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Free Fall Has Rays Bickering

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIISeptember 17, 2009

BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 13:  Matt Garza #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after giving up a two run homer in the eighth inning to Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox on September 13, 2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox defeated the Rays 3-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

It wasn't enough that the Tampa Bay Rays lost for the 13th time in their last 14 games. Now they're fighting amongst themselves.

The pressure of a disappointing season seems to have reached a breaking point for Tampa Bay, as All-Star Carl Crawford and the team's biggest free agent acquisition of the offseason, Pat Burrell got into a shouting match before the third game of a four game set with the Baltimore Orioles.

The context of the argument is unknown, but one thing for certain is it was Crawford who began the shouting.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon stated everything is "all good" but nothing can be further from the truth.

The argument was the first sign of life from the reeling Rays who have tumbled to the .500 mark and now must finish 9-7 to secure a winning year.

It's an unbelievable collapse from a baseball team that came into September with a 71-59 record and in shouting distance of the Boston Red Sox for the final playoff spot.

Indeed, when management decided to give up the season by trading Scott Kazmir, the team followed suit. Since trading Kazmir, Tampa Bay has gone a woeful 3-15, including an 11 game losing streak.

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It's a stunning finish for a team that was built together and seemed to be able to weather what ever adversity they faced.

Could Kazmir have been the string that held the Rays franchise together? If so, how could management miss so badly in recognizing his importance to the team?

Or perhaps Kazmir is just a convenient excuse for a bunch of young players who've taken advantage of a "player's manager". Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm sure Joe Maddon gives the players the "What For" behind closed doors but never calls out a player in the media.

To fans, it seems as if Maddon is like Caesar, fiddling away as Rome burns around him. They long for a Lou Pinella styled tirade that shows not only does the manager give a darn but he isn't going to accept mediocrity from his players. Well, Joe's won in Tampa Bay, Pinella couldn't.

Still, some wonder if Joe was just in the right place in the right time when it all came together for the Rays in 2008 and we're seeing his true managerial skills now.

Obviously something is not right in the clubhouse in Tampa Bay. This team is too talented to be underachieving this badly.

BJ Upton's non-chalant dropping of a ball in center field several games back showed the lack of effort this team has perpetuated in September. Now this blow up in the clubhouse—the All-star and the all-bust, going at it.

This team was a band of brothers in 2008. They played for each other and the name on the front. They played to avenge all of the jokes at their expense and to erase the sorry history that they had endured.

It was to show the world that "Yes, we can play ball in Tampa Bay". It was heart and pride united in one effort to bring a winning team to Tampa Bay.

Since going to the World Series, this team lost it's edge. It's clarion call to prove the other teams wrong has disappeared because they "did their job in '08".

They aren't one year wonders. They're one year satisfied.

The franchise continued to talk about '08 while forgetting to play in '09. While winnable games slipped away in the early part of the season, the non-chalant attitude of "Don't worry, we'll turn it on in August and September" was almost as bad as BJ Upton on that fly ball. What's worse was the attitude from the manager on down.

Well, they didn't turn  it on in September, they turned off. They quit. That's something I never expected to see from this team.

Each member of the Tampa Bay Rays will need to look themselves in the mirror when this season ends in a few weeks.

"Where did it go wrong?" They'll ask themselves.

Begin by looking at your chest, boys. '08's team had something '09 didn't have—heart.

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