Father Scott and Fallen Angel
Fallen Angel is a Rays fan.
Let me rephrase that.
Fallen Angel abandoned the Red Sox after getting two titles because he got sick of the fact that other people like them and that they win, and then he became a Rays fan.
In any case, we’ve been talking Sox/Rays all year, and ever since their series in September I’ve been telling him I’m looking forward to the ALCS. And now it’s here.
So to kill the last remaining minutes of your workweek, check out our list of the most important players from least to most of the ALCS. And by the way, I’m fully aware that this is a gimmick that Bill Simmons used. I stole it for precisely this reason: FA hates Simmons, and he thought this was a good idea for a blog post. So I tricked him.
Fuck you, you red-faced, hopped-up, overreacting bandwagon jumper.
The list begins after the jump, along with our predictions for the series at the end.
50. David Ross
Father Scott: Only in extra inning games.
49. Alex Cora
48. Ben Zobrist
Fallen Angel: I love this man.
47. Edwin Jackson
FA: Mop up. No more, no less.
46. Tim Wakefield
FS: Just because we know what we’re getting out of Wake. Whether it’s in a start or out of the pen, he’ll pitch 7-10 innings of average ball.
FA: …or Game 4 becomes a home run derby.
45. Kevin Cash
44. Fernando Perez
FA: Could turn out to be this year’s version of Dave Roberts. He is death to flying things and can run like the wind.
43. Sean Casey
42. Javier Lopez
FA: He is actually quite important since the Rays CAN’T HIT LEFTIES! Was great against them in the regular season.
41. Trever Miller
FA: Classic lefty specialist. Faced one batter against the White Sox. Walked him on four pitches.
FS: Best of luck with Papi…
40. Willy Aybar
FA: The most important bench player of all time. Filled in admirably for both Longoria and Pena when they were injured, and he NEEDS to hit the lefties.
FS: Fallen Angel is prone to exaggeration.
39. Jason Bartlett
FA: Defense, defense, defense. Oh, and no slouch on the bat. Oh, and another fucking speed demon. Voted the team MVP by the Tampa Bay media.
FS: The idea that Jason Bartlett is the MVP of anything of than The Club of Average White Middle Infielders in Small Markets is ridiculous. More valuable on his team: Longoria, Pena, Navarro, Upton, the top four starters, and half the pen.
38. Cliff Floyd
FS: Did you know Cliff Floyd is 12,000 years old? It’s true.
FA: Dr. Huxtable, also an accomplished bowler, is actually very important to the team in terms of veteran presence. Also, don’t let the numbers fool you. His screaming line drives don’t go for many homers any more, but don’t write this man off.
FS: I love your use of the word “man.” It’s quite intimate.
37. Mike Timlin
FS: Only this high if he plays, which means that things are not going well for the Sox, and will only get worse.
FA: He made my life in that 14-inning game. As my father said, I looked like I had just gotten everything I ever wanted for Christmas.
36. Mark Kotsay
35. Jason Varitek
FS: Anything from his bat is great. We’ll need him to manage the pitchers and keep the walks down.
FA: Every time Heidi Watney would appear for an atrocious interview of some kind, I’d start my own “SLUT SLUT SLUT SLUT” chant alone in my basement. I am the coolest.
34. Paul Byrd
FS: Between Dice, Beckett, and Wake, there are a number of possibilities for Sox starters to falter early.
33. Michel Hernandez
FA: He could actually turn out to be VERY important. When Sean Riggans went down with a knee infection, Garza’s guiding light was extinguished. The (seemingly) obvious choice to replace him on the roster was Mike DeFelice, the most experienced and best defense catcher on the 40-man roster. Instead, he was released in September. Jaso is too green, so Hernandez became the obvious choice. I do not want to thin of what will happen if Varro goes down. In addition, this series is more important to him than anything else: http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/article843560.ece
FS: This is insanity. Who the fuck is Michel Hernandez?
32. Gabe Gross
FA: CAPTAIN INTANGIBLES!
31. Rocco Baldelli
FA: Seriously, if Boston boos this guy when he comes up to bat again, they all deserve to rot in hell. I am not joking. Fuck Josh Hamilton, the Woonsocket Rocket is the feel-good story of the year. Hamilton got himself into drugs. Baldelli has, up until September, an undiagnosable (I made that up) disease. Now he’s back, and he’ll be expected to come through against lefties. Those sons of the Devil the Rays can’t hit.
FS: You are absolutely mesmerized by the handedness of players.
30. Chad Bradford
Harold Reynolds: [with a member of the Chicago White Sox on first base] “Chad Bradford is not known for getting double plays”….[two minutes later] “Chad Bradford has induced 58 double plays, and that’s what he’s looking to do in this situation.”
FA: The third most important reliever on the Rays.
29. Manny Delcarmen
28. Hideki Okajima
FS: Come back to us, Okie.
27. Justin Masterson
FS: The most overrated player in the series, and I hope it doesn’t kill us. I sincerely hope we trade him in the offseason – his arm is going to fall off in about three years with that delivery, let’s get some value while we can.
