Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Tampa Bay Rays- What young talent can do for you

Before the start of this season, if anyone had said that the Tampa Rays would be in first place by four games over the Boston Red Sox, 86 games into the season, they would have been looked at like they had six heads. Well, this is what makes baseball the wonderful game that it is, its unpredictability. Any team can conceivably make a vast turnaround in any given season, as evidenced by the Tampa Bay Rays this season. Their fortunes turned very quickly as they have gone from doormat to the best record in baseball. The Rays have been stockpiling young talent for a long time, such as Carl Crawford, Scott Kazmir, B.J Upton.

In the past offseason, they traded one of their young talents for a good young arm in Matt Garza. Garza has been a pleasant 'ray' of sunshine this season for the team as his record stands at 7-4 with a 3.47 ERA and a 2-1 K-BB ratio (58-29). You think Minnesota regrets that a bit right about now? Garza has combined with Scott Kazmir and James Shields to form one of the best and youngest 1-2-3 combination of starters in the majors. Kazmir, who came to the Rays in one of the most lopsided trades in the history of baseball to this point, is 24 years old, Garza is 24 and Shields is 26.

The Rays lineup is a balanced one with some power and some speed. The speed, in particular, is provided by Carl Crawford (22 steals) and B.J Upton (25 steals) as these two often set the table for the run producers in the lineup such as young phenom Evan Longoria (50 RBI), veteran Eric Hinske (44 RBI) and slick fielding first baseman Carlos Pena (44 RBI).
This team can beat you in a variety of different ways, they can outhit you, they can win a 2-1 game, they can create runs by playing 'small ball'. This team has the making of a contender, as they have the pitching to do so, the defense, and the hitting, especially the timely hitting.

In my opinion, the Rays are here to stay for this season as they will win the AL East, and march on to the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history. If they do that Joe Maddon is a shoe in for Manager of the Year, or at least you would think. They are an exciting bunch whose brand of baseball is exciting to watch, and I look forward to taking them in as much as I can from here until the end of the season.

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