We are all baseball fans so there is no need to talk about how long the season is. There are so many little things that happen throughout the course of the season that can change the complexion of the entire thing good or bad. They could be created by the manager, the players, or even the fans that could energize and entire organization propelling them to greatness (or almost greatness). I’m not talking about any goats or curses here.
I am sure over the history of baseball there are many instances of things like this, but three more recent have popped into the foreground of my mind. The Rally Monkey used by the Los Angeles Angels, 9=8 by the Tampa Bay Rays, and the moose antlers and claws used by the Texas Rangers. Not saying any of these assisted the teams in reaching the World Series, but it could be seen as extra motivation.
The Rally Monkey was one of the more annoying times in the 2000’s. You didn’t have to be a fan of the Angels to see videos of it or hear players or press talking about it. It was almost as if every time that thing appeared opposing pitchers couldn’t get anyone out usually leading to a onslaught of Angels runs. The Rally Monkey made it’s first appearance two years before the Angels reached the pinnacle, but could be looked at as something that changed the fortunes of a franchise around.
In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, adopted a phrase that stuck with the team unifying them and bringing them to their first ever World Series. I have to be honest that I really didn’t understand it until it was explained to me, but 9=8 was born nonetheless. It signifies that it takes nine players nine innings to be one of the eight playoff teams. It was done to build unity in the clubhouse and it certainly worked. There were signs all over the place, shirts worn by players, etc.. When it was all said and done, the Rays reached the World Series against the Phillies. The phrase didn’t help them win, as they lost four games to one, but it changed them from being the laughing stock of baseball to a contender. Certainly players still have to perform and the right trades need to be made etc.. but it is hard not to think that something like that changed the complexion of the franchise forever.
The third instance that came to mind is the “Claw and Antlers” used by the Texas Rangers in 2010. The claw would signify that a player did something that was positive on offense. Could be stretching a single into a double or really anything that is seen as positive obviously. The antlers portion would be speed related. I am pretty sure I don’t need to describe what that means. Both gestures unified a team and brought them into the postseason for the first time in over a decade and ended with them in the World Series. It ended in a non-Cinderella kind of way like the Rays, but the Rangers were back on top in the American League and have been serious contenders ever since.
Recently, our beloved New York Mets adopted a towel wave in the dugout after every hit. Something had to be done with a team that has an anemic offense. Curtis Granderson mentions that he remembers the Chicago Bulls waving a towel all the time during their three-peat of NBA Championships.
“We started thinking about it, and it popped right from my memory” Granderson said “It just popped in my head, and we’ll do that when we get a hit. We started doing it and then a couple other guys did it and now we just needed the guy on base to do it back. Then it got a little bigger. Now we’ve seen the guys in the bullpen doing it, and some of the fans in the stands are doing it” he told reporters.
Now I am certainly not saying this is going to propel the Mets to the World Series, but could this be one of those things we look back on in a year or two and say “Remember how poorly things were going and then towel waving began” as we embrace watching a parade down the “Canyon of Heroes”?