26. Dioner Navarro
FS: Now begins the hot-head segment of the list. How much of the fights/”rivalry”/history elements of the series play a part.
FA: Yes, he is an above-average hitting catcher with many clutch hits, specifically against the Red Sox. His defense and ability to call a game are great. As good as he is, I don’t see him having much “importance” in this sense other than keeping Jacoby and Coco in check, and trying to keep Garza in line.
25. David Price
FS: It’s weird to think of a middle reliever as the most important player for the Rays in this series, but I believe it. These are two shaky bullpens. Price is a fresh, young arm, and is getting comparisons to the Riveras, Rodriguezes, and Papelbons of years past that have absolutely dominated and shifted the confidence of series. If the Rays win this series, Price will have an unbelievable stat line. If he doesn’t, I think they’ll struggle – you can’t win in the playoffs with a bullpen comprised of JP Howell and Dan Wheeler. You need a high-impact, dynamic player, and I think Price is it.
I’m a mac
FA: [finishes ejaculating into a sock at King David’s name being mentioned] As much as I love this kid, he’s quite a bit overvalued here. I don’t see how you’re calling the Ray’s bullpen “shaky.” The pen gave up exactly one run (a Paul Konerko solo shot off Wheeler is Game 1) against the White Sox in 11.2 innings. David Price pitched exactly 0 innings. Fact: He’s the messiah. Fact: Many people have predicted him to be the K-Rod of 2008. Fact: He is fourth in line out the door in a tight game (Balfour, Howell, Bradford). He won’t play unless a starter implodes (high chance of happening). He’s the long reliever.
FS: Totally disagree. I had Price as the 2nd most important player in the series, but I’ll compromise with FA and leave him here. Did I overvalue him? Maybe. But the thing is, if he gets into a game early in the series and dominates, there’s no way that some schmuck like Chad Bradford keeps playing ahead of him. David Price will make his mark. The smaller the mark, the less chance the Rays have, so I hope you’re right.
24. Carl Crawford
FA: The best defensive left fielder in the game, and his bat is starting to heat up. If he can rediscover his stroke, he’ll be big.
FS: You rediscover your stroke every time you see his neck tattoo, don’t you?
23. Carlos Pena
FS: Pena is a sure bet to hit 4 homers and strike out 19 times.
FA: The Pride of Haverhill. Nobody on the field in the series loves to play more than Carlos. Longoria was amazing, but the Rays would not be in the playoffs if not for Pena. He gave me a boner that last for 6 hours following the 14-inning game in September.
22. JP Howell
FS: Howell sucks.
FA: Why don’t you like this man? He tied for the league leads in innings pitched and strikeouts by relievers. After Balfour, he is the go-to guy in middle relief or with men on base. The peanut butter and Doritos can’t fail now.
FS: FA moved Howell up significantly in these rankings. He even had him ahead of Papelbon, which is hilarious.
21. Andy Sonnanstine
FA: Why Maddon is even considering starting Shields “if needed” in Game 4 is beyond me. This guy has proven to be THE big game pitcher for the Rays in the last month and a half. 14 innings and 2 unearned runs versus the Red Sox. Clinched the ALDS. Even if the Rays are down 0-3, I want him getting the ball.
20. Jon Lester
FS: We’re officially reaching the “taking Lester for granted” stage. He’s been so reliable, I’m not that worried about him.
FA: I will pay this man much money to throw straight 93 mph fastballs up in the zone. He scares the ever loving shit out of me. Also my third favorite Red Sox. Let’s not go seven games so he can be less of a factor…
FS: I believe it to be a huge mistake that he’s games 3 and 7, by the way. He should be 2 and 6, with Beckett 3 and 7.
19. Matt Garza
FA: Has the stuff to be the best in the league. May also have the hottest head in the league (and the hottest face <3). Game 3 will be huge, no matter where the series stands, and he NEEDS to be on. Please, no more fights with Navarro. Just throw whatever he tells you to!
18. JD Drew
FS: Can’t wait for more Mr. Clutch.
17. Jason Bay
FS: To be the subject of much media ball-sucking, thanks to his lack of Mannyness.
FA: He was a Ray for 15 minutes and 36 seconds on July 31st. Fuck you. No fast balls!
FS: Please let my texting finger be judicious when this man is up to bat. This man. I’m catching something from you.
16. Jed Lowrie
FS: Not Julio Lugo. That makes you important.
15. Jonathan Papelbon
FS: Also taking him for granted. So dominant, an absolute lock.
FA: Words cannot express how much I hate this fuck.
14. Dan Wheeler
FS: Can Wheeler close reliably? Will Balfour decapitate him if he blows a save, and Balfour’s hold?
FA: Nope, and that’s why Balfour pitched both the 8th and 9th in Game 4. The man is good for 1-2 runs in the 9th. Don’t think you’ll see him unless it’s a 3-run lead. I feel bad saying this because I love the guy, and he was HUGE filling in for Percival in the regular season. However, he’s been pretty shaky recently.
13. Grant Balfour
FS: Grant may not reach double digits all series.
