Despite having to face the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays 58 times a year, it doesn’t totally suck to play for the Devil Rays. For instance, you can borrow Scott Kazmir’s copy of Solger’s “Raping Dead Nuns”. You can look forward to the arrival of Delmon Young. When the Yankees and Red Sox aren’t in town, you can do your job in almost complete privacy. And perhaps best of all, are the unique ground rules at Tropicana Field, as reviewed by the Tampa Tribune’s Eduardo A. Encina.
The way Boston manager Terry Francona was complaining, it was almost like he had uncovered the Rays’ diabolical plan to plant a hanging speaker 150 feet above left field with a sole purpose of foiling the Red Sox nation – kind of like that ceremonial unmasking of the bad guy at the end of every Scooby-Doo episode.
Rays left fielder Carl Crawford turned in his most astute play of the season, and the Red Sox were left to throw their hands in the air. In Wednesday’s 5-2 Rays’ win at the Trop, Crawford tracked Kevin Youkilis’ towering fly ball off the bat, followed it when it ricocheted off the public address speaker hanging off the B-ring catwalk in left, and raced in to catch it.
TV cameras showed a frustrated Youkilis going berserk in the dugout. Francona said something’s got to be done about these hanging menaces.
“At some point, and I don’t think my complaining is going to do it, but at some point Major League Baseball’s – this Putt-Putt golf [stuff’s] got to go,” Francona said. “It’s stupid, hitting it around the windmill, this is a major-league game. It’s like the bigger you are, the better you hit the ball, the more you get penalized.”
Even though they’ve hung high above Tropicana Field’s playing surface for years, the four halo rings present a unique challenge to all visitors who come through the Trop.
Most Tampa Bay fans know the rules. Batted balls that hit the C and D catwalks in fair play are ruled home runs. Those that hit off the A and B catwalks are still fair balls.
“We hated it,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the catwalks when he came to Tropicana Field as a coach with the Angels. “It’s one of those things. If you’re on the other side you hate it. If you’re on this side, you have to learn to play with it and use it to your advantage.”
Tropicana Field’s slanted dome roof places each of the catwalks within reach of a well-hit ball. This season, they’ve become more of a factor.
Seventy-four fair balls have hit the catwalk, all with varying degrees of ridicule. Six have hit this season, including three in the Rays’ four-game series with the Red Sox last week.
All of that said, it will take more than an improperly situated tannoy (nor a grand jury) to stop the Yankees’ Jason Giambi, whose 3rd inning grand slam off Casey Fossum has New York leading Tampa Bay, 5-3.