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The Sunshine State of Florida is home to the AL East’s Tampa Bay Rays. Approved as an MLB expansion team for the 1998 season, the Rays struggled mightily in the early years of their existence, rarely moving out of the last place spot in their division.
They were able to capture their first divisional championship in 2008, eventually earning their first AL pennant while advancing to the World Series where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. A disappointing end to a great playoff run, the team just had no gas left in the tank after an incredible American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox which went seven games. More playoff appearances would follow in 2010, 2011, and 2013 but the Rays have never made it back to the Fall Classic.
Advancing to the postseason will never be easy for Tampa as they play in the famous AL East alongside tough opponents such as the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Last season’s frustrating record of 68-94 earned them the last place spot in the division. Tampa will need to improve greatly while adding new talent to the mix if they expect to climb out of the basement.
The Tampa Bay Rays have, historically, had a tendency to grow their talent through the draft and farm system. However, in today’s MLB you need a small boost in addition to this philosophy if you expect to make an impact. The Rays may finally be accepting this as they made a few moves in the offseason with the hopes of improving their club. Free agent catcher Wilson Ramos signed on with the Rays, but he will be out of commission for some time with a torn ACL. They also added Colby Rasmus and Mallex Smith to their outfield. While not the major splash you seem some teams make, these little waves could prove effective if all goes well.
The infield consisting of Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, and Matt Duffy should be able to produce some decent numbers, adding to the chances that Tampa can take a step forward this year. The pitching rotation has the capability of growing into something special with Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Alex Cobb, and Matt Andriese taking the mound.
By no means is this team being looked at as a World Series contender, but with hard work and a little luck, they may squeak through as a wild card team. History shows that you just need to make it to the tournament. Once you make it in anything can happen.
While the history of this team has not yet run into its third decade of existence, there have been a number of important players to lace up their cleats for this organization. Among the most favored by the Tampa faithful are Evan Longoria, David Price, Ben Zobrist, Carl Crawford, and James Shields. Click here to learn more about the Tampa Bay Rays franchise.