Tampa Bay Rays Information
The Tampa Bay Rays are one of baseball's youngest franchises, coming into the league as an expansion team in 1998. Before the start of their inaugural season, the Rays acquired star players Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs, and Wilson Alvarez. However, even these All-Stars couldn't swing the bats hard enough to beat the Detroit Tigers in the team's opener. Tampa Bay lost the game 11-6, and the score was very telling of the years to come. By 2002, the Rays had decided to adopt a new strategy of harvesting young players and slashing the payroll. Aubrey Huff, Toby Hall and Randy Winn all began to emerge as vital players.
In following year, under the new management of the great Lou Piniella, Carl Crawford emerged as one of the greatest young players of his time. Piniella soon became frustrated with the performance of the Rays, noting that the team was not playing at the level that it was capable of. The strategy of a young roster wasn't working the way owners projected, at least for the time being.
The 2007-2008 off-season served as essential to Tampa Bay's future success. They revealed new uniforms along with a new name going from the 'Devil Rays' shortened simply to the 'Rays.' The franchise kept most of the 2007 roster in place, signing and trading for key players such as Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eduardo Morlan. They also acquired veteran relief pitcher Troy Percival, right fielder Cliff Floyd, and #1 draft pick David Price.
Heading into 2008, the franchise finally found confidence and were hungry to show that they truly were contenders, even if no one else would believe it. The spring season was productive as they walked away with a club record 18 wins. By the end of the regular season they held on to win their first ever AL East title at 97-65. They proceeded to advance all the way to the World Series in their first playoff appearance. They beat out the White Sox in the ALDS and continued on to edge out the Red Sox in a 7 game ALCS battle. Tampa Bay's historic run ended as they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies after 5 games in the World Series.
2009 proved to be successful despite their inability to mirror their previous post-season, concluding the year at 84-78 behind the Red Sox and Yankees. In 2010, the Rays came back and won the AL East. Led by Crawford, Garza, Bartlett, and Upton, the Rays had an impressive season, finishing 96-66. In the post-season, the Rays met the Rangers in the ALDS and even though it came down to the last game of the series, lost the game and their season ended.
2011 marked a season of changes for the Rays. They lost Carl Crawford to the Red Sox and Carlos Pena to the Cubs through free agency, as well as traded Garza and Bartlett away. Despite losing a number of stars, the Rays were still led by all-star third baseman Evan Longoria and star pitcher David Price. With a 91-71 record, their post season decision came down to the final game of the season, when the Red Sox were defeated by the Orioles and the Rays came back in miraculous fashion to beat the Yankees. Despite their huge break, the Rays lost to the Rangers once again in the ALDS.
It's hard to deny that baseball's most thrilling rivalry includes the Tampa Bay Rays. Look for the Rays to have another great season.