World Series: Tampa's Time Runs Out, for Now
It was probably the most over-analyzed three innings worth of baseball most of us have witnessed.
It was also the most joyful stretch of baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Would Grant Balfour pitch? Who's Charlie Manuel going to pinch hit for Cole Hamels? Surely David Price will come in and Greg Dobbs or Matt Stairs would face him.
All wrong, and that's what makes it great.
That's what makes that two-day buildup so...irrelevant.
We look at the Phillies and we see a team that is built from top to bottom as a consistent club with all the right pieces.
Did they get hot at the right time? Yes, they did. But are they a product of a team on an unbelievable run?
Yes, a World Series run by a World-Series caliber team.
You have nothing to be ashamed of if you are a Rays' fan, player, or coach. Joe Maddon was not out-coached, the players put out their best effort, and the Phillies didn't shock the world.
They played good baseball, like both teams did. They just played better baseball.
Game Five was a battle of mental will. Strangely enough, both teams had it.
After much discussion over who would pitch, who would they pitch to, and when would they pitch, we finally got to finish this game.
Was it wise to start this game on Monday? Maybe not, but what other choice did Bud Selig have?
For as much heat MLB's commissioner gets, I thought this was handled the best way possible. If you don't start it, and things die down, you look bad. Then to suspend the game, and the sheer fact that it would have been suspended no matter the score. Well, that's just the right call when you are in the biggest stage of the game.
Both teams wanted to play, the fans wanted to see them play, and I think everyone got their money's worth.
Why? Because this is baseball and we love this game.
Both of these teams love the game.
Because we love the game, this isn't the time to second guess Maddon's move with J.P. Howell hitting, or the decision to leave him in the following half inning. It isn't about dissecting the game.
It's appreciating the game—the story—what we witnessed and realizing that we've got a little over 100 days 'til pitchers and catchers report.
While we are appreciating things, I think the sentiments of Tim Kurkjian need to be echoed.
Thank you, Joe Maddon for a wonderful story.
I think Maddon was spot on when he said that this was just the beginning of a new brand of Rays baseball.
The Rays came a long way, a way that just about every expert, fan, writer, or follower of the game thought that they had absolutely no chance of getting to.
You could have picked the Rays to win the division or make the playoffs. But if you thought the Rays would become a well-oiled machine that would participate in the World Series, you are flat out nuts.
This team was put together over years and years of failure, hard work, scouting, evaluating, and the belief that they could build a winner.
This team came together over one year with determination, a manager with a different way of looking at the game, and the belief that they could be a winner.
Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, the starting pitchers, who all put it together enough to support the team.
Dioner Navarro, Carlos Pena, Jason Barlett, Grant Balfour, the players that other teams did not want.
Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, the home-grown studs that will be the first players the Rays put into their history books as "Tampa Bay Greats."
Gabe Gross, Dan Wheeler, Akinori Iwamura, Eric Hinske, Cliff Floyd, Troy Percival, the grizzled veterans that mixed with the young stars to guide this team to the final destination.
Willy Aybar, Ben Zobrist, J.P. Howell, David Price, Rocco Baldelli, the players that stepped up when their team needed them in more ways than one and in their own unique way.
The front office that included Owner Stuart Sternberg, Team President Matthew Silverman, and General Manager Andrew Friedman. You can go down the organization's coaches, their Manager, Joe Maddon, and Pitching Coach Jim Hickey, who was ousted from Houston.
Don't forget about Don Zimmer, a senior adviser and new coaches’ assistant Brian Anderson who came into Rays' camp just looking to pitch again, but ended up in the middle of a great situation.
Those are your 2008 Tampa Bay Devil Rays, American League Champions.
I tip my hat to the Tampa Bay Rays and the story they've given us. However, that's all over now. Next year, they are not a story or a water cooler discussion topic for the casual fan.
Next year, the Tampa Bay Rays, they're for real.
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