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Here's an idea for the Rays

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© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 30, 2001

At times, it's almost unbearable to watch. They dive for balls, beat out infield throws and generally bust their humps, but the losses keep piling up for our Rays.

They look good at times, like when they took two from Boston this week (Hey, nobody beats the Rays 12 times in a row). But we all know that a mild streak like that can easily be followed by an eight-game skid like they had this month.

You want to believe things will turn around, that eventually they will get better. No team, you tell yourself, can stay this bad for this long.

Then you look at the schedule and see three more games against the Yankees, then the Blue Jays and then a rejuvenated Marlins team, and you have to seriously wonder how a team that has lost 10 of its past 13 before Friday's game at New York is going to keep from sinking deeper into this major-league quicksand.

If you ask me, there's only one thing the Rays should do: band together starting today and try to beat the living daylights out of New York. Oh, not the Yankees. I'm talking about the Mets. The 1962 Mets, baseball's team with the most losses since 1900.

I'm kidding, of course. But think about it for a minute. Think about the possibilities.

If the Rays surpass the '62 Mets' 120 losses, they will be famous. Or would that be infamous?

Either way, the Rays would be known. (My cousin Dion in Los Angeles, who is a big sports fan, didn't even know we had a baseball team.) They would be the talk of the league, a team with a national identity. Fans in other cities would root for them out of sympathy.

There would be reunions and remembrances. There would be mentions on Leno and Letterman and just about every other late-night talk show. Hal McRae might even get asked to make a guest appearance.

Yes, they would take an awful bashing from merciless fans and the media, but that just might bring this city and the team closer, galvanizing a marriage that, judging by the Rays attendance, could use some galvanizing.

But if the Rays finish only among the all-time worst, they wouldn't get any of that stuff. What would be the point of that?

No, if you're going to be bad, you might as well be the best -- well, actually, worst. The Rays aren't too far off the '62 Mets pace. Before Friday, the Rays were 24-54, the worst record in the majors. They were on pace to lose 112 games, eight fewer than the '62 Mets, who played 160 games (two fewer than the Rays will).

The Rays could easily make up those eight extra losses. Have you seen the last part of their schedule? The final two months is easily their toughest stretch. They've got the Yankees 12 times, the Twins seven times and the Red Sox and Mariners six times each.

And by then, the Rays might have turned the kids loose. Clearly they are moving in that direction, throwing youngsters Brent Abernathy, Jesus Colome, Jason Tyner and Aubrey Huff into the mix.

As promising as they are, they're bound to make more mistakes now than in future seasons, costing the Rays a few wins, as they did Tuesday against Boston.

Shoot, if the Rays aren't careful, they might not break the '62 Mets' futility record; they might shatter it.

Talk about embarrassing.

But look at it another way. Imagine how revered the Rays will be if they grow into a contender. I mean, if you look at this team and can't see the potential, you might want to consider LASIK.

This Abernathy kid has got the goods to be a true big-leaguer. So does Joe Kennedy, the best left-handed prospect the Rays probably have had. Colome (can he throw some heat or what?), Tyner and Huff have shown promise, too.

But they can't save this season. That they are playing tells you the season is pretty much a total wash.

So, let's have some fun. We all know the Rays will be good one day, but for now, let's throw conventional wisdom a nasty curveball. Let's go for the record.

What do we have to lose?

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