I challenge you to find a better sports movie than Hoosiers. I own the DVD and yet every time it is on TV, my channel surfing behaviors end and I stay on whatever TV channel is showing the movie until it is over. The movie came out when I was fourteen years old and even now, it still has the same kind of impression on me at 37 as it did when I was a teen-ager. There are some tremendous quotes in the movie:
“My practices are not designed for your enjoyment”
“Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit: team, team, team – no one more important than the other”
“You know, most people would kill….to be treated like a god, just for a few moments.”
It is a wonderful story about a group of guys who should not win, that did. They were led by a coach that had more critics than fans. They had a player on the roster that nobody wanted to see in the game, and even when things were going good, people had something to complain about. Yet, through all of that turmoil, the small school from team persevered and took down a powerhouse in the title game against all odds. That same team, that people said was not good enough at the start of the season, did it.
The Rays lost a heart-breaker last night to the powerhouse Yankees 5-4 as Matt Garza and Rafael Soriano combined to give up three homers in the game with Robinson Cano’s go-ahead home run in the ninth inning sealing the Rays’ fate. That emotional game topped off a rather emotional day for the Rays’ fanbase that followed the trade deadline at home all day long only to learn that the only addition to the team would be a pitcher from the National League with a 8.30 ERA.
So the Rays did not get Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, Manny Ramirez, Josh Willingham, or Luke Scott. Could the roster have used any one of those bats? Absolutely. Can they still make the playoffs or win the division, or even the league? Absolutely. After watching the first two games of this series, there is no clear dominant team here and the two games that currently separate these teams in the standings are further apart than the true difference in these two ball clubs. In Hoosiers, the club finally did add the missing piece in Jimmy Chitwood who gave the team the shot in the arm it needed to get through the rest of the season and into the playoffs and the Rays can still do the same thing. The club made several waiver trades last August, but they were clearly in a position to do so while trailing Boston and New York which is a luxury they do not have this time. What the club has is a lot of depth in AAA Durham to call up and later today, they will dip into that talent as Jeremy Hellickson will be called up.
Hellickson will start the first game of the Twins series as Joe Maddon wants to give the starters an extra day’s rest after a very heavy workload in recent weeks, a six-man rotation if you will. I mentioned this solution a few times on my recent radio appearances because Hellickson has demonstrated he has nothing left to prove in AAA. It sounds like this is a single start for him and then he will be moved to the bullpen to help make up for the loss of Grant Balfour over the next 4-6 weeks as the Durham Bulls’ GM said on Twitter they “do not expect to see him back.” In effect, calling up Hellickson is better than anything the Rays could have traded for yesterday as the best bullpen arms that were moved yesterday were Octavio Dotel at a high price to the Dodgers and Kyle Farnsworth to the Braves; I’d take Hellickson over either one of those hard throwing yet erratic pitchers.
Hellickson is just one addition to the roster but there could be another depending on the health of Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena. Zobrist has missed both games of the series so far with a lower back strain and Pena left last night’s game with swelling in his right foot. The health of both remains in question for today’s game but there is no way the team will go into the game with a 23 man roster so if both are out, expect the club to call upon Dan Johnson to join the team. Johnson hit his league-leading 30th home run for Durham last night as he continues to put up amazing numbers in AAA that will eventually be rewarded with a promotion to the major leagues at some point this season.
Until that happens, this is your team. It goes without saying that if the Rays lose again to the Yankees today, losing that series coupled with the lack of expected action at the trade deadline will lead to some rather unpleasant commentary from the fan base on sports radio and the comments section of the local papers Monday morning. If I am Joe Maddon, I respond to that feedback by quoting Coach Norman Dale with a little artistic license:
“I would hope you would support who we are. Not, who we are not. These 25 individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line for 59 games over the next two months, to represent you, this community. That kind of commitment and effort deserves your respect. This is your team.”