A little more than month and a half is gone of the season and many columns have resurface in the national media of whom will be this year Tampa Bay Rays. National media writers have start it questioning if Joe Maddon’ American League championship was a one-year wonder last season.
Much of the buzz is not many were expecting the Rays this season would fall down to the cellar of the American League East Division like in their old days. Well, honestly no one thought either the 2008 Rays were for real. Tampa Bay under the originally named “Devil Rays” for their first ten seasons never had a winning record in their pennant. The best was a fourth place finish in 2004.
After the impressive 2008 season, Joe Maddon acknowledged that the next Rays this season are going to be themselves.
“I’m very optimistic we can be better,” Maddon said. “I will be pleased if we fulfill our goals again”.
Last season the would be 2008 American League Manager of the Year and his squad surprised the baseball world first by winning its East Division pennant, winners over the Chicago White Sox in the wild-card battle, the beat the heavily favored Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. The dream was over when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
At the moment many are calling into question if the magic is out. If in reality, the Rays overachieved in 2008.
Arguably, as a team the collective batting and pitching stats are in the middle of the pack in their circuit. Individually Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Carlos Peña are enjoying an All-Star caliber season.
So far, the differences are the whole starting pitching core is struggling with a higher opponent and earned run average than last year. The offense is leaving runners in scoring position by a ton. The defense efficiency is not even close to their best in the Majors from last season.
“I’m very optimistic we can turn things around, ” Maddon said. “There is no question we have a very good team”.
“I have the confidence we can get back. We have to fight and keep the intensity up, ” Maddon added.
Maddon, a history buff, knows no World Series loser since 2005 have been in the post-season the next season and he want to break that streak. However, to silence his critics he knows he have to make a run and fast. The Rays at the moment are at present behind the surprising first place Toronto Blue Jays and their nemesis Red Sox and New York Yankees.
This column was also published by The Puerto Rico Daily Sun / MLB Commentary