The Tampa Bay Rays, and Why The Heck They're Still Winning

Timothy BogerCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2008

Here's a bit of a stretch relation/link. And, like most things I think, I'm not quite sure if it's something you'll get too.

The Rays have missed Longoria, Crawford, and Percival in the last few weeks. It was supposed to have a major impact on the Rays' success this season, maybe even cause a trainwreck for the surprise scrappy team from the Trop.

So what is it that despite the loss of Crawford--the first of the three big injuries--the Rays continue their tear, going 11-3 since August 8th?

Now, granted, they have definitely not lost all of their power or anything. Carlos Pena has been great for them as well. Certainly cannot overlook the talent contributed by ex-Twins Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, and most recently, Grant Balfour in the open closing role.

Balfour, with possibly baseball's most unfortunate last name (for a pitcher, no less). Through 36 games, Balfour has pitched 42 innings and allowed just 18 hits--leading to a WHIP of 0.905. His ERA is a phenomenal 1.50.

But I think the most important element of the Rays success is team chemistry and confidence. And here's my thought.

Remember in Rookie of the Year (among the greatest movies of all time, by the way) at the end? Henry Rowengardner un-wrecks his arm, thereby negating his power. But before we know it, he shows the camera at the end his Series ring. Have you ever stepped back and say- Hey?! How'd he get that? Surely they didn't WIN the Series without him?

And it makes the story all the more legendary. It's most evident that the team chemistry and the desire to win far exceeded any need for Rowengardner's rocket arm. And the teamwork that we never saw finished the story. They won the Series with that chemistry.

So likewise, the Rays got the injection of energy from their three now-injured stars. And their caliber of play remains constant despite the absence of these guys. Every day fewer and fewer people doubt these Rays, and this current stretch is a perfect example of why they are to be feared as a contender down the stretch.