Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rays Give the Red Sox the Old Rope-A-Dope

If you are a boxing fan, you are surely familiar with the "rope-a-dope" strategy that Muhammad Ali used in defeating George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle fight. In using the rope-a-dope, Ali would simply lean back against the ropes, put up his gloves in defense, and allow Foreman to hit away. In the process, Ali suffered minor damage while puffing up his opponent's confidence and tiring him out at the same time. Then, when the time was right, Ali jumped off the ropes and put a beating on the suddenly unsuspecting Foreman. The result, like the Rays' series win over the Red Sox, was a knock out.

Granted, the comparison is not perfect, but the parallels are there. Monday night, the Rays let the Red Sox pound away at them, and suffered a 13-5 loss. They took the damage, knowing it was not enough. Then the Rays came back and beat the Sox, and Josh Beckett, 2-1 on Tuesday, and completed the knockout against a reeling Red Sox team last night with a knockout 10-3 victory.

Why is it a knockout? Because a critical Division Title tie breaker was on the line. The Red Sox and Rays faced each other 18 times this season. Going into last night, the Rays were ahead 9-8. A win by the Red Sox would even up the season series. Then, in the event the Red Sox and Rays ended the season in a tie, they would be forced to play a one game playoff, winner take all. Instead, the Rays won, and now, should the two teams end up in a tie, there will be no playoff game, the tie will go the Tampa Bay. That means to win the Division, the Red Sox need to finish ahead of the Rays, not tied with them.

The Red Sox are 89-63 with 10 games remaining, which the Rays are 90-60 with 12 games left. Since the Rays have lost 3 fewer games, the Red Sox need to win 4 fewer games the rest of the way. Mathematically, that means the Rays have to lose AT LEAST 5 games. If the Rays go 7-5, the Sox would need to go 9-1. If the Rays go 6-6, the Sox need to go 8-2. Not easy feats. Last night's win may have just knocked the Sox out of contention for the division.

The Wild Card, on the other hand, has become a near certainty with the Twins losing to Cleveland last night. The Sox are 7 games ahead of the Twins with both teams having 10 games left. The Red Sox have to lose at least 7 of their remaining 10 games to give the Twins a chance.

So, enjoy the rest of the regular season, but start gearing up for a first round in the playoffs as the Wild Card facing off against the Angels. Not such a bad place to be, just ask New York.


Suldog said...

When I'm elected President, the Sox get a bye, every year.

Thanks again for the excellent link!

Rooster said...

I see you made good use of it! Glad to move the election forward!

While Obama and McCain battle each other to a standstill, you'll slip in unseen and grab the crown!

Fenway West said...

Great analysis on the division race. I'll be at the game on Thursday solo and possibly on Wed. with some students.

Peter N said...

Roost, I remember my roomates and I at college listening to the Ali/Foreman fight and the standing, jumping up and down and cheering when Ali won it all! Wow.
Here's a link to my car, which is now a little more than 1 year old. If the pic shows the car in silver, just click on "Build your own Audi," and it will show you one like mine, in black. Hey, hi Sul and FW. And thanks for your kind wishes. It's Canada time for the Sox, where again we'll face both Burnett and the Doc. Ouch! Here's that link...

Soxlosophy said...

nice post!

so am i to understand the Sox will be hocking countertop hamburger grills in 20 years?

by the way, my first exposure to foreman was of the older, rounder, bald and jolly incarnation of recent years. but upon seeing 70's era footage of the original lean mean fat grilling machine, with afro and sideburns and cannonball arms, that was a bit scary.

i imagine the hard hitting high payroll sox might look like that to the rays or their fans, but, like ali, they've rolled with the punches and delivered their own.

hopefully, the fans at the trop won't start chanting 'tampa, buma ye'

Rooster said...

FW - Thanks! I'm going to the games on Tuesday and Friday (a farewell game to the Yanks - ha!)

Peter - I love the car - beautiful! I remember watching the Ali fight - I was rooting so hard for Ali and when he was getting beat against the ropes, I was so scared. What a fight!

Sox - LOL - Foreman was a beast in his prime, no one wanted to go near him. Everyone thought Ali was risking his own life to fight him.

Let's hope for a good week of baseball. I hope the Sox get ready for the Angels.