If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and what they will do, and why. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans.
On the tenth day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, TEN meaningful games in September…
Entering the 2007 season, the Milwaukee Brewers had not posted a winning record since 1992, a streak of 14 consecutive seasons without breaking .500. The Brewers finished 83-79 and out of the playoffs. From a distance the season could be seen as a failure for a team that looked to be playoff-bound most of the year. While missing the post-season stung, try and tell Brewers fans that the season was a loss. For the first time in over a decade they had something to root for after the all-star break.
In the NBA and the NHL, 53.3% (16 of 30) of the teams qualify for the playoffs. In the NFL that number is 37.5% (12 of 32). In baseball, only 26.7% (8 of 30) of the teams qualify for the post-season. October baseball is an extremely difficult accomplishment as evidenced by the fact that six teams have longer playoff droughts than the Tampa Bay Rays.
While big budget franchises like the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees have the goal of winning a championship every season, small-market teams must set their annual goals a little lower. The Tampa Bay Rays and other small-market clubs should aim to be competitive year-in and year-out. If Rays can be consistently competitive and in the penant race every year…every once in a while the balls will bounce the Rays way or the team might be able to ride a hot-streak into the playoffs and make a run at a championship.
All any baseball fan can ever truly ask of their team is to be competitive on a regular basis (Even Yankees fans who have a hard time remembering the 12-year playoff drought in the 80′s and early 90′s). That means meaningful games in September. In their first ten seasons, the Rays have never given that to their fans. On Day 6 we showed how close the Rays are to an 84-win season. That would be one more win than the Brewers posted in 2007. Granted the Brew Crew had the luxury of playing in the weak NL Central, but 84-88 wins is an attainable goal for the Rays in 2008. If they do play well enough and consistently enough to be 6-10 games over .500, the Rays will still be in the Race in the beginning of September.
In order to have meaningful games in September the Rays need to be within 5 games of the wild card on September 1st. An 84-win pace would give the Rays a record of 70-65 on September 1st, which would have been exactly 5 games behind the Yankees in the wild card race in 2007 and in the heart of the playoff hunt.
The talent is in place. It is just a matter of realizing the talent on the scoreboard and in the standings. Meaningful games in September would be a nice change for Rays fans, that usually have the green and black packed by August and are more concerned with the Pewter and Red.
On the tenth day of Raysmas, all Rays fans want is TEN meaningful games in September , and…
NINE no-hit innings from Scott Kazmir [Day 9]
EIGHT ejections for Joe Maddon [Day 8]
SEVEN relatively healthy months of Rocco Baldelli [Day 7]
SIX months with at least 14 wins [Day 6]
FIVE players with at least 25 home runs [Day 5]
FOUR winning records against AL East foes [Day 4]
THREE AL All-Stars [Day 3]
TWO new pitchers in the rotation by the all-star break [Day 2]
ONE Evan Longoria in the opening day lineup [Day 1]