Tampa Bay Rays Advance To American League Championship, Defeat White Sox

Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rays, who continue to prove that small markets teams need not complain about their lack of resource and get busy developing home grown talent.

Tampa Bay had never won more than 70 games in their previous 10 seasons and possessed baseball’s worst record a year ago. This year’s Rays aren’t quite finished, but it’s already an incredible story. 97 wins, the AL East title over the big bad Yankees and Red Sox. And now, a trip to the American League Championship Series which they may very well host if Boston wins one of the final two games.

The turning point for the organization was in 2005 when Stuart Sternberg took control of the team and made the bold move to appoint Matt Silverman as team president and Andrew Friedman as the general manager, both of whom were under the age of 30.

Silverman and Friedman didn’t draft all these young stars, but they’ve contributed significantly to their development along with manager Joe Maddon. Not to mention trading away some draft picks for key contributors in this 2008 campaign

2002 — BJ Upton
2003 — Delmon Young (sent to Twins for Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza)
2006 — Evan Longoria

The 2007 top draft pick David Price will have his impact soon enough. Not a bad use of draft spending, what do you think?

While all the young talent deserves plenty of credit for their growth amid a mundane baseball environment in Tampa, it’s Joe Maddon who has convinced everyone that they too can win and why not now. Plus, Maddon just seems like a damn cool guy which is a bit of a unique description when it comes to baseball managers.

Since the Cubs are out — likely forever — I must jump on another bandwagon for the remainder of these playoffs to maintain interest. So, why not the Rays? An LA-Boston World Series would be intriguing, but you can’t beat a Cinderella story like the Rays.

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)