I’m not sure whether to include them in book yet or not, but the story of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 Major League Baseball seems like a story written in Hollywood. Here is a team who is at 50-32 at about the halfway point of the season – Tampa lost their 32nd game on June 5th last year and won their 50th game on August 25th. At that point they were already 28.5 games behind the division leader in the AL East.
This year is a whole different story. The AL East division leader is a team who had finished anywhere but the basement of the division only once in the franchise history (4th in 2004) and stand with the best record in all of baseball. I know my brother and I would talk about it every spring training that this year might be the year that Tampa really surprises some people but every year they would get bogged down by injuries or lack of depth in their pitching staff. They usually had a decent offense to hold their own in a competitive AL East against the offensive powerhouses of the Yankees, Red Sox and when they felt like it the Blue Jays. Again, this year is a whole different story.
Where did this team come from? A record of 31-13 (.705) at home and .500 on the road, having their worst losing streak of the season (4 games) in the first two weeks of the season from April 6-9 either shows this team has yet to hit a mid season slump or is capable of bouncing back after losses to avoid long losing streaks. They have had two separate streaks of winning at least 6 games (4/22-4/27 and 5/8-5/13) already, they are 15-10 in one run games and 14-10 in games decided by five or more runs. They are combined 9-11 against the Red Sox (4-6) and the Yankees (5-5) after 20 games. Four out of their first five series following the All-Star break are against teams that are below .500 (Blue Jays, Royals, Mariners, and Indians) with the only series being against Detroit Tigers who finally cracked .500 for the first time all season.
Tampa Bay Rays have gone 42-21 since starting of the season at 8-11, 33-17 in their past 50 games and along the way have managed to piss off the Yankees and Red Sox with a few punches and hard slides as well. What else can you really ask for from a team who who went 67-95 last year – Rays are only 17 wins away from last year’s total and it’s only the half way point of the season.
Just take a look at some of these stats:
- Days in First Place: 21 (had only been in first about 12-15 days in their entire 10 year franchise history prior to this year)
- Most Games over .500: 18 games (50-32 as of right now)
- Most Games under .500: 3 games (on 4/20 when they dropped to 8-11, have gone 42-21 since)
- Biggest Division Lead: 1.5 games (over Red Sox as of right now)
- Furthest Behind Leader: 5.0 games (last time on 4/22)
A good majority of these stats are from http://www.baseball-reference.com. If you are a baseball fan, this is a must visit site. It really has a ton of stats and is constantly being updated.
Anyways, here is to hoping that the Rays have just as successful of a 2nd half as they did in the first and what a World Series match-up it would be if itwas the Rays against the lovable losers in Chicago Cubs. Two franchises marred with losing stretches, on the brink of greatness.