Rays and Marlins: Luck Or Talent

Brandon LopezContributor IMay 23, 2008

Being a Tampa Bay Rays (27-20 2nd AL East) fan and a Florida Marlins (27-19 1st NL East) fan is no easy task, well except for two years for the Marlins. But this year I can defend them with stats and faith that Florida might have two teams in the playoffs for the first time.

I've read other articles and comments that the Rays' and Marlins' successful start to the season is a fluke. I know history says that teams that started hot when they weren't supposed to usually started to fade away, and got back to normal later on in the season. But I don't believe that will happen with the Rays and Marlins who are respectfully at the top of their tough divisions.

I work for the Rays and get to watch all of their games so I am credible when talking about them. I have been to the games against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and listened to their fans who filled up the stadium chant for their respective teams and talk about how the Rays haven't won a championship or even made the playoffs.

But its worth listening to it, because after the games they're quiet while walking out of the stadium after their team lost to the team thats never made it to the playoffs.

"Lets Go Red Sox, Lets Go Red Sox," thats what the Red Sox fans were chanting on their way out of the stadium after they lost game 1. "Lets Go Red Sox," that was the chant after they lost game 2.  "Lets Go Rays, Lets Go Rays," that was the chant after we won game 3.

It was the best sound I've ever heard at one of the Rays games. I know they swept us the next week in Boston, but we showed that we can beat them at home like they can beat us when they're home. The Rays aren't going to be pushed around by everybody this year and for many years to come.

The Rays pitching has been sensational this year with an ERA of 3.81, best in the AL East, and Scott Kazmir only has four starts. James Shields already has two CG shutouts already, against the L.A. Angels and the Red Sox, and isn't even the team leader in wins. Andy Sonnanstine is the team wins leader with 6. Most of you never heard of him.

The Rays offense has followed the great pitching up with solid hitting and timely hits. Carl Crawford is batting .276 with 28 RBI and 12 SB, while B.J. Upton is batting .286 with 27 RBI and 11 SB. Rookie Evan Longoria has fit in well and already has 20 RBI and 2 game winning hits. The Rays lead the AL with 46 stolen bases and use speed as a big part of their game.

They have played well against the tough AL East with an 18-12 record. Ill admit it, I am scared about the rest of the season. But I do believe that we have the team that can make a run for the playoffs.

Now, the Marlins are easier to defend because they actually won two World Series before. The seasons that they did win, no one expected them to win or predicted them to make the playoffs. I haven't watched too many Marlins games but I do watch ESPN like everyone else and they look like a very good team.

I didn't even expect them to do anything this season, I was ready to sit back and watch them play last place baseball. But to my surprise, and MLB's surprise, they are first in a tough NL East. 

They have a team batting average of .264 which is 10th in the majors. They have a team ERA of 4.14, which is decent when you have 65 home runs as a team.

Scott Olsen has looked excellent with a 4-1 record and a 2.82 ERA. Opening day starter Mark Hendrickson is a surprising 6-2, and rookie Andrew Miller is starting to come around and has a record of 4-3.

The explosive offense is coming from the 2007 rookie of the year Hanley Ramirez who is looking even better than last year with a .303 BA, 9 HR, 23 RBI, and 13 SB. Dan Uggla is batting .314 with 14 jacks. The "old" Luis Gonzalez is contributing more than his experience with a .288 BA.

The Marlins, like the Rays, have an impressive record against their division going 12-5. The Marlins bounced back from a weak series against the K.C. Royals with a sweep of the first place Arizona Diamondbacks, and also handed Brandon Webb is first loss of the season making him 9-1.

Im not worrying about the Marlins anymore because I've seen them win when no one thought it was possible.

Look, every team goes into a slump and starts losing, but the talented teams rebound from the losing streaks and start winning. I believe the Rays and Marlins have the talent to do that. Some people said that the Rays didn't have experience winning to continue to win. Well they won 27 games thats enough experience winning if you ask me, and if you add that to the games they won last year with a less talented team that adds more experience.

Its going to be the Wild Wild East this season, look for an exciting finish in both divisions with two teams that you're not used to seeing at the top.