You "didn't listen!" - Randy Marsh (South Park, Season 9, Episode 8)
At the end of March, I called the Tampa Bay Rays my American League East division winners in my 'Division by Division Preview'. At this time, I was alone in this thinking. People could see my argument, but they wouldn't buy it.
It took until close to the midway point in the 2008 season before people finally starting to cling onto the idea that the Rays could in fact, compete for the playoffs. However, despite being one of the top three teams in baseball, and leading the American League East, there was a still a feeling that it wouldn't be this year.
Clearly, I disagreed. The Rays had become my adopted team. The Indians were failing and the Bisons were difficult to watch. I felt justified in rooting for the Rays, not only because of my preseason prediction, but also because of my despise towards the Red Sox.
At the All Star Break the Rays were sitting half a game out of first place. It was at this point, where the non-believers stepped forward and proudly said, 'I told you so'. Experts were talking about the feel goodedness of the Rays 2008 season and had claimed them as a team to watch in 2009.
But it was too late, someone had already stepped up to the plate and claimed the Rays as the team to watch. The Rays were my darling of 2008, the team had 'progressed' toward the mean and with a few minor additions were an entirely different team. I wasn't willing to give up on the 2008 Rays, and felt that you shouldn't either.
With July completed the Rays had squashed their half game deficit and built up a 3 game lead over the Red Sox in the division. It appeared as though the difficult first half of games was going to benefit the Rays entering August and September.
Despite a slew of major injuries, the Rays fought hard and held onto the division lead. The 2008 Rays had, as I predicted, won the American League East division title, finishing with baseball's third best record. The Rays finished the season with Major League Baseball best home record, which despite the clamor for more fans in the stands, clearly was not necessary.
The playoffs are upon us. The Rays are facing off against a veteran laden team in Chicago. A team that relies more then any other team on scoring runs via the long ball. I picked the Rays to win this series in five games, not because I think the White Sox match up favorably against the Rays, but because I anticipate a melt down by Rays ace, Scott Kazmir (there is, afterall, a reason he is pitching in Game 2 instead of Game 1).
Over at Baseball Digest Daily, the Rays are the only unanimous choice to win their series. In fact, most of the authors believe there series will take the minimum amount of games.
"I started a joke, that started the whole world laughing. If only I'd seen, that the joke was on me"
-James William Hindle, 2001