"The only medicine for suffering, crime and all the other woes of mankind, is wisdom."
Huxley was an early proponent of Darwin's theory of evolution, and 150 years later, Tampa Bay can also vouch for survival of the fittest in the AL East.
Since the Rays' playoff chances are virtually extinct.
Less than 51 weeks ago, Tampa Bay clinched its first-ever postseason trip, on the way to a pennant and a trip to the World Series.
Now the Rays are doing little more than playing out the string.
Tuesday's loss at Yankee Stadium, on a Nick Swisher walk-off homer against Dan Wheeler, was Tampa Bay's seventh straight, reducing its "tragic number" for postseason elimination to 16. Over the past month, as their bullpen has fallen apart, the Rays have gone 11-7, falling from 1 1/2 games out in the wild-card race to 8 1/2 back and tied for third with the Mariners.
The team offered almost as many explanations as it has blown saves in the past 33 days (eight).
• Center fielder B.J. Upton: "I just think we're more of the hunted instead of us going after other teams. ... It used to kind of be, 'The Rays are coming to town, oh well.' It wasn't that feeling any more."
"Eighty-nine [wins] in our division translates into 93 in the [AL] Central and 147 in the National League."
-- Rays owner Stuart Sternberg • Reliever Grant Balfour: "A lot of the close games that we did win last year we probably haven't won this year. Lately the bullpen hasn't been good -- we've definitely got to take the blame there for some of the games we haven't won."
• Third baseman Evan Longoria: "I don't like to use this as a reason or as an excuse, but we've had a lot of injuries. It's made it tough on us to really get anything going."
• Longoria: "We haven't done as good of a job as we did last year of dealing with highs and lows. Last year we had the ability to kind of keep it so even-keeled. When we were winning, it didn't seem [like] we were getting on our high horse too much. ... This year it seems like when we did win, we were really excited and when we lost, it seemed like we kind of got a little too down on ourselves."
• Principal owner Stuart Sternberg: "I think in a large part it's been a hangover of some kind -- I don't know if that's the word -- from last year. It's not just a month [extra in the playoffs], it's almost three because generally August, September ... you're not pushing yourself. ... And I think we've seen that with a couple of the guys in our bullpen and I think we've seen that with a couple of the guys in our rotation."
• Maddon: "I think one of the main reasons was a bad April [9-14]. We were just never really able to even that up somehow. We just didn't get hot enough to put April totally in our rear-view mirror."
• Executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman: "I think on paper we're at least as talented as we were last year. ... If you were able to play this season 10 times, in my opinion, this is the worst we'd finish in those 10 times."
They all have a point.
As to Balfour's remark on close games, the Rays were 29-18 last year in one-run contests; this year they are 17-23.
Some of that has to do with the bullpen, as Sternberg mentioned. The relievers have combined for a 3.91 ERA, up from 3.55 last year. And of the Rays' past 11 losses, six have come in the opponents' final at-bat.
Maddon has been criticized for over-managing his bullpen, but without a true closer, he feels he has to play the matchups. With a flurry of one-batter appearances as Tampa Bay has slid further and further out of contention, Maddon has made an AL-high 434 pitching changes, just 14 fewer than he made all last season.
Pitching, period, has been the biggest dropoff. The Rays are on pace to allow 78 more runs than last year, falling from second in the league in team ERA to seventh.
Perhaps the pitchers are suffering from the "hangover," as Sternberg put it, of pitching all of last October. Having seen how it affected the 2006 White Sox, for example, Tampa Bay had its pitchers delay their spring training schedules to try to compensate.
"We spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about it," Friedman said, while admitting there's no way to know whether their plan helped, hurt or had no effect at all.
And maybe the intensity of last October had something to do with the poor April brought up by Maddon.
Longoria cited injuries. Carlos Pena's season-ending broken fingers, suffered Monday, follow significant injuries to closer Troy Percival, shortstop Jason Bartlett, second baseman Akinori Iwamura and lefty Scott Kazmir.
But Maddon said, "I really believe injuries have nothing to do with where we are right now."
The most significant health issue is probably Upton's shoulder. He underwent labrum surgery on his left shoulder in November, and while he was on the DL for only the first six games of the season, he said he is "still not" 100 percent.
Upton's OPS has dropped from .784 last year to .675 this season, with a .310 on-base percentage. That could be the injury or, as one scout observed, an unwillingness or inability to make adjustments.
"I feel like if I could have put a little bit more together on the offensive end, " Upton said, "we'd be in a better position."
In other words, Tampa Bay hasn't had a bad season, just not as good as last year. But because of the division they play in, the Rays will be watching in October this time.
"If you don't make the playoffs, it's not a good season," Longoria said. "We came to spring training wanting to make the playoffs. ... But it's not a complete disaster."
Maddon and Friedman said they welcome the challenge of playing in the AL East because overcoming the Yankees and Red Sox is more rewarding.
"We know going in that we need to win 90-something games," Sternberg said. "Is it 92 or is it 98? Eighty-nine, 88 don't get it done in our division. It gets in done in a lot of other places. ... Eighty-nine in our division translates into 93 in the Central and 147 in the National League.
"The division doesn't allow for any fault."
And the Rays' faults have been exposed this year: Upton, the bullpen, a lack of offense in right field.
"We haven't had an extended stretch where every facet of the game was working at the same time," Friedman said.
Tampa Bay's best run was 15-4 in the latter part of June. Other than that, the Rays are 57-63.
Said Upton: "It's kind of like we've been waiting for it to happen, waiting for it to happen -- and it hasn't."
Maddon said he expects the Rays to "be in this race for many years to come," and Friedman said he doesn't intend to make many offseason changes, perhaps just some bullpen tinkering.
The task for Tampa Bay is making sure it bounces back and doesn't do what Cleveland did -- going to the ALCS in 2007, falling to .500 in '08 and plummeting into rebuilding mode this year.
"In a lot of ways it's been good," Balfour said of this year's disappointment, "because you can look at what we did -- it's not easy to do what we did. You can sit there and look at that ring and think to yourself and not take it for granted."