Monday, July 23, 2007


We get kind of used to the Yankees beating up on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But the slaughter perpetrated by the Bronx Bombers over the weekend goes far beyond the usual thrashing.

In three games on Saturday and Sunday, New York scored 45 runs off the beleaguered Rays pitching staff, cranking out 53 hits in the process. Bob Abreu, criticized often this season for underproducing, fattened up his stats by racking up seven hits in the three games.

Of course, the net effect on Tampa Bay's pitching statistics was none too kind. The Rays' earned run average ballooned to 5.98, and the staff now is on pace to break the 1,000 mark in runs allowed. The really bad news is that James Shields, who has seemed to have the makings of a decent hurler, gave up 10 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings on Sunday, adding more than half a run to his season's ERA. His 4.44 mark still looks stellar next to the figures compiled so far by the likes of Andy Sonnanstine (5.37), Edwin Jackson (6.65), J.P. Howell (7.36) and Jae Weong Seo (8.13). Such showings are worthy of the Baker Bowl Phillies or pre-humidor Coors Field.

But, hey, these are the Devil Rays, statistically the worst franchise in major-league history since the 19th-century version of the Washington Senators folded up the tent in 1899. Yes, the Phillies have lost 10,000 games, but if Tampa Bay had played as many contests as Philadelphia, they'd have dropped approximately 11,346 of them (by extrapolation, of course).

This is Tampa Bay's 10th season of existence. The team managed to sneak out of the basement once, blowing past Toronto in 2004 to win a franchise-record 70 games. In nine complete seasons so far, the Rays have finished a cumulative 312.5 games behind the Yankees.

We've seen new franchises in the past take a long time to win, but never like what's going on in Tampa. Remember how bad the Mets were in the '60s? They managed to develop a young pitching staff that took them to the top in their eighth year of existence. In the era of free agency, the Colorado Rockies made the playoffs in their third year; the Florida Marlins won the World Series in their fifth; and the Arizona Diamondbacks won a divisional title in their second.

When there was talk of contracting the major leagues a few years ago, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were at the top of the list.

After their showing in the Bronx the past few days, we can assume they still belong there.

Trivia question 53: What Tampa Bay pitcher holds the team record for victories in a season?

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