I can't really explain it, but I really sort of like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Generally I gleefully denounce many things associated with Florida--humidity, the 2000 election, Jeb Bush, Disney World, old people, Spring Break stupidity--but for some reason the Devil Rays, despite their consistent suckiness and their god-awful stadium, attract me.
Perhaps it's their delightfully horrible 3-16 Grapefruit League record that's endearing (It makes me feel not so bad about the White Sox going 8-13!). Perhaps it's Scott Kazmir's boyish visage and my glee at the Mets getting fleeced in trading him away for Victor Zambrano(Victor Zambrano!). Manager Joe Maddon's custom indie-rockish/Rivers Cuomo-esque glasses and his oddly uncomfortable porn-star-like way to watch batting practice (see below) don't hurt either; here's hoping the glasses take the AL East by storm and we see Joe Torre sporting a pair by the All-Star break.
For some reason, the D-Rays are so teflon-coated in my brain that the Delmon Young bat-throwing incident doesn't even bother me that much. Weird. Nick Swisher incites my ire for doing essentially nothing besides sporting odd facial hair and bedding a Playboy model, and Delmon Young gets a free pass for almost braining an umpire. There's definitely something wrong with me.
But hopefully not as much as is wrong with this still fatally flawed D-Rays club. They've got a bunch of nobodies pitching after Kazmir, who's got his own concerns, coming off season-ending shoulder surgery. Their bullpen is sure to suck, and their closer is...ummm... Seth McClung? Yikes. Isn't it time for the D-Rays to finally pull the trigger on a trade of some of this young hitting talent for some bodies that can capably throw the ball every five days? Survey says: yes.
The offense has plenty of storylines to get excited about, though, with Rocco Baldelli and Jorge Cantu poised to make comebacks of sorts, Carl Crawford continuing to mature, BJ Upton looking to corral his talent and find a home defensively, Jonny Gomes trying to put together a full season (note to fantasy owners out there: beware Jonny Gomes--do not be fooled into thinking he'll keep a 35 HR pace--I learned this the hard way last year), and Delmon Young looking to build on a solid end-of-the-season call-up. The best storyline might be two guys who came out of nowhere last year to have surprisingly decent seasons: White Sox alum Greg Norton and Mets/Pirates cast-off Ty Wigginton. I know, I'm getting excited about Greg Norton and Ty Wigginton. You don't have to tell me I'm irrational.
Well T-Bay, as much as I love you, you might be lucky to climb out of the cellar this year. Don Zimmer will have that dyspeptic look on his face for the majority of the season. Fortunately for you, though, Baltimore isn't showing much of a desire to win. I foresee your one new fan blogging about 70+ wins and a fourth place finish in the East this year. Baby steps, T-Bay, baby steps.