Every year for Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays, the goal is the same: to win the World Series. There’s never a Joe Namath-esque guarantee, but he has continuously repeated hat he believes his team can go all the way. At times, it has seemed foolish that Maddon has steadfastly believed in that. Even with Evan Longoria out for most of 2012 and the Rays reaching struggling as much as any time since the Devil Rays years, Maddon stuck to his guns, and while it was it was nice that he believed in his team, why didn’t he even lower expectations and just say that he was confident that his team could overcome their frustration and claw their way back into contention? The whole issue becomes even more foolish when you look at the overarching situation around the Rays. These aren’t the Yankees and their exorbitant payroll that we’re talking here. Why should the Rays expect to contend for a championship when their payroll is among the lowest in the game? If the Rays really want to win a championship, why isn’t ownership putting more money in? And have you ever heard of a championship team with as tiny a fan base? You’re telling me that a team with ownership not willing to put in the money and fans not willing to put in the time to come to games is hoping to win a World Series? Are they out of their minds? In fact, no. Who cares about payroll? More fans would be nice, but how does that affect on-field performance? All the Rays know is that they have put together a team with the ability to beat anyone in baseball on a daily basis. All the Rays know is that through player development and astute signings and trades, they’ve assembled a team that’s right up there among the best in baseball. To them, a championship isn’t a lofty goal they know they can’t achieve- it’s something they know is on the cusp of happening.
The Rays need some things to go right in 2013. They need Longoria to stay healthy, they need their young starters like Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson to step up, and they need players like Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson to have bounce-back years, and that’s beyond the typical luck that every team needs to make the playoffs. But is that so crazy? Absolutely not. Joe Maddon is well aware of how talented his team is and knows that this could be the year. Setting the bar anywhere lower would be selling his team short. There are no guarantees for the Rays in 2013- but if a few things break their way, nothing is unattainable and the so-called “delusions of grandeur” that Joe Maddon has for his team will turn into reality.
Presidents’ Day is a nice little holiday, a good excuse to get off from work. But the Rays are hoping for a different type of Presidents’ Day experience at this time next year: a discussion of their championship defense being all over the news and a meeting with President Obama being worked into their schedule.