As a baseball fan, your priority is always to watch your team’s games. Along with that, though, often comes unexpected responsibilities. There are other games to keep track of and standings that need to be checked, and doing so can take the sting off a tough loss or make a great win even more satisfying. When your team is out of contention, as is the case with the Tampa Bay Rays this season, those ancillary aspects of fandom fade away. You just worry about your team and hope they can finish the year well. But if any Rays fans decide to look at the American League’s current standings, they will find an interesting quirk: the Rays are the team with the worst record in the American League that is not yet mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
We have to face the facts–the Rays aren’t about to go on and unbelievable run to make the playoffs. If they win their last 10 games, they would 84-78, with those 84 wins just two short of the number that the second AL Wild Card, the Kansas City Royals, have now. What we have lost track of, though, is that if the season started on June 11th, the Rays would currently be the AL’s first Wild Card. They have gone 50-36, good for a .581 winning percentage that trails only the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. They also are tied for the first AL Wild Card with the Royals since the All-Star break with a 50-35 record. Their .545 winning percentage in that stretch is not as impressive, but it also happens to be just below the Rays’ .555 winning percentage overall since 2008.
It all means little at this point, but the Rays have cooled down and seen their hopes for a miracle season slip away, yet their performance has still been impressive on the whole. Despite all the disasters that befell the Rays this year, today is September 17th and they are still technically alive. It is frustrating and it reminds us have where this season should have gone, but we also need to look at that with a degree of optimism. A horrific season for the Tampa Bay Rays is a whole lot different than it used to be. The Rays hope that next season sees them return to being a 90-win team, but it speaks volumