Times have changed, and it’s time to embrace the Rays.
With the ’09 season just around the corner, I thought I’d reflect one last time on what made being a Rays fan in 2008 so much fun and why the rest of baseball should embrace this franchise in the years ahead.
The Rays have provided us with hope for the sport, and a sexy alternative to the big money teams. If you haven’t yet, here are some fabulous reasons to embrace the Rays.
Youth, Speed and Defense
The Rays are one of the youngest teams in baseball, making them an exciting team to watch, with a group of players that the younger generation can relate to. Last year’s Rays team featured 10 players age 25 or younger, and 19 players under 30. With rising stars such as B.J. Upton, 24, David Price, 23, and Evan Longoria, 23, the Rays are here to stay.
As a result of this youth the team features fantastic speed and defense, a perfect turnaround for a sport coming out of the steroid era. While AL East competitors fielded a bunch of aging, un-athletic former stars, the Rays brought an excitement that had been missing from the game. My personal favorite was the occasional “track star” outfield of Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Fernando Perez.
The “sexy alternative” to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry
To fully appreciate what the Rays did last season you have to think back and remember where they were at this time last year. We’re talking about a franchise that had never had a winning season in its 10-year existence and even the thought of a .500 season in ‘08 was, for the most part, laughed at.
Then the Rays went out and did the unthinkable, first literally fighting with both the Yankees and Red Sox, before beating them on the field.
I’ve come to really despise the Yankees and to a lesser extent the Red Sox because of their negative influence on the game. The Rays provide a way to easily educate and offend these annoying fans. I’ve found that nothing makes a Boston fan more upset than telling them the truth of how they’ve turned into the new Yankees.
Meanwhile, nothing makes a Yankee fan more upset than informing them that it is now a battle between the Red Sox and Rays, and that their team is no longer a factor. I’ve found a quick way to deal with these annoying fans is by simply saying “Times have changed...The Rays.” They’ll understand.
When I say the Rays are the sexy alternative. I really do mean “sexy”. If you are a Rays fan, you will be given every opportunity to look great. The Rays changed their uniforms prior to last season, and the new look has the power to turn even the most run-down fan into new levels of attractiveness.
Baseball the way it was meant to be
Instead of going out and buying a team like their rivals, the Rays are a homegrown, low budget team that has gotten good by building from within. They give hope to all who truly love the game, as they combat the big money teams that would seek to turn the sport into nothing more than a big business venture.
You have to respect a team that has worked hard and made good decisions, instead of just throwing money around to fix problems. The Rays did it with scouting and development, which is a lot more fun for the fan to observe than our big-money AL East rivals. The farm system is arguably the best in the game, thanks to an exceptional front office and scouting network.
Last year they competed with the big money teams and came out on top. The Yankees had an MLB-high payroll of 209 million dollars, the Red Sox 133 million. The first-place Rays? 43 million, second only to the Florida Marlins for the lowest payroll. And while the media pumps guys like Jeter and Pedroia, the casual fan does not hear anything about guys like B.J. Upton, James Shields and other young stars.
Last season the Rays represented something so much bigger than baseball. While most teams just represent a city or a group of people, the Rays represent fighting off oppression and tyranny. They represent the lower classes struggle against the elites. Rarely can a team transcend the sport in this way. So if you haven’t already, I’d suggest asking yourself if the Rays are for you. For the Rays fans out there, stay strong, because the haters are all over the place in 09.
“Mine in 09” –The Rays