The Tampa Bay Rays are no longer a surprise.
They finished the 2013 season with a 92-71 (.564) record after winning Game 163 against the Texas Rangers to advance to the American League Wild Card Game. The Rays' season would end after getting eliminated in the American League Divisional Series by the Boston Red Sox in four games.
In the not-so-distant past, the postseason was a thing the Rays could only imagine.
The Rays spent the first decade of their existence (1998–2007) as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Devil Rays were annual bottom-dwellers of the American League East, with no winning seasons and no postseason appearances.
The team’s best finish in their first 10 seasons came in 2004 with a 70-91 record (.435). It was the only season in the Devil Rays era in which they did not finish last in the division. They finished second-to-last (fourth of five).
In 2008, they dropped the “Devil” off of their name, and the losing ways went with it. The Rays became a winning organization for the first time and advanced all the way to the World Series in their first postseason appearance.
The Rays have turned that winning season into a winning tradition, winning at least 90 games in five of their last six seasons. They have advanced to the postseason in four of their last six seasons, including two AL East pennants.
They have maintained all of their success despite the challenges of a low payroll and playing in a half-filled, outdated stadium in a small market.
The team is poised to keep the winning tradition alive in 2014.
The Rays' offseason news was focused on key acquisitions of closer Grant Balfour, relief pitcher Heath Bell and catcher Ryan Hanigan. They reversed the trend of trading starting pitchers with two years remaining on their deals by retaining ace David Price. They also re-signed first baseman James Loney, ensuring the entire infield of Gold Glove finalists (Loney, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Evan Longoria) will return intact.
With the amount of talent on the roster, the Rays will still be among the favorites in the American League.
Here is a preview of the 2014 Tampa Bay Rays.