Rays Debunking the Myth of Postseason Experience

Mark KriegelCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2008

The Division Series between the Angels and the Red Sox ended, appropriately enough, with Jason Bay, who had toiled in obscurity as a member of the Pirates, scoring on a base hit by Jed Lowrie, a rookie who'd been called up after only 40 games in Triple-A.

These men were strangers to playoff baseball. But then, so what?

The time has come to expose the great ruse of October: postseason experience.

Who needs it?

Certainly not the team that will soon face Boston in the ALCS. In the coming days, you will be reminded with annoying frequency that the Tampa Bay Rays are strangers to October baseball. That much is basically true.

Though seven players on their ALDS roster had postseason experience with other teams, none of their starting position players or starting pitchers have, to use the infuriatingly prevalent cliche, been there before.

Nevertheless, you are hereby instructed to disregard such warnings.

The Angels, who left 46 men on base against the Red Sox, have been there. So have the Yankees, the Cubs and the Mets, all of whom will be watching on television.

Not long after crossing the plate Monday night, Jason Bay—5-for-14 with five RBIs in the ALDS—was asked how he had ever gotten himself ready for the series, what with the utter lack of postseason experience.

"I can't prepare for it," he said.

No one can. Being there before hasn't helped A-Rod. I don't care what the sabermetric geeks do with their calculators; the heroically clutch athlete—the one who elevates his game under pressure—is the foundation of all sportswriting.

Therefore, I'm bound to insist that players who distinguish themselves in October are born, not made.

That's the difference between an Alfonso Soriano and a B.J. Upton, who homered twice Monday afternoon, between a Francisco Rodriguez—whose record 62 regular-season saves didn't stop him from taking a loss in Game 2 of the ALDS, and a Jonathan Papelbon, whose career postseason ERA remains 0.00.

Teams are the same way. Lack of postseason experience didn't hurt the 2007 Colorado Rockies, or the 2003 Florida Marlins.

It certainly won't hurt the Rays.

Unlike other teams that have surprised the experts in October, the Rays didn't exactly sneak up on anybody. Their demise had been predicted throughout the season, but it never came to pass.

With 97 wins in baseball's toughest division, the Rays beat back the two most formidable and well-endowed organizations in baseball, the Yankees and the Red Sox.

As it happened, they were 10-8 against Boston in the regular season. I know what you are saying: that the Angels were 8-1 against Boston, and look how that turned out.

Maybe, but I like the way the Rays evidenced a knack for winning the close ones, not to mention big games in September when they were without Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria.

They were 4-2 against Boston last month, including their win in a thrilling 14-inning game. Twice the Rays and Red Sox went into extra innings and twice Tampa won. Six of the Rays' 10 wins over Boston were by a single run.

The Red Sox are a great postseason team, not because of experience, but because every year they come up with another guy or two who has no fear of October. Last year it was Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester. This year it may be Jason Bay and Jed Lowrie.

Still, the Red Sox are not what they were a year ago. They miss their best blogger, Curt Schilling. Josh Beckett —baseball's best postseason starter —is ailing. Mike Lowell has been scratched from the ALCS with a bad hip.

Tampa, meanwhile, is more confident and healthy than a month ago. What's more, their guys are still playing with house money. They're supposed to lose, remember?

I've been shilling for Tampa since the All-Star break. No reason to stop now.

Besides, I don't get to be right that often.

Rays in seven.

On the Mark

Being the romantic type, me and the girlfriend watched the Kimbo Slice extravaganza on Youtube.

"It's fixed," she said.

"No," I told her. "The problem is, it's not."

"Couldn't they have gotten that guy from the '70s? The one who always lost."


"Quarry, is that him?"

"Jerry Quarry. He's dead."

Then again, the point is well-taken. A dead Jerry Quarry would put up more of a fight than a live Kimbo Slice.

I mean, Kimbo was so bad Tyson will offer to fight him.

Don't want to go out on a limb here, but I think the Giants just might be able to go on without Jeremy Shockey.

No truth to the rumor that Hank Steinbrenner has volunteered to replace the Philly Fanatic for the upcoming series against Joe Torre and the Dodgers.

OK, it wasn't much of a vice-presidential debate, but Palin and Biden were still better prepared than the Rams.

Seems that Hefner has informed all three of his girlfriends that it's time to move out.

Something tells me they won't pass through waivers unclaimed.

Get after it. There may be a stupider phrase in the English language...but I don't know what it is.

Good news, Cubs fans: Your team only stranded 23 runners in this year's sweep, down from 27 last year against Arizona.

Talk about progress.

So here's looking forward to the next 100 years.

Quick, what do Kyle Busch, Arizona State and the AFC have in common?

They all went down quicker than David Duchovny in the season premiere of "Californication."

Why do they even bother calling Tom the Cable Guy an "interim" head coach?

Aren't all Raider coaches interim?

I'm telling you, though, now more than ever: Christopher Walken as Al Davis.

It's the role of a lifetime.

According to the New York Times magazine, congressman Tom Davis is sick and tired of all the partisan politics in Washington.

This from the guy who split the Roger Clemens hearing down party lines.

Speaking of which, how's that career in the private sector coming along for old Roger?

Kimbo Slice's 13 seconds of infamy is the biggest embarrassment for CBS since the network sent LaToya Jackson, Erik Estrada and Wee-Man to Muncie, Ind. to become cops in "Armed and Famous."

I know. I'd be jealous, too.

I mean, how many guys ever meet a girl cool enough to throw in a Jerry Quarry reference?

This article originally published on FOXSports.com.

Read more of Mark's columns here.


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