The Rays surprised everybody when they made it to the 2008 World Series. Even with one of the lowest payrolls in the league, those Rays used teamwork and excellent coaching to make an historic playoff run. Now with 11 players gone from last yearâ€™s postseason roster, one question remains. Can they do it again?
All signals are pointing no, but one can never underestimate the brilliance of Joe Maddon. The cerebral coach, with his trademark glasses, has been credited with making the Rays a winning franchise. Heck, for a decade the Rays (then the Devil Rays) were one of the worst franchises in the history of Major League Baseball. His ability to develop players, form lineups, and make in-game decisions is among the best in the league.
Also, the Rays believe they have a strong core of young players that can replace all who left in the offseason. Guys like Jeremy Hellickson, Jake McGee, Reid Brignac, and Desmond Jennings all have high expectations. Hellickson is no Matt Garza, McGee is no Rafael Soriano, Brignac is no Jason Bartlett, and Jennings is no Carl Crawford, but the organization truly thinks that they can all be as good as or better than their predecessors.
Then thereâ€™s the addition of two former â€œIdiots.â€ Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez both signed during the offseason and add a bit of experience to this young squad. Although 37 and 39 years of age, Damon and Ramirez think they have plenty left in the tank to make a contribution. While I appreciate their optimism, I just donâ€™t think theyâ€™re going to be huge game-changers for the Rays this season. I definitely believe that they were signed to be a veteran presence on an otherwise â€œgreenâ€ squad.
Everybody knows the Red Sox are the favorites to win the division this year but donâ€™t count these Rays out of the playoffs quite yet. They have a great coach, exciting young players, and two potential Hall of Famers ready to make one final playoff run. I think they have a shot at winning the wild card spot but not much more than that. But then again, you never know with these feisty Rays.