I know that we’re a Tampa Bay Rays fan blog, but I am not above awarding credit where credit is due. With that said, I would like to extend my congratulations to the 2010 World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. As I mentioned in a previous post, as much as I wasn’t fond of either team I’m glad the Giants won. It’s amazing, despite baseball analysts, news reporters, fans, and forty-nine states predicting their demise, they defied all odds, polls, and statistics to pull off what seemed to be an improbable feat. They were in 4th place and 7 1/2 games out in July, then came storming back on the last day of the regular season, October 3rd, to clench the NL West Division over the San Diego Padres. They went on to eliminate the Braves in Atlanta (3-1) in the NLDS, defeat the Phillies in Philadelphia (4-2) in the NLCS, and finished their run by besting Cliff Lee not once, but twice to beat the Rangers in Arlington, Texas (5-1) to win their first World Series title in over 50 years, ending a very long drought. They outclassed and outplayed the Texas Rangers in every facet of the game. It is amazing that a team made up of cut, leftover players from other teams throughout the league were somehow able to band together with the common goal of winning and win they did. They weren’t always pretty to watch, but they did it and are now the undisputed World Champions. As confetti falls in San Francisco, and the final game officially over, let’s take one last moment in the 2010 major league baseball season to ask what can the Tampa Bay Rays learn from their failures and the success of others this season?
What is there to say that hasn’t already been said before? Well for one we learned that while it is important to get to the big show, it is even more important to focus on how to finish once you get there. The Rays were happy to be there in 2008 and the 2010 Texas Rangers looked like they felt accomplished to outplay everyone in the American League that they forgot that World Series supremacy means also dominating the champion of the National League as well. We also learned that going out to hire a big gun like Cliff Lee doesn’t equal championships. It may for a time generate some success, but at the heart of it all it is a team effort. No ace is perfect, Cliff Lee is human and eventually he was bound to mess up. Same thing with David Price as shown in the ALDS. What is important is that the Rays much like the Rangers needed their personnel to stand up and support their ace in times of adversity. Both teams failed to do that and both teams are now eliminated with bitter taste left in their mouth. The Giants never took their eyes off the prize and continued to aggressively provide run support (No thanks to Pat Burrell, no surprise ha!) on top of their already fantastic pitching.
To expand upon that premise, the Rays were exposed as having little substance in their lineup. Much like the Rangers once their ace faltered it was like a domino effect that rendered the team helpless. It is not as if they were not trying. It had a lot do more with their approach and their lack of agression that did them in. If we look at how the Giants accomplished their World Series run, you’ll see that with the exception of Game 2 of the World series, all of their post-season victories were decided by four points or less. Which means that the Rays don’t need big power-hitting outings in order to be successful. As the Giants prove all you need is the key players to step up and make the big plays when necessary. This gives the ace pitchers all the confidence needed to shut the door and the Rays rotation was good enough to do this. They did not meet their potential or expectations and must move forward from now on emphasizing their greatest strength, manufacturing runs. However, in spite of bumbling unconventional managers and their insane decisions to use incompetent starting, dead weight, and useless pitchers, the Tampa Bay Rays were able to win this year and in the past despite these hindrances and I believe that they could do it again and for years to come if they commit to making adjustments. So as tonight ends, tomorrow brings the start of the next era in Tampa Bay Rays baseball. And I just hope to the baseball gods that the Rays will gain some quality assets to work with, their style is adjusted to maximize their strengths, and most importantly, that these guys don’t go screwing it all up.