Monday, 29 September 2008

The little team that could

How else could the season end?

Its like the team squeezed down the essence of the year and filled it all into game 162, just to show the world, if they didn't know already, what these Rays are all about.

A come-from-behind, battling, never-give-up, blown save, extra innings, come-back-again, amazing defense, unlikely hero win. A story that has almost become the norm rather than the exception this season. Indeed, I can barely remember a single win out of the 97 (yes, ninety-seven) this year that hasn't either been come-from-behind, battling, or involved an unlikely hero. Its just the way things happen these days when you're watching the Rays.

Consider that the Rays, in a final warm-up before the playoffs (how great does that sound?!) used 8 pitchers and 14 position players.

Consider that Detroit took a 5-0 lead in the fourth.

Consider that the comeback started with Rocco Baldelli breaking up what was a four-inning perfect start from Zach Miner with his fourth homerun of the season, a 432-foot bomb.

Consider that it continued with platoonists such as Eric Hinske (a 2-run homer), Jonny Gomes (a 2-run double) and Ben Zobrist (an RBI-single) getting the key hits.

Consider that David Price, Dan Wheeler, Troy Percival and Trever Miller pitched a combined 4 2/3 innings out of the 'pen and gave up but a solitary hit.

Consider that Edwin Jackson made a relief appearance for the first time this year, blew a save, and was rewarded with a team-record tying 14th win.

Consider that Jason Hammel came in for the 11th to claim his second save of the year.

And consider that the winning homerun was hit by a shortstop who, in the first 280 at-bats of his career had connected for 3 longballs, but, in 193 trys this year has mashed 11 of them. Ben Zobrist has been a phenomenally important backup this year. We all expected him to be useful off the bench for his versatility, but I really don't think anyone expected him to become a threat with the bat.

But then none of this was really expected. How could a bullpen that, a year ago, put up numbers that were the worst the majors had seen in 50 years, become one of the league's best by adding an out-of-retirement, oft-injured closer, a (no-offence to Mr Miller) journeyman lefty, a failed, soft-throwing starter and an inconsistant 30 year-old Australian? That's not your typical recipe for success. And yet somehow, for these Rays, it worked.

The last few days have been great for me, reading article after gushing article on how amazing these Rays are, how they have come from nowhere, how this story is as unbelieveable as any baseball story has ever been. I think that to say the 2008 Rays have turned some heads would be the understatement of the century.

But what else can you say?

Perhaps the baseball world didn't believe it was possible. Perhaps us Rays fans didn't believe it was possible. But Joe Maddon believed. And he wasn't afraid to show it. He went public, and instilled that belief in the team. A team that has no super-stars (although a few with the potential to become super-stars) has outplayed the big boys. They've finished atop the East, ahead of the payroll-pacesetters in New York and Boston. They've done it with a payroll that is not only the second-lowest in baseball, it is less than half of the average payroll.

So yeah, this little team has turned a few heads.

Here's hoping we turn a few more this October.


J-Boogie said...

Congrats on winning the AL East. I really hope the Rays win it all. They've got a good shot in my estimation.


Johnny said...

Thanks J, appreciate it. I think we've got a good shot too, but either way I'm definitely going to enjoy the postseason for once!