For a franchise that suffered 10 full seasons of agony, starting in its inaugural 1998 season, being able to contend for the last three seasons has been an incredible luxury.
The Tampa Bay Rays have averaged 92 wins over the last three seasons and have won the American League East two of these three years. To do this with such a modest payroll (especially in comparison with the division-rival Yankees or Red Sox) is a testament to the genius of Executive VP Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon.
This year, however, the Rays face a challenge. They gave up an arm, a leg and seemingly one side of their brain this offseason. In the eyes of many, the loss of players like Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza and Carlos Pena was a death sentence.
But as the Rays start training for the 2011 season in Port Charlotte, hope springs eternal. The looming giants, the Red Sox and Yankees, await the Rays' competition this season.
Despite that, here are 10 reasons the Rays can contend yet again.