August 2, 2021

Rays Fans Will Eventually Come Back

April 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

With the 0-6 start, the departure of Manny Ramirez, and the injury to Evan Longoria, Rays fans stayed away in droves for the opening two victories against the Minnesota Twins. Coupling all that with the dumping of salary and the constant drumbeat from owner Stuart Sternberg that the fans don’t deserve their baseball team, I can understand the steep drop in attendance. From what I’ve seen, though, my prediction is that it won’t be too long before the fans come back. One reason is the play of Johnny Damon, a borderline Hall of Famer who hustles and scraps a la Pete Rose, and that of Superman Sam Fuld, the former Cubs farm hand who only got to play because Manny left. Fuld, who bats lead off, has become the team spark plug, and his popularity has grown so fast the Rays next month will be handing out Sam Fuld capes to the first 10,000 kids who want one.

Another reason for a Rays resurgence is that the no-name bullpen that Joe Maddon has assembled seems almost as solid as last year’s array, and that’s saying something. I don’t know where Andy Friedman found these guys, but each one of them has great stuff, especially Joel Peralta, Juan Cruz, and Detroit-Atlanta-Boston reject Kyle Farnsworth, who has been excellent.

And there’s another reason: Boston started 2-10, and the Yankees starting rotation just lost number two arm Phil Hughes. The Orioles and Toronto have young, inexperienced arms, leaving the Rays an opportunity to climb back into the pennant race despite the horrendous start.

Like their ownership, the Rays have been a colorless group — skilled, but colorless. Fuld and Damon are trying to change that. If they succeed, the fans will be back, and the Rays will be in the hunt in September.

Since 1975, Peter Golenbock has written some of sports’ most important books, including six New York Times best sellers. Some of his best-known books include The Bronx Zoo, which he wrote in 1979 with New York Yankee pitcher Sparky Lyle; BUMS: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers (1984); Wild, High and Tight (1994) his lurid biography of Yankee manager Billy Martin; and Idiot with Johnny Damon.

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