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Tampa Bay Rays History

James Loney; Matt Joyce; Sam Fuld; Ben Zobrist; Evan Longoria

The Tampa Bay Rays History began as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998. In their first ten seasons, the Devil Rays had a losing record in all ten, finishing last in the AL East nine times. Since removing the “Devil” from the team’s name, the Rays have had nothing but winning seasons since. In 2008, The Rays won the American League Pennant, beating the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS and the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS before losing to Philadelphia in the World Series.

Tampa Bay Rays Memorabilia

The 2009 Rays finished above .500 again and in third place behind the Yankees and Red Sox at 84-78. They were led by Carlos Pena with 39 homers and 100 RBIs.

In 2010, the Rays won their second AL East Championship with a 96-66 record on the last day of the regular season. They would go on to lose to Texas in the ALDS, Texas then won the AL Pennant. The Rays 96 wins were the second most in team history, one short of the 97 wins in the A.L. Championship season of 2008.  They were led by Evan Longoria with 22 homers and 104 RBIs.

In 2011, the Rays won the American League Wild Card on the last day of the regular season, and again lost to the Rangers in the ALDS. The Rangers again went on to win the AL Pennant. Game 162 was one of the most memorable not only in Rays history, but in baseball history. Trailing the New York Yankees 7-0 going into the bottom of the eighth and tied with the Boston Red Sox going into the game for the Wild Card spot, the Rays rallied for six runs in the eighth, the big blow a three-run Longoria homer to cut the lead to one run. Then with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, pinch hitter Dan Johnson found himself in an 0-2 hole before lining one over the right field wall just inside the foul pole to tie the game. Then in the 12th after the Rays got out of a major jam, Longoria hit a walk-off that was a mirror image of the Johnson homer just sneaking over the left field wall just inside the foul pole.

In 2012, the Rays hung tough nearly all season but missed the playoffs after finishing 90-72. It was the third straight 90-win season for the rays and fifth straight season over .500.

In 2013, the Rays again finished in thrilling fashion. They had the last six regular season games on the road, winning four of those including the last game against the Toronto Blue Jays. They finished in a tie with the Rangers for the final playoff spot. Since the rangers won the season series, the rays had to travel to Texas for the 163rd game. The Rays beat their playoff nemesis to advance to the A.L. Wild Card game at the Cleveland Indians two nights later. David Price pitched the Rays to a win over the Indians pitching a complete game. The Rays then went on to face the Red Sox in the ALDS where they lost a hard fought four game series to the eventual World Champions.

The Rays success has been built on their young starting pitching. Starters such as James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and Jeff Niemann have been very good since 2008. Hellickson currently has the lowest ERA of any active pitchers in his first 40 major league starts. Shields (who the Rays traded to Kansas City to aqire Wil Myers) and Price are both ALL-Star type pitchers, (Price started for the AL in 2010). Garza, who has since been traded to the Cubs, threw the Rays’ first no –hitter.

Also, the Rays have had some great young talent with their position players. Carl Crawford was an All-Star before signing as a free agent with the Red Sox in 2011. Evan Longoria is becoming the best third baseman in the game with his fielding and power hitting. When Crawford left, Desmond Jennings took over his spot in left field and the Rays haven’t missed a beat. B.J. Upton could go get the ball in centerfield with the best of them. When Upton was traded to the Braves, Jennings moved to centerfield. Kelly Johnson, Sam Fuld and later David DeJesus took over in left, each contributing to the team’s success.

Ben Zobrist is a switch-hitting player who can play both infield and outfield at an All Star level. And Carlos Pena played first base as well as anyone while providing big power numbers at the plate. James Loney has now taken his spot and has been just as good in the field and hits for a much higher average at the plate.

Wil Myers looks as if he may be a future All-Star. With him and Longoria locked up for the n foreseeable future, the rays should be set in the middle of the order.

But what makes the Rays really tough is how they take utility players and pitchers, turn them into stars, watch them sign big contracts as free agents with other clubs, and bring in more reclamation projects and do the same.

In 2010, Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit were outstanding in the bullpen. The Rays could not afford either pitcher so they both walked away after the season. The Rays then replaced them in 2011 (in fact the Rays replaced the entire bullpen) and were back in the playoffs, this time with Kyle Farnsworth as their closer. This year, with Farnsworth on the DL, the Rays have resurrected the career of Fernando Rodney, who is doing an outstanding job as the closer.

Manager Joe Maddon and his coaching staff know how to get the most out of their players. The Rays never feel they are out of it. Time and time again, the Rays have shown they can pull out wins in the late innings. They did have several games in the 2013 season where they let leads slip away in the late innings though. At times Peralta and Rodney struggled to close games out. The Rays had double digits losses in games they led after the seventh inning. If they can clean that up in 2014, they should once again be a top contender in the American League.

With Myers starting the season with the rays this year and hopefully the team getting a healthy Jeff Niemann back, they could really be good. DeJesus has also been signed for two years and Jake Odorizzi is about ready for the big leagues as well. The future looks bright for the Rays. The one big question looming over the franchise is whether to trade David Price or risk losing him to free agency following the 2014 season. But the Rays have shown in recent years that they normally make the right move in situations such as this one.

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