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Houston Astros v Tampa Bay Rays

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Know Your Enemy: Tampa Rays

This team is really, really good. But hate will find a way.

Our favorite fresh air game!
| Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The White Sox stagger to Tampa to face the best team in baseball, a nightmare scenario for a Chicago team that’s getting close to the tipping point. The Rays have been head-and-shoulders better than anyone else, with the best hitting and the best pitching in the league. Right now, they’re playing like if Shohei Ohtani was a whole damn team.

This is going to be a rough matchup for our Sox. Taking one out of three might be a reasonable outcome, but the season demands winning a series. It’s baseball, so anything can happen, of course. But right now, we are running into the 1995-96 Bulls.

If the Rays maintain their current winning percentage, they’d go 136-26. That would be really damn good.

The White Sox are 96-81 overall against Tampa. That advantage might shrink by the end of the weekend.

So How Are They Doing, Anyway?

The Rays have been struggling over their last six games, slumping to a 3-3 record, which drops their overall mark to 16-3.

You know how they are doing: They’re amazing. After a minor blip against the Jays, Tampa won two out of three from Cincy, including two straight shutouts, outscoring the Reds 18-0 in the two non-contests.

The Rays have six shutouts overall. They’ve hit 42 home runs, nine clear of the runner-up Dodgers. They’ve scored 133 runs, 21 up on the second-best Rangers. They’re the leaders in every slash stat. On the rubber, they’re stingy: tops in runs allowed, OBA ... they’ve only let up eight homers.

But they’re just second in WHIP. So there’s a weak spot. Exploit it, boys!

Are the Hitters Fearsome? Need I Worry About Dingers?

You’re asking this? Didn’t I already tell you they are fearsome?

Wander Franco. Josh Lowe. Randy Arozarena. Taylor Walls. Brandon Lowe. Yandy Díaz. Those six alone have combined for 42 homers. They have an average wRC+ of 158. They have an 8.0 WAR on the season, through 16 games!

And Tyler Glasnow hasn’t even played yet. What the hell?

And the Pitching Matchups? What of Them?

We got one battle of aces, one battle of strugglers, and one battle that’s To Be Determined. I guess everything in this series is to be determined, depending on how you feel about fate and predestination.

Friday, April 21
Sox: Michael Kopech (0-2, 6.32) is still struggling with control and the long ball. The last two outings have been decent for a fifth starter, but not what we wanted from Kopech at this stage.

Rays: Calvin Faucher (0-0, 4.15) brings us a bullpen start! Bullpen start! Bullpen start! He’ll go one or two innings and strike out two people.

Saturday, April 22
Sox: Dylan Cease (2-0, 2.01) hasn’t gone deep for a few starts, but he puts his team in a position to win.

Rays: Shane McClanahan (4-0, 1.57) has been lights-out all year, unsurprisingly, striking out 27 in 23 innings. His WHIP is higher than his career average, but it’s still 1.13. He’s good.

Sunday, April 23
Sox: TBD (some guy you’ve heard of who is going to lose)

Rays: TBD (some guy you’ve never heard of who is going to win)

Why Do We Hate Tampa?

There are, I am sure, people who live in Tampa. Who say sentences like, “I am proud and happy to be from Tampa, the place I call home!” Who maybe have little stickers on their car that say Keep Tampa Weird because there is one coffee shop that has an open mic afternoon. There are people who stay up all night ruminating about the future of Tampa, or have opinions about the seedy underbelly of the waterfront. But I have never met any of these people, and neither have you.

I have asked a co-worker their opinion on Tampa, and he said, “I have driven through Tampa.”

Another co-worker apparently lived there, for who knows what reason, and calls it “Hot Ohio.”

I presume the finest restaurant there heavily involves cartoon parrots and is called, like, “Aunt Boobies.” The art museum is just framed stills of Miami Vice over which someone scrawled “better in tampa.”

And yet, these nouveau-riche transplants, too scared of the cold to stay in real cities with actual human beings and culture have had overwhelming, jealousy-inducing success in sports. Two Super Bowls this century. Two Stanley Cups. And the omnipresent success of the Rays. It makes a mockery of our cold-weather character.

I have little doubt that the giant stinking seaweed blob floating toward Tampa will soon be elected mayor.

Why Do We Hate the Rays?

As you’ll see in the comments, a lot of it comes down to jealousy. They don’t spend a lot, and they have consistently great teams. They are competitive year-in and year-out despite not having any fans. They nurture talent, and develop it, and know when to cut bait right before the talent turns south. Their player development and scouting staff probably makes more than the players.

But that’s the point. The Rays have made being parsimonious pettiness seem like a virtue. They’ve allowed every owner and jock-holding podcasting sycophant excuse cheapness, and treat it as a good unto itself. It’s not. Owners getting richer is a given. It shouldn’t be a goal. The success of the Rays lets people pretend that it’s easy to win without spending money — or if not easy, just around the corner.

The Rays are one of the most fun teams in a long time. Their organizational talent is at the top of the world when it comes to intelligence, analytics, and just plain knowing baseball. The franchise is a rotten disgrace.

Let’s Hear it From White Sox Fans!


The Terrible Trop

Sheer Jealousy

Bad for Baseball

Mascot Trauma

I guess they’re fine

Historical Misery

For Reasons Too Disgusting to Speak


South Side Sox Summary: Week 9

White Sox Minor League Update

White Sox Minor League Update: May 28, 2023

White Sox Player of the Week

South Side Sox Player of the Week (May 19-25): Michael Kopech