I think I'm the last one left alive who still can't understand how the Rays are still in first place. I try to understand, but my brain keeps crashing when I think of it, and I start to drool rather embarrassingly. Therefore, I usually catch myself talking about them as though they still suck, and people keep looking at me funny. I worry the straight-jackets may be around the next corner.
You must remember, I grew up watching this team suck. Really suck. Epically suck. They were truly the punching bag of the league. When they came to town, fans rejoiced and cried tears of joy. The Rays usually cried to, but for entirely different reasons. It was a glorious time.
If you lost to them then, you felt ashamed and a little bit dirty, as if you had just been caught cheating on your wife. Except you had millions of wives, and they were all drunk and a little hairy and overweight.
I remember watching Pedro nearly no-hit this team twice, and each time it seemed like he was just having fun. "A curveball? Ok, sure. How about a fastball after that? And then an eephus pitch!"
Of course, he also did this with everyone else, but that's not really the point.
My point is, in my head, I have developed an automatic association between the Rays and suck... Rays = suck, and suck = Rays; A very elegant mathematical symmetry.
So, for me to wake up in September, with only a few weeks of regular-season baseball left to play, and have the Rays sitting in first place is a feeling of true oddity. It feels like I've been kicked in the head by the Twilight Zone. If they actually win the East, my head might just burst into flames.
Fortunately for my head, the Sox have been playing very well lately. This is very good news for my hometown, because many New England natives have been putting serious consideration to ritual suicide since Sunday's devastating loss of Tom Brady's award-winning smile.
Now, with the Rays in town to play the Sox, there is a chance we could see another team take hold of the top spot in the East for the first time in months. I can practically hear the prayers from my living room couch.
Matsuzaka could literally save lives tonight with a win. Of course, he could also be killing people if he loses, but we won't dwell on that now. We don't want him distracted; he has enough to think about, such as trying not to walk 75 batters (much better to keep it close to 60).
So, tonight, I will keep my attention locked on the Sox. I will not think about what's-his-name with the perfectly dimpled chin and the spaghetti knee... I will just keep my eyes on the prize! And, of course, occasionally the pretzels.