Tampa Bay Rays Get Price Checked

Chip StevensonCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2008

I'm sure that Major League Baseball was hoping for a better World Series matchup than the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that can barely fill its stadium during playoff games, against the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that hasn't won the World Series since 1980.

They had a chance at landing the hottest chick in high school and slow dancing with her in front of everyone on prom night with a potential Los Angeles Dodgers-Boston Red Sox series. Instead, they ended up being forced to take all of those awkward pre-prom pictures with the ugly sister and pretend they are happy about it even though all they can think about is the one that got away.

Still, there are some good storylines to this year's World Series, and one of them is David Price, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 MLB draft.

All season long, I heard about how Price was dominating in the minor leagues to the tune of a 12-1 record and a 2.30 ERA. Everyone expected him to be a secret weapon—an ace in the hole—for a Rays team that was contending for the first time in its existence. Baseball analysts all over the country couldn't wait to see Price play a huge role in the Rays' playoff push—only it never happened.

He was called up in September, but he definitely did not live up to all of the hype. His stuff was certainly there, and his results left fans begging for more, but he only ended up appearing in five games and throwing a total of 14 big league innings. Even though he showed that he could contribute in those few innings, his career was put on the back burner as the Rays succeeded without him on their way to the playoffs. David Price was a forgotten man.

Then, almost completely out of the blue, there was Price on the mound in Game Seven of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. Price had appeared in just one previous playoff game, but here he was facing the dominant Red Sox lineup with the bases loaded in a 3-1 game.

Joe Maddon, the Rays manager, was finally using his secret weapon in the most important situation of the season. But would Price's utter lack of big league experience come back to haunt him?

I honestly couldn't believe my eyes. Just a year ago, Price was starting games for Vanderbilt, pitching against kids that I played against in high school (Zach Putnam, Adam Abraham, Doug Pickens...) and losing! The University of Michigan knocked Vanderbilt out of the College World Series by hitting a 10th inning home run off of the man that now held the keys to the Rays' entire season.

In one year, he went from throwing against my competition and failing to throwing against J.D. Drew with the bases loaded in Game Seven of the ALCS in a two-run game with both teams' seasons hanging in the balance—a dream scenario that could have so easily turned into a nightmare.

After being barely used throughout the season, he stepped onto the mound, charged with getting the most important outs of the Tampa Bay Rays' franchise when he had appeared in only six total games before. No problem. Two 87 MPH sliders and one 97 MPH fastball later, Drew was walking back to his dugout in disbelief, while David Price was walking back to his a legend.

Instead of buckling under the pressure like so many people would have done, he owned that moment, and, because of him, the Rays marched on to the World Series.

He made an appearance last night in Game Two. Again, he was charged with getting the most important outs of the game, and, again, he succeeded. It didn't matter to J.D. Drew that Price had only a few big league innings under his belt, and it certainly didn't matter to the Phillies last night.

Players with dominating ability and ice water in their veins are rare—Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana. Huge names. Successful players. Legends.

Maybe we'll have one more to add to that list when David Price's career is over.