Thursday, October 30, 2008

No Losers In 2008 World Series

The Rays didn't bring the bling of a championship ring as we'd hoped.  But anyone that labels them losers is a World Series Watcher, not a True Baseball Fan.

The 2008 Rays have gone from zeroes to heroes in a season.  They did it with a new name, a new look, and an unprecedented MLB payroll ranking.  Only the Florida Marlins spent less. 

Teamwork emerged as the Rays 2008 MVP.  Individual heroes were a fleeting thing.

Case in point: Joe Maddon who inspired professional athletes who probably thought they had nothing more to learn about themselves.  He helped Matt Garza discover the thrill of Post Season baseball. Turns out Matt just needed a Manager who really cared and a teammate to hold him accountable.

Case in point: Dan Johnson who stepped out of a Taxi to hit a game tying home run in Yankee Stadium kicking the Rays' playoff chase into high gear. His call up lasted only days.

Case in point: Dioner Navarro who was selected to the 2008 American League All-Star team recognizing his consistency, leadership, and 180 degree 12 month turnaround.  Navi winning over the Tampa Bay fans is arguably a greater accomplishment than the All-Star game itself.

Case in point: The Rays Bullpen.  Without their spectacular performance all season long, the Rays simply would not have made the post season on the strength of their hitting, which was often a gut wrenching weakness.  The pen, particularly JP Howell, Dan Wheeler, and recently David Price, picked up the starters and held opposing teams in check so the offense could provide just enough runs to eek out the wins. Percy's early and mid-season closes were masterful.

Case in point: The Reserves.  Willy Aybar, Fernando Perez, Ben Zobrist.  Whoda thunk it that the bottom third of the order, which turned over so frequently this season, would prove to be so strong.  A one hit, one play, one run, one game at a time mentality developed their confidence and by the end of July, the eyes of the Baseball World were riveted on Tampa Bay.

Case in point: The Front Office.  A new image, an exorcism, and a few absolutely brilliant trades and repositioning of players to shore up the middle.  Bartlett's unexpected swinging of the lumber was icing on the cake. And how 'bout the measured and timely uncorking of the Evan Longoria and David Price genies?  Pure magic.

Case in  point:  The Much Maligned Trop.  She became a competitive advantage instead of a quirky tin can. Still far from secure as the Rays long term home, she is no longer the laughing stock of the MLB in the wake of a World Series weather fiasco the last week of October in the rain soaked North East.

A 97 win regular season, an American League Pennant, and a burgeoning fanbase whose $100 personalized jersey purchases suggest they won't be bandwagon jumpers.  Countless stories of collective team efforts sparked by nearly every player on the 40 man roster.  Oh, The Places We Have Gone!

There was not a single loser on the field last night after
Eric Hinske swung at the final pitch of the 2008 season. 
Only winners.

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