FA: Where is the BalfourIsABeast blog? I have a mancrush x3 on this man, and I drink Foster’s whenever he comes in. Commence the swearing.
12. Coco Crisp
FS: A part-time player, yes, but hugely important on the Sox success in the series, I think. They need the speed, they need the options.
FA: Look up “bitch” in the dictionary, and you find this man’s picture. Thanks to him, we have fuckheads like Adam Kilgore (who?) writing ludicrous columns about how much bad blood there is between these two teams, despite nothing happening since that game, and nobody telling Kilgore there is bad blood. Oh, except Papelbon, and I may have mentioned before that he’s a worthless shit who sucks at life. Newsflash: Pedro, Ryan Rupe, and Gerald Williams are all gone.
11. Kevin Youkilis
FA: Fuck off.
10. James Shields
FA: Game 1 is a must win. I shit you not. Kazmir doesn’t need any more pressure, and the Red Sox don’t need any momentum with a road win.
FS: Is Kazmir a 14-year old girl at a ballet recital? He’ll be fine. Must-win my ass. Oh, wait, I’m saying that because I have Lester and Beckett in games 3 and 4.
9. Dustin Pedroia
FS: He’s gotta get going. Maybe Tito should slot him back in the 4th spot and get that ego going.
FA: To quote Jessica from Her Rays (the originator of the landing strip Rayhawk), classic case of short man syndrome.
8. Jacoby Ellsbury
FS: I can’t explain it. I don’t even really like Jacoby. But the Sox need him to set the table, push the envelope, and fulfill clichés.
FA: I hate this fucker.
7. Evan Longoria
FS: The best player on the Rays, but still a rookie. Will the pressure catch up to him? I doubt it.
FA: He is very important, but only because he has one hit after his three (two of which were homers) in Game 1 versus Chicago. Yes, his bat is important, but his glove will be even more so. The Rays won two out of three with him doing jack shit. His bat can also be ably replaced by Aybar. I know this sounds like I’m putting him down, which I’m not. He is on his way to Cooperstown. However, he’s not the most IMPORTANT player on the Rays right now.
FS: Wrong. He needs to show that Cooperstown potential for the Rays to win. Anything less and this will be a short one.
6. Scott Kazmir
FS: Tampa’s version of Daisuke – keep the walks down, find a way to get outs, and try not to get into the bullpen by the 3rd inning.
FA: And I’m the one accused of hyperbolizing? The man was awful in Game 2…in the first inning. More astonishing than the White Sox pathetic inability to score more than two runs off him was his grit and mental toughness to claw through 5+ innings. It’s the pitch counts, not the runs, that will kill him (the September game in Tampa was a fluke). His importance escalates if Shields can’t go 6-7, and the bullpen becomes endangered. Just throw bendy things Kaz!
5. Akinori Iwamura
FS: Fuck this guy. Flip your bat one more time and I will dig Trot Nixon out of whatever hole he hides in so he can hunt you down.
FA: The most important hitter in the lineup. He’s not the fastest guy, and he’s not gonna hit .350. But he sees a ton of pitches, can hit to every field, and when he gets on base, the Rays wreak havoc. Also pwns Dustin in playing second base.
FS: Fuck that. Pedroia is an outstanding 2nd baseman. Iwamura is a dick and I hope Beckett pelts him the face four straight Abs.
4. BJ Upton
FA: Oh my. This man is locked in. The best hitter on the team right now. He needs to keep it up.
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka
FS: The Sox need a strong performance from Daisuke. It’s important from a confidence standpoint to go in tonight and mean business. If Dice can resemble the dominant pitcher he’s been off and on in his career, we can suck the cowbell-ridden insanity from that lifeless hellhole.
FA: OK Bob Ryan. It is NOT lifeless. The cowbell was a harmless gimmick that took on a life of its own and has become a signature of the park. They’ve been around for a few years, which is a lot longer than those awful thunder stix. It is also not a hellhole. I’m sure Caray and Martinez will drone on and on about the catwalks even though they rarely come into play. Of course, not a single person outside of Tampa Bay understands what you SHOULD be talking about during a Rays game. Finally, the Heckler is all the life we need.
FS: Since it was built, the Trop has been the most miserable place to watch a game. AND I’VE ONLY SEEN IT ON TV.
2. Josh Beckett
FS: If a reasonable facsimile of 2007 Josh Beckett shows up – let’s say two starts of 7+ innings, less than 4 runs total – this series is over.
1. David Ortiz
FS: He’s the single most influential player on the outcome of this series because if we see 4-7 more games of Timid David at the plate, the Red Sox have no shot. We need to see the Ortiz of 03-07, whose balls radiated with confidence, and who could not be denied. Even an average performance out of David means the Rays win this series.
We need more of these histrionics David
0. Jonny Gomes
FA: He will eat babies and then punch a hole through the back of Coco’s head. How do you suspend a player not on the 25-man roster?
FS: There, you get your gratuitous Gomes mention without hindering this piece. Which is clearly without fault and well thought-out.
FA: Rays in 6.
FS: Sox in 7, riding the arm of Beckett.