The Opening Pitch: Another week, another milestone in the Rays' Cinderella season.
Last time, it was setting the franchise record for wins. This time, it's beating the Angels (again) to claim the best record in the AL (and tied for the best record in all of baseball.)
We're past the moment when fans realize, "Wow, the Rays are for real." Now, the question is one of expectations.
I'm not going to say they need to win the World Series. You don't go from worst-to-champs in one year through your standard rebuilding process (see the Celtics). But worst-to-first in the division? Claiming a spot in the playoffs?
Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford went down with injuries; with last night's win, the Rays have won 9-of-11.
B.J. Upton makes idiot plays? He apologizes, and it's a T-ball tempest — the team's focus creates two straight wins against the AL's gold standard, a team they have beaten 6 of 8 times this season.
Well, the AL's former gold standard. That standard now resides in the path of Hurricane Fay — in Tampa.
OK, Rays: You've got us. Now all we expect you to do is close it out and make the playoffs. Anything less is a failed season.
That's life in the world of the playoff contenders.
Are the umps holding up replay's debut? Unlikely, given MLB's commitment to it. Don't the umps know that they simply look defensive by griping? It is better for the game, period.
No, I'm not going to start the “Adam Dunn for NL MVP” campaign, though his first HR as a D-back came in a winning home debut yesterday.
Jimmy Rollins booed at home: He was wrong to call Philly fans "frontrunners." Any marketing-savvy player knows he should have trademarked "Phrontrunners."
At what point do we get to officially say: "Wow, it really looks like the Yankees aren't going to make the playoffs." After Labor Day? They are the anti-Rays. (Carl Pavano as the season-saver? Hahahaha.)
Olympics: You've got to feel great for Shawn Johnson, who finally earned her Olympic gold (balance beam) after coming into the Games as the designated gymnastics golden girl for the U.S.
Meanwhile, you've got to feel terrible for Lolo Jones, who clipped the 9th hurdle in what seemed like a sure gold-medal run in the 100-meter hurdles, sending her tumbling to 7th. She was devastated.
Wow, did the unstoppable USA softball team actually get taken to extra innings? That alone is sort of like a mammoth upset.
NFL Trade Scenarios: If a player is really, really, really unhappy, is his team simply better off acquiescing to a trade?
NFL Cuts: Remember when Joe Horn was a cause cell-ebre? That feels like a long, long time ago. (Compared to Henry, how benign!)
NFL Nth Chances: As expected, the Bengals reclaim bad-boy WR Chris Henry. Again: What could possibly go wrong in this situation?
Fantasy Football: Given that I drafted both Selvin Young and Tony Scheffler yesterday, this analysis was germane.
USA Oops: The Aussies will regret keeping it close with the U.S. during that exhibition game a few weeks ago.
Police Blotter: Hideki Irabu arrested. The key detail: After allegedly drinking 20 mugs of beer.
Health: All best to Yaz in his recovery from triple-bypass surgery.
The Last Word: "Hey, you! I know you! I know you!" Kudos to FirstCuts on linking to what I consider to be arguably the greatest Saturday Night Live skit of all time: Men's synchronized swimming, featuring Martin Short and Harry Shearer.
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.