge for fading sluggers to prop up their offense, really did vanish into thin air with the exit of the greatest player in their short history. This latter musing is roughly the gist of the prediction I’d originally intended to suggest by way of this card, but now that the season has begun with a long skein of losing for both the team Carl Crawford left and the team Carl Crawford joined, I don’t know what to say beyond the general prediction that everybody is in motion and everybody will decline and everybody can and most likely will fall more or less short.
How to enjoy the 2011 baseball season, part of 23 of 30: Read Russel Banks’ 1985 novel Continental Drift, which features a New Englander in a severe downward spiral toward rock bottom in Florida; though the book is not at all a baseball novel, it features one of the greatest “baseball cameo” scenes in literary history when the novel’s unraveling protagonist, a lifelong Red Sox fan, has an awkward and fleetingly holy chance encounter in a bait shop with Florida resident Ted Williams.
2011 previews so far: St. Louis Cardinals; New York Mets; Philadelphia Phillies; Washington Nationals; Pittsburgh Pirates; Arizona Diamondbacks; Colorado Rockies; New York Yankees; Cleveland Indians; Detroit Tigers; Milwaukee Brewers; Minnesota Twins; Atlanta Braves; Cincinnati Reds; Oakland A’s; Seattle Mariners; Chicago Cubs; Baltimore Orioles; [California] Angels; Texas Rangers; Boston Red Sox; San Diego Padres