Let’s face it. The Rays winning the AL East is like Duke winning the ACC…in football. They have finished dead last in every year of their existence but one, and that year they were next to last. Couple that with the fact that the ’08 AL East will probably go down as the toughest division since realignment, and this year’s Tampa squad has put together a season that Disney movies are made of. And this movie wouldn’t have to be about how they were so desperate for pitching that they signed a late–thirties, high school science teacher to come out of their bullpen.
But if the Rays are actually going to get into the post-season, they are going to have to go through one of the most brutal months in baseball history. They are in the middle of a 31 game span that includes (3) with the Angels, (3) with the White Sox, (6) with Boston, (6) with New York, and (4) with Minnesota. That means of the good teams in the American League, Tampa plays ALL OF THEM in a month’s span. 22 out of 31 games against the teams either in the playoffs, or still battling. And the other nine games, you ask? Six of them are against Toronto, who probably isn’t in contention, but are over .500, and when you can roll out Halladay, Burnett and company, they are certainly not the “bad team” you’re looking for if you’re the Rays.
Now, they’ve already played six of these games, taking two each from the Angels and White Sox. They actually should have swept the Sox, except for a bad break on a ground rule double. The fact that Longoria is supposed to be back should help too. But wow! What a schedule!
Am I thinking that they are going to fall apart and both the Red Sox and Yankees are going to catch them? No way. The Red Sox could, but the Yankees post-season hopes lie only in the wild card. However, it is possible that Boston pass them, and the wild card comes out of the Central. That would leave this Cinderella story with a very unhappy ending. We’ll all see what the young Rays are made of, and maybe this baseball season does for Tampa what the ’95 season did for Seattle. Remember, for almost twenty years Seattle was a baseball wasteland. Then, with one playoff run, it instantly thrived. Can this happen is West Florida? Who knows? If the Rays win half of the 31 games we’ll find out.