The Yankees and Rays have a rivalry that burns with the intensity of an Easy Bake Oven. CC Sabathia and Andrew Kittredge hit batters in 2018, with the former alerting the Rays’ dugout that it wasn’t an accident, and Tampa Bay has used it as bulletin-board material ever since.
Masahiro Tanaka plunked Joey Wendle on September 1. Most likely intentional, given Tanaka’s pinpoint command, and the Rays brushed back DJ LeMahieu in the previous game. Yet in the ninth inning, when Aroldis Chapman lost control of a ball that sailed near Mike Brosseau’s head, the benches cleared. Rays manager Kevin Cash warned the Yankees that he has “a whole stable of guys who throw 98.’’
The Rays put that on their postseason celebratory hats and t-shirts.
Ahead of their ALDS showdown against the Yankees, Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said this to Erik Boland: “They don’t like us, we don’t like them and it’s going to continue to stay that way. It’s going to be two great teams playing against each other. I know our guys are really excited, we’re ready to go. Feeling very confident and we plan on having the same thoughts once we get out west; expecting to win that series.”
I mean, okay, sure. The Rays outplayed the Yankees this year. Good on them for winning the division. I feel the same way about the 2020 Rays that I did the 2012 Orioles, or the 2015 Blue Jays. You know, what, at least that Jays team had José Bautista, someone great and intimidating.
This isn’t the same as the Red Sox. It’s not the same as the Mets, which mattered mostly to George Steinbrenner and the Wilpons. It isn’t even the historic levels of the Dodgers and the Giants.
To quote from Giancarlo Stanton, “Shirts and hats don’t mean anything.”
Or, in other words: