<*** src="http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/09n67ui6lS2mj/340x.jpg" align="right" height="318" hspace="10" vspace="10" width="266" />R.J. Anderson of DRays Bay is back to talk more Rays baseball with us, only this time, it’s playoff baseball. A candid conversation with the co-Editor in Chief where no stone is left unturned. He wouldn’t make a bold prediction last time, but this time, he’s got the boldest prediction of all.
The Rays start their series with the White Sox today, marking the first playoff series ever in the team’s short, albeit mostly pathetic history. But hey: ditch the Devil, get the rookie, save the cheerleader… o wait, no that’s not what I was meaning to get at. Ya know what, let’s just move onto the interview.
Read the July 3rd interview here.
Juiced Sports: Tampa Bay Rays: AL East Champions. Has it sunk in yet that the team that couldn’t get out of its own way for a decade just won the most prolific division in baseball?
R.J. Anderson: Not yet. From previous championship experiences in this town I never really grasp the whole “Oh wow we’re league champs” concept until, um, we’re not league champs anymore.
JSB: What was it like as a Rays blogger, to watch the tight White Sox-Twins game yesterday, knowing that Tampa Bay was resting comfortably at home, awaiting the winner?
RJ: As a fan I just wanted a good game, as a writer who had a preview do, I wanted someone to take a lead.
JSB: Rays fans have waited 10 years for this, and now it’s here. What’s the atmosphere in the Tampa area right now? Is it all Rays all the time?
RJ: You see more gear than ever. I never knew my neighbors were Rays fans until yesterday.
JSB: How does this Rays team match-up with the South Siders? Would they have been better off getting the Twins?
RJ: I think the White Sox are slightly better than the Twins, but not enough to change my outlook. The Rays have the better defense, nearly equal pitching staffs, and a slightly worse offense.
JSB: What is the key to this series for the Rays? Is their inexperience a blessing or a curse?
RJ: Three keys: limiting homeruns, taking advantage of the White Sox free-swingers, and playing matchups; bringing in David Price or J.P. Howell to face Jim Thome instead of Dan Wheeler for instance. I don’t really buy into the experience talk. Just because you’ve been there doesn’t mean you will or have succeeded.
JSB: The Cubs have waited 99 years and counting for a championship, Rays fans are at year 10. Is there a legitimate hunger for a championship or are people just happy that the Rays are here?
RJ: You aren’t a baseball fan if you don’t have a hunger for the World Series title. Being happy about the accomplishments and being hungry aren’t exclusives.
JSB: How big of a home-field advantage will the Trop offer Tampa Bay in their first playoff series?
RJ: Probably as big as you can get. The roof will be rocking.
JSB: When the Rays draw 30,000 or more they win, and they win some more. You guys are going to sell out the place right?
RJ: Oh come on, of course the games are sold out and were pretty quickly.
I don’t really buy into the experience talk. Just because you’ve been there doesn’t mean you will or have succeeded.
JSB: Is there a sense that this is a team of destiny? Or is it more a wait and see approach?
RJ: It’s a team of now. If they do the unthinkable I’m sure all the devil jokes will reappear.
JSB: Can this Rays team win the American League?
JSB: Will they?
JSB: I wrote today that Scott Kazmir and James Shields will be the best 1-2 punch in this post-season. Are they good enough to lead the Rays to a world championship?
RJ: Certainly, although I’m not sure they’re the best duo in the league this season.
JSB: What kind of effect will Carl Crawford have on this series? Is his status doom or boom for the Rays, or is he just another piece for this balanced Rays team?
His defensive value cannot be understated. Offensively he’s been weaker than normal, but anytime you can re-add the best defensive Left Fielder in the game it’s usually not a bad thing.
JSB: Joe Maddon is on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. Nervous?
RJ: No way. Joe Maddon is too zen for jinxes or curses.
JSB: Tampa Bay is in the playoffs. The Yankees are not. For years the Yanks were the only show in Tampa (they play their Spring training there). Is this officially a Tampa Bay Rays town?
RJ: I think it’s close to becoming that. Amazing how many people “lost” their Yankees gear after one down season.
JSB: Okay, fill in the blank. When it’s all said and done the Rays will have ____________?
RJ: 108 wins total.