In their first year as a playoff team, the Tampa Bay Rays have the look of a winner.
I’m having a hard time with that. The Rays?! A winner?!
The Chicago White Sox are convinced, or should be, after being disposed of in four games by Tampa Bay. The Rays now play the Boston Red Sox for the American League pennant.
I suppose I should be convinced, as well. They have a terrific manager in Joe Maddon. He’s scrappy and enthusiastic and his personality infiltrates the clubhouse. He was bench coach when the Angels won it all in 2002 and served in that role until Tampa Bay hired him to skipper their team before last season.
The team has a great mix of veterans and youth. It’s a time-tested cliche about teams (and especially baseball teams), but the Rays have the right amount of experience in all the right places. Look at their roster. It’s something to appreciate.
Their pitching staff is deep and talented. Ace Scott Kazmir is entering his prime and is capable of overmatching any lineup he faces. James Shields always gives his team a chance to win. Andy Sonnanstine pitched a solid game in the series clincher over the ChiSox.
Their infield has All-Stars at its corners and defensive stalwarts up the middle. Their outfields all have a mix of speed and power. Their DH spot is occupied with some attitude.
Their bullpen has been a little shaky and they don’t have a legit closer, but the group is doing enough to save and even win games, and that’s all that matters.
And they play in a dingy sound booth. The decibel level during Game 2 registered as the third loudest in MLB history. Their fans are hungry and loud. Or maybe angry and drunk. Either way, there’s a buzz in St. Petersburg, Fla., and it’s reverberating from Tropicana Field.