The sky was falling in the offseason in St. Petersburg.
Carl Crawford? Gone. Carlos Pena? Adios. Rafael Soriano? See Ya. Jason Bartlett? Bye. Matt Garza? Later. Joaquin Benoit? Hit the road.
"Holy fire sale, Batman! Who does that leave us with?"
It did not look good.
Sam Fuld? A washed up Johnny Damon? A roided up Manny? Eek.
And it started out looking pretty awful. Not only were the Rays 0-6, but they would've given anything for a two-run scoring outburst. Not a two-run inning, a two-run GAME!
But a funny thing is happening. The guys who left St. Pete, some for HUGE money, are not doing a whole lot. Carl Crawford is struggling mightily as the Sox are trying to turn him into a leadoff hitter. Carlos Pena has no HRs and four RBI for the Cubs. Garza has an ERA of 6.27.
Bartlett is hitting .196 for the Padres. Soriano has an 8.20 ERA for the Yankees.
Now, are all these guys going to suck this badly all year? Probably not. But what if they do? The Rays are going to look like geniuses!
And how about Johnny Damon? He's the AL co-Player of the Week this week. He has a couple of walk-off hits this week. He also had runs batted in for six straight games.
And Sam Fuld? Is there anybody playing better than Fuld? He's hitting .450 and has turned in three spectacular catches in the outfield so far.
And guess what? The Rays are now creeping toward the .500 mark already at 7-9. And Evan Longoria, their franchise player, hasn't played yet.
Is this a playoff team? No. But if this team can finish somewhere near the .500 mark, the fans should be happy with that.
Then maybe the St. Pete/Tampa area will decide that this franchise is worth supporting. Maybe someone will decide to put a ballpark where people can get to it. And maybe they will be able to keep some of these guys in the future. Maybe they can keep Longoria and David Price and build a team around them.
If this happens, we can look back on this year being a critical one in the history of the Tampa Bay Rays. And we will owe a big thank you to Sam Fuld, Kyle Farnsworth and Johnny Damon