Tampa Bay Wins ALCS: You Can't Put a Price on a Pennant

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IOctober 20, 2008

Hold on one second and take a step back.


Alright, now that baseball fans alike have been put through an emotional roller coaster, let's just take note of what we've seen.

For two years in a row, Tampa Bay has picked first in the MLB Draft. That means for the past two years, they've had the worst record in all of baseball.

This is a team built on losing.

Wait, what?

Year after year, top-10 pick after top-10 pick, and division cellar-dweller after division cellar-dweller, this team has done nothing but lose.

Take a look at the NHL and probably the best comparison to the Rays, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Year after year, the team would lose so much that they'd be picking high in the draft. That enabled them to stockpile young talent like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jordan Staal.

Take a look at the NFL and probably the worst comparison to the Rays, the Detroit Lions. Year after year, Matt Millen would field such an awful team, that they'd be guaranteed a top-10 pick in each draft. That enabled them to stockpile a bunch of young busts at wide receiver.

It's not how you lose, it's how you make the most of it.

Detroit made a myriad of bad decisions, whereas Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh did not.

By drafting sound players like Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton with high picks, Tampa will avoid falling into that group of teams that continuously make bad decisions and cannot get out of that hole that destroys badly run franchises

It isn't just drafting, but trading others pieces, like Delmon Young, for a pitcher like Matt Garza. It's also getting a little bit of luck like the New York Mets trading Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano.

That losing was what built this team, oddly enough. That losing enabled them to end this series when most people probably thought that Boston was going to in fact make yet another comeback.

They lost year after year. Not just at the bottom of the division, but at the bottom of the entire sport for so long. What were a few more losses for a team that has waited over a decade to win one final game?

It looked as if Boston perhaps had the Rays on the ropes. Pedroia goes deep in the first inning for the early lead and Jon Lester comes out dealing for the first three innings.

The focus wouldn't have been on so much the Rays collapse, but rather the ability the Red Sox have from coming back from improbable odds. Instead, Rocco Baldelli, just another great story within another great story came through.

ALCS MVP Matt Garza put forth yet another dazzling performance, allowing just the Pedroia home run and another additional hit. With Tampa, and under manager Joe Maddon, Garza has been able to tame his pitching style.

How often do you see a team like this come together in one year?

Usually it's a process; one that sees things get built piece by piece. Not that they weren't putting the pieces together before this year, but all of it came together in one year.

Now, we start the game in a losing spirit and end it with yet another product of a loser.

David Price, the result of another MLB-worst record in 2007, comes in and shuts the door.

If there was any team that could probably fend off the might Red Sox and their ability to come from the dead, it would be the Rays. Instead of that feeling of "We've lost and we're going to lose again," the Rays feel like "We've lost, but we've lost before."

So what if we've lost a few more games? It isn't anything worse than 10 straight losing seasons is it?

Now they head off to the World Series.

The Phillies are rested and waiting, Tampa Bay is thriving after fending off their stiffest competitor, a competitor that they've battled all year.

This season-long series between the Red Sox and Rays was the class competition of baseball. No two teams played each other tougher than these two A.L. East rivals.

Don't think that won't go a long way for the Rays in their next challenge.