Hey, there’s a World Series going on and not many people appear to be all wrapped up in it. Of course, no World Series has ever been played in Tampa-St. Pete. You usually think of going there in the spring, checking out the rookies and who’s the favorite to win the pennant. For that matter, not a lot of them have been played in Philadelphia.
It’s confusing, to begin with. The American League team uses the name of its neighbor across the bay, but plays in St. Petersburg, in a dump called Tropicana Field. There’s a strong similarity between these Rays and the ’91 Braves—from last place to first. Matter of fact, the Rays have never finished out of the cellar before. A lot of its parts were put together by Chuck LaMar, the GM who trained with the Braves, but was fired by Tampa Bay when ownership changed hands. Then — and get this —he was succeeded by Andrew Friedman, a refugee from Bear Stearns, the Wall Street firm that went down the drain.
Now, the manager. His name is Joe Maddon and he looks like your high school principal. Very few of us had ever heard of him, but it turns out he’s already wearing a World Series ring, earned when he worked for the Angels—in obscurity. This is kind of a carbon copy of the Marlins from across the peninsula a few years ago, when they resurrected an old hoss named Jack McKeon, and Jack gave that team some kind of transfusion. They went the distance. Remember Josh Beckett? He was just a kid but pitching in Yankee Stadium never rattled him. He pitched the deciding game there, the most unlikely World Series you could ever imagine. The Marlins were thinking they’d surely played their way into a new stadium, but all these seasons have passed and they’re still playing on a football field. The Rays dropped the “Devils” from their name, put a $43-million roster on the field—about half the Braves’ pay roll—made some nifty trades, thanks to that man from Bear Stearns, and here they are on the doorstep of immortality. In fact, the pollsters have picked them to win the World Series, though I’d say a lot of them are having trouble remembering that the other team is the Phillies. Too, I’d guess they remember that the Phillies’ No.3 starter is Jamie Moyer, 45 years old, forgetting that he has won 246 games in the majors, but remembering that he was hammered in both his playoff starts.
As a World Series, it’s as weird as one can get. I kind of always go for the underdog, but in this case the underdog is the one I figured to be the overdog. I’m not a quitter, though. I’m an old-liner. I’ll stick with the Phillies. Play ball!