During the past decade of Red Sox-Yankee battles for AL East dominance, the Tampa Bay Rays were a joke. Now, the Rays want in on the fight.
Sure, Coco Crisp's hard slide on Akinori Iwamura Wednesday night started some jabbering between Rays manager Joe Maddon and the Red Sox outfielder. Just like James Shields' retaliatory beaning kicked off a wild brawl on the Fenway Park diamond Thursday night.
But with every Jonny Gomes haymaker, you got the sense this was about something deeper. Gomes was a part of many Rays teams that have been pushed around for years and brawled with the Red Sox before.
Over the last five seasons, the Red Sox have dominated the Rays with a 32-62 win/loss record. This year, they were 3-3 going into their series. The Rays led the division by a game and a half and were ready to prove themselves.
Instead, they dropped the first two games of the series and their grip on the AL East. But, they weren't ready to give up the fight.
So, as long-time Rays Gomes and Crawford piled on Crisp, it seemed that Crisp's slide evoked a culmination of a career's worth of frustration.
Shields was quoted as saying, "We’ve been getting stomped around the last 10 years and that’s not going to happen any more."
Time will tell if the Rays are truly ready to battle it out with the high payroll—high talent World Series Championship team.
But, so far this season, the Rays have proven one thing—they are fighting for respect in more ways than one between the lines.