Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Tampa Bay Rays/Durham Bulls and the Failure (Unwillingness?) to Make Memories

A guest post by WDBB friend Chris D ... I completely agree ...

Last week I got to watch the Durham Bulls throw a combined no-hitter. It was their 6th no-hitter in AAA history and no matter what happens from here this season or next, I'll be able to say I was there when it happened. Whatever the win/loss total or playoff results, I have a fun memory from the season.

Fast forward to last night when the Rays were having a fantastic outing from Ryan Yarborough versus the Mariners. As it was an away game, the best the Rays fans could do was watch or listen. As the inning went on and it became apparent that Yarborough might be able to do something a Rays' pitcher hadn't done since 2016, throw a complete game, and a shutout at that. It wasn't a no-hitter, but the sudden excitement of counting down outs was on. When he came out to start the 9th with less than 100 pitches thrown, it looked like it was going to happen.

And then, with 2 outs in the 9th and no one on base, and still not having thrown 100 pitches, the Rays lifted Yarborough for Pagan. He got the final out and the Rays won the game. Looking at some stat sites, the Rays' playoff chances (and let's be realistic it's a wild card chance) moved up from 70% to 72%. The analytical team used analytics to make "the best move". But the fans were left feeling empty.

Shortly after that game ended, I was listening to Patrick Kinas retell the story about when Mike Montgomery was bringing a no-hitter into the 9th inning of a Bulls start back in 2014. Apparently, he ignored his manager, who intended to replace him, and ran back on to the field in the 9th. He got the 1st out and then was promptly removed from the game. Brad Boxberger finished the no-hitter off, but the fans were again left wanting. Kinas continued the story, telling us how this was the "beginning of the end of Montgomery's career in the Rays' system."

As a fan, I just want to put it out there that while I understand winning is the ultimate goal, sometimes the obsession with doing everything the numbers tell you to do, no matter of circumstance, really robs the fun from the game. If the Rays miss the playoffs by 1 game this year instead of 2 or if they lose the 1-game wildcard playoff, I'll have forgotten that in 5 years. If they let Yarborough throw a rare CGS or Montgomery throw a single pitcher no-hitter, I'd remember those for much longer. Maybe it'd pay for management to remember that there are things other than winning that bring fans to the ballpark.

   Chris D

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