The Rays, playing the part of Cinderella, are the real story of the 2008 World Series. A team rising from the trenches of one season to win a championship the next is not as uncommon as you might think. Last season, the Diamondbacks came back from a horrible year in 2006 (76-86) to win the N.L. West in ‘07 (90-72).
The amazing thing about the Tampa Bay Rays is that they not only went from having the worst record in baseball to being the A.L. representative in the World Series, but that until this season, they had never ranked better than fourth in their division, a feat they accomplished back in 2004.
In fact, Lou Piniella, the manager at the time, even popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate this fourth-place status.
When Joe Maddon became the fourth manager of the Rays in December 2005, he brought with him a positive, can-do attitude that helped a then-crippled Devil Rays team believe they could win; and win they did this season.
The Rays ended the season with an impressive 97-65 record, third best in the American League. Maddon used a team-building analogy that the players and the fans embraced; 9=8. It meant nine players working together would be one of the eight teams in the playoffs. Little did he know that nine would equal two, with his Rays still playing ball in late October.
Winning Game Four of the World Series has been shown in the past to be crucial in taking home the trophy. In the last 50 years, 35 World Series champions have won Game Four.
The Rays left Tropicana Field with the series tied 1-1, and then had a disappointing late-night loss in Game Three. They made a valiant effort, but in the bottom of the ninth, a single off the bat of Carlos Ruiz ended the night for the Rays.
Tonight, Andy Sonnanstine is on the mound, and now more than ever, the Rays are depending on him to keep the Phillies from putting this series out of reach. Sonnanstine was an important part of their win in Game Four of the ALCS against the Red Sox and has an ERA if 2.82 in his last six starts, including the playoffs. He has often been called the Rays' forgotten starter but has recently proven to be an asset to their bullpen.
Tonight, America will be watching Game Four, and I will be there among them with the hopes of a win for the Rays. This dynamic, underdog team deserves its place in baseball history.
Liz Churchville is a guest writer for Studyofsports.com