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News » Rays crashing the postseason party 2008-10-08


Rays crashing the postseason party 2008-10-08


Rays crashing the postseason party 2008-10-08
PHILADELPHIA - Tampa Bay is baseball's poster child for parity in a game where the rich seemingly get richer year in and year out.

The Rays are this year's team for the working man.

Line up the four teams that have advanced to the ALCS and NLCS.

2008 MLB playoffs


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Boston, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Dodgers?

Which one doesn't fit?

The Rays. They have crashed baseball's October Martini Party, and brought their own keg with them. This is a team that opened the season with the second-lowest payroll in baseball, and here the Rays are, battling with the likes of the Red Sox, Dodgers and Phillies (all among the top 10 payrolls in the game) for the 2008 title.

And here's the surprising part: It shouldn't be that big a shocker.

Not since 1999 have the have-nots been left out of the postseason party. That was the year that the teams with the six biggest payrolls (and eight of the top 11) were postseason participants. It's the year the highest-paid team in baseball, the Yankees, knocked off the highest-paid team in the National League, the Braves, in the World Series.

Since then, a small market team has crashed the festivities every year.

And nobody has gotten more bang for their buck than the Rays. The only other time a team with the second-lowest payroll in baseball got into the postseason was Oakland in 2001, and those A's were first-round victims of the Yankees. The Rays? They got through the first round just fine, disposing of the White Sox in four games, and Friday night at the Tropicana Dome they host the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS.

Now they would like to one up their Sunshine State rivals, the Florida Marlins, who won the World Series in 2003 with the 25th highest salary.

In doing so, they'd give fans across the country a lot of hope.

If the Rays can play in October, why can't any other team?

Think about it. In their 10th year of existence, they lost fewer than 90 games for the first time in their history, finished higher than fourth place for the first time ever, and beat out the Red Sox and Yankees to claim the AL East title.

So much for that Pittsburgh pity party, where the low-budget Pirates have stumbled their way to 16 consecutive losing seasons. The Rays are sipping champagne despite a beer budget.

Think about it.

Carlos Pena is the highest-paid player on the Tampa Bay roster at $6 million. The Red Sox paid Manny Ramirez $7 million to not play for them the final two months, sending that money to Los Angeles to get the Dodgers to get him out of Fenway. Pena would be the 10th highest-paid player in Boston. He would be 11th with the Dodgers. He would be tied with Jamie Moyer for eighth on the Phillies' payroll.

The Rays had a season-opening payroll of $43.8 million for its entire roster. Boston paid its three outfielders $38 million. The Dodgers had $40 million invested up the middle. The Phillies were committed to $29 million for its starting infield alone.

The Rays don't have an MVP candidate or Cy Young hopeful.

Pena led the team with 31 home runs and 102 RBI. The only other Rays with 15 home runs were Evan Longoria (27) and Eric Hinske (20). Longoria (85) was the only other Ray with as many as 70 RBI. Akinori Iwamura led the Rays with a .274 average. Edwin Jackson led the team with 14 regular-season wins but wasn't in the AL Division Series rotation. James Shields had a team-best 3.56 ERA.

Glitz and glamour? The Dodgers shelled out a $36.2 million, two-year deal for Andruw Jones. Boston is paying injury-prone J.D. Drew $70 million over five years. The Phillies lured free agent Adam Eaton to a three-year, $24.15 million deal two years ago and had him in Single-A at one point this year, praying he could become a contributor before his contract expires in 12 months.

Tampa Bay? The Rays get blasted for giving away former No. 1 pick outfielder Delmon Young to Minnesota for shortstop Jason Bartlett, who becomes arguably their MVP, and right-hander Matt Garza, who stepped into the third starter role in his first full big-league season. They gamble on the knees of outfielder Cliff Floyd. They rush third baseman Evan Longoria to the big leagues less than two years after he was a first-round pick, and fill out their bullpen with Troy Percival, who comes out of retirement to become the closer.

Want bang for the buck?

When the Dodgers get tired of watching Andruw Jones embarrass himself, they hide him on the bench. When Manny becomes a headache in Boston, the Red Sox give him away. When B.J. Upton acts up in Tampa, manager Joe Maddon challenges the potential superstar, forcing him to conform instead of kowtowing, and Upton matures.

That's why the Rays are still hanging around, rubbing shoulders with the Dodgers and Phillies and Red Sox. They may have only bought a general admission ticket but they show no signs of going home early from the postseason party.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 8, 2008

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