Battle for the East

Who’d have thunk a post entitled "Battle for the East" would actually be about the Tampa Bay Rays?  With more than half the season completed, the Rays are atop the AL East.  Tonight they host the Red Sox who are a half game back.

The story lines are obvious:  Battle for first as well as (and possibly the main reason people will tune in) the bad blood between the two teams.  James Shields, the man who hit Coco Crisp a few weeks back, is on the mound tonight.  The one missing ingredient tonight is the absence of Crisp, who started servings his 5-game suspension on Sunday.

But taking Crisp’s place in the list of most wanted by Tampa Bay is possibly Jonathan Papelbon who declared that things weren’t settled between the 2 teams yet.  Sounds like fun.

I think the Rays are built for the long haul and are not a fluke.  They sure have the talent.  The biggest question they have is experience.  Other than Troy Percival, Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske, do they have enough veteran presence to keep focused.  That’s a nebulous argument/concern as perhaps each of the younger guys plays beyond his years experience-wise and therefore a difficult thing to measure, but it is still a valid question.

Regardless, good fun starting tonight.  The Red Sox need to focus on winning and not retaliation.  Or if they think retaliation is needed, for the love of all things holy, please don’t have a Red Sox starter do it in the 3rd inning!!!  Prove to everyone Red Sox players that you are smarter than the Rays in that capacity.

Also, it’s probably a good idea to tell Manny Ramirez that any reliever he faces tonight is really Red Sox Traveling Secretary, Jack McCormick, in disguise.