In the past year Rays Index featured 1,112 posts and saw our readership increase by 154% to nearly a half-million unique visitors. By comparison, the Rays’ attendance increased by 28.2%. In that time, the Rays went from a perennial loser to AL Champs. Let’s take a look back at the year that was 2008 here at Rays Index…
- We took exception to Joe Maddon’s declaration that 81 wins was a “reasonable goal.”
- The Rays traded for Willy Aybar leaving us wondering what the difference is between a “utility player” and a “super-utility player.” We still think it has something to do with how many hot dogs a guy can eat.
- The Rays gave Carlos Pena an extension ensuring that first base would be well-served for the next three years by the Crime Cat.
- The Rays also gave James Shields an extension. The difference being that Shields’ deal might actually outlive Betty White.
- The first celebrity to jump on the Rays’ bandwagon was none other than Peter King. Of course, calling Peter King a celebrity is like calling Toby Hall a major leaguer.
- We wondered if JP Howell was Jamie Moyer’s love child. Little did we know that eight months later, Howell would indeed be calling Moyer “daddy”.
- Willy Aybar’s tenure with the Rays did not get off to a good start, being jailed in the D.R. on domestic abuse charges.
- One of the top writers in the baseball blogosphere was fined for using the moniker “Devil Rays.”
- The Rays added a pair of low-level free agents to the mix that would go on to be huge contributors to the playoff run.
- We stumbled upon a photo of Jason Bartlett and his fiance.
- We learned that the Rays actually had an agreement in place with Tim Lincecum prior to the 2006 draft before learning that Evan Longoria would be available. You think the Rays’ pitching is deep now?
- Some of the Rays players were starting to toss around the p-word.
- We discovered some videos of Andy Sonnanstine, ping-pong wizard.
- BJ Upton appeared on the cover of ESPN the Magazine.
- The Mayor of St. Pete seemed to hint that his support might rest on the Rays changing the team’s name to the “St. Pete Rays.”
- As Fernando Perez inched closer to the majors, more writers were noticing his handicap.
- We published some photos of Joe Maddon from his college days.
- In a play that may have been an indication of things to come, Elliot Johnson collided with a Yankees’ backup catcher in the late innings of a spring game, breaking the catcher’s wrist. The Yankees wonder why their precious pinstripes must be dirtied during apparently meaningless games.
- A few days later Shirley Duncan would try to take away Akinori Iwamura’s manhood. In doing so, Duncan forgot rule #1 in brawling with the Rays: Always know where Jonny Gomes is.
- In their first season without the green uniforms, the Rays coincidentally had an off-day on St. Patrick’s day, a day in which many teams don green versions of their uniforms.
- Jonny Gomes may have had the quote of the year in reaction to Evan Longoria’s demotion to the minors despite a solid spring effort.
- Nobody predicted the emergence of Elliot Johnson winning a spot on the opening day roster.
- Grant Balfour would eventually lose the race for the final bullpen spot after admitting that the pressure was getting to him.
- On opening day we declared March 31, “Rays Independence Day.“
- Joe Maddon’s “Chernoff Face” is quite sad looking.
- The Rays decided to include a sink hole in center field.
- We were left trying to decipher MLB’s bizarre territorial maps that somehow includes southwest Alabama for the Rays.
- Behold! The Tampa Bay Sports Franchise Mashup.
- It came two weeks later than many hoped, but Evan Longoria made his major league debut against Orioles.
- And then the Rays did the unthinkable, they gave Evan Longoria a 9-year extension despite less than a month of major league experience.
- Andrew Friedman confused the Rays for his fantasy team, making 9 roster moves in the first three weeks.
- We found it curious that the Rays were fining people for using “Devil Rays” but in at least one capacity they were still using the name themselves.
- After 25 games, the Rays were in first place and for the first time in franchise history, we were using terms like “playoffs” and “magic numbers”.
- Joe Maddon said what many had been thinking all along, that his job was to be the eternal optimist the first two seasons as manager. But all that was gone in 2008.
- We reported on one of the great baseball stories we had ever heard, this one involving former Rays third sacker Wade Boggs.
- The Rays continue to lock up their young talent, this time giving Scott Kazmir a three-year extension. We offered a consolation prize to Mets fans.
- In an extended spring training start, David Price struck out a rehabbing Alex Rodriguez, twice.
- The Rays forgot to change out of their batting practice jerseys during game.
- Carl Crawford appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, sorta.
- Jonny Gomes’ proved to have an interesting selection of walk-up music for his at bats.
- Dioner Navarro had a first half that left him on pace to have a historic season.
- After the Yankees first let the Rays get under their skin in spring training, the Red Sox were next when Coco Crisp charged the mound after being hit by James Shields. Much like Shirley Duncan, Crisp forgot rule #1.
- The Rays added yet another top-talent to their already deep organization when they drafted Tim Beckham with the #1 overall pick.
- It may be difficult to remember, but Scott Kazmir was actually very good in the first half.
- We didn’t know it at the time, but the key to the season may have occurred in Texas in June when Dioner Navarro had finally had enough of Matt Garza’s antics leading to a scuffle in the dugout.
- The Rays become the fastest franchise to lose 1,000 games.
- Rays fans bring the sexy back.
- Jake McGee is lost for a year after having Tommy John surgery.
- In one of the most dominating performances ever by a Rays pitcher, Matt Garza one-hits the Marlins.
- With one of the cooler pictures we have ever seen, we learned that the Rayshead Army was growing.
- The sweet sound of hearing the song “Sweep Caroline” at the Trop following a mid-season sweep of the Red Sox.
- And yet another top prospect is lost for the season. This time it is Desmond Jennings.
- Apparently Evan Longoria’s nickname is too vile for the New York Times.
- Rocco Baldelli came back from his latest DL stint, this time as a lumberjack.
- After entering the all-star break on a 7-game losing streak, Ben Zobrist hit a home run that may have saved the Rays season and put the Rays back in first place for good.
- The Gary Glover era ended with a whimper.
- The trading deadline proved to be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
- The Rays score 6 in 9th against the Indians to stretch lead in East to 3.
- The Rays trade for Chad Bradford from the Orioles. To date, we are still waiting for that player to be named later.
- In first big blow to Rays season, both Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria are placed on the DL.
- Brian Sabean says the Rays should sign Barry Bonds, thus proving that the Rays shouldn’t sign Barry Bonds.
- In maybe the most remarkable feat of the season, Cliff Floyd scores twice from first base in the same game, scoring four runs total without his legs falling off.
- Joe Maddon intentionally walks Josh Hamilton, becoming just the second manager in the last 60 years to order such a move. The Rays would go on to win the game.
- With the Rays fighting for their first-ever AL East crown, Doug Eddings and AJ Pierzynski team to make up a call and help White Sox take series finale.
- In general, Rays fans are happy with the Rays media members.
- One of the biggest differences in the Rays in 2008 was the ability of the bullpen to strand inherited runners, something they were allergic to in 2007.
- In a very strange sight, Cal Ripken threw out a first pitch while wearing a Rays jersey.
- We had enough of all the naysayers and had to prove that the Rays are more than just a bunch of high draft picks.
- The $140 million lineup or the $15 million lineup. Which would you prefer?
- We learn for the first time that BJ Upton has been playing with a tear in his shoulder for most of the season and will need off-season surgery.
- Todd Kalas is not always aware of his surroundings.
- David Price was named the minor league player of the year by USA Today.
- In the biggest game of the regular season, the must unlikely of heros stepped up, Dan Johnson, homering in the 9th inning after being called up earlier in the day. The win kept the Rays in first place and marked their first win in Fenway this season.
- King David made his major league debut.
- The Red Sox season could be summed up with one picture.
- Evan Longoria homered three times against the Twins.
- With a win against the Twins, the Rays clinched their first playoff berth.
- After declaring the Yankees to be “roadkill” for more than a month, the Yankees officially became roadkill.
- With the help of the roadkill, the Rays clinched their first-ever AL East championship.
- It only took four games for the Rays to win the first round of the playoffs, taking down the White Sox.
- Troy Percival decided to spend the playoffs at home in California.
- After saving their season with a walkoff win in game 2, the Rays went to Fenway for a game many thought was unwinnable. The Rays take a 2 games to 1 lead in the ALCS after dropping a 9-spot on Jon Lester.
- One of the keys to the Rays bullpen, Grant Balfour, had one of the best seasons ever for a relief pitcher.
- In one of the most bizarre and anateurish moments in baseball postseason history, TBS drops the feed to Game 6 and viewers are treated to a rerun of “The Steve Harvey Show.” And by “treated” we mean being repeatedly punched in the face.
- Behind Matt Garza and David Price, the Rays drop the Red Sox in Game 7 to win the AL Pennant.
- With a chance to take a 2-1 lead in the World Series, Dioner Navarro literally throws the game away.
- The Rays fall behind 3 games to 1 after Edwin Jackson gave up a home run to the Phillies’ pitcher, at which time we wrote the following: “…if he ever pitches in a Rays uniform again it will be too soon.”
- In one of the more bizarre moments in World Series history, game 5 is suspended in the 6th inning after the Rays tie it up in the middle of a monsoon.
- In the end, it was not the World Series we would have hoped for.
- The Rays decline the options on Trever Miller as well as Cliff Floyd’s knees.
- Carlos Pena won the first Gold Glove in franchise history.
- Joel Guzman era with the Rays franchise ended with barely a wimper.
- Evan Longoria was unanimously voted the AL’s Rookie of the Year proving that beat writers can get some things right.
- We started worrying about the number of innings the Rays pitching staff logged in 2008.
- Joe Maddon was named the AL’s Manager of the Year, but for some reason it was not unanimous, thus reassuring our lack of faith in beat writers.
- And for the third time in 2008, a Rays prospect was lost for at least a year. This time it was Wade Townsend.
- Carlos Pena was named the 9th most valuable American Leaguer, again.
- It took a while, but the Devil was finally exorcised from the franchise.
- It took him nearly two months, but Troy Percival finally decided to have surgery, most likely assuring that he will start the 2009 season in a familiar place, the DL.
- Edwin Jackson, a pitcher we once accused of quitting and who gave up a home run to a pitcher in the World Series, is traded to the Tigers for Matt Joyce.
- One year after bringing Eddie Morlan in from the Twins, the Rays lost the pitcher in the Rule 5 draft. They did pick up a relief pitcher of their own in Derek Rodriguez.
- In an effort to go easy on the Red Sox and the Yankees faces in 2009, the Rays non-tendered Jonny Gomes.
- It turned out that Rocco Baldelli’s condition might not be as severe as previously thought. The revelation comes at a very opportune time for Baldelli as a free agent.