In fact, they already have. From November 2010-January 2011, us Rays fans were stuck witnessing the destruction of the 2008 Cinderella-story team; the team who took down the Red Sox & Yankees, the team that was supposed to bring the World Series title to Tampa Bay. Sadly, one by one, the Players left: Carlos Pena & Matt Garza to the Cubs, C.C. to the Red Sox (trader), Jason Bartlett to Padres, Soriano to the Yankees, the Bullpen to this-and-that-away. Meanwhile, the Rays were getting NO ONE. 2011 looked like it was going to be the worst year ever. Then on January 21st, 2011, my father texted me “Manny and Johnny Damon signed with the Rays.”
Manny? The “Manny-just-being-Manny” who was suspended 2 years ago b/c of steroids?
Damon? Red Sox -> Yankee who could barely throw farther than me?
The old Red Sux players I grew up hating?
Yet, I could not help but smile. I knew both Manny & Damon were coming off a crappy season, but their crappy seasons were still better than most Rays better seasons. And the Rays needed Big Names in order to lift the hope of the loyal fans.
Manny Ramirez: 2010 Batting average .311, 8 HR, 40 RBIs in 66 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year. (You know you’re a Rays fan when you’ve never seen a batter who is not Longo or CC batting above .300). The Rays have been missing a DH for the past few years, so if Manny keeps up the high batting average, the Rays will finally have a middle-of-the-batting-order-threat. Any anyone hitting the ball is better than Pat Burrell. There has much talk in the last couple of years about how Pat Burrell could not bat because he also wanted to be in the outfield, so it is a relief to see Manny say, when asked if he plans on playing in the outfield, “I don’t know. Anyway I can help the team, it’s good for me.” So far, Manny is not being Manny.
Johnny Damon: 2010 Batting average .271, 8 HR, 51 RBIs last season for the Detroit Tigers. Damon has been viewed as “getting old” as his numbers have been dropping, but I think with him being back in the A.L. East going against 2 of his old teams should put some spark back into him. Besides, his numbers are still impressive. Though it will be weird not seeing CC in a Rays jersey in left field on the highlight reel every night, Damon offers a veteran presence to a very young baseball team.
(Thanks to http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/mlb/fantasy/wsfb/news/index.jsp?player_id=120903 for the stats and http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110228&content_id=16767812&vkey=news_tb&c_id=tb for the quote by Manny Ramirez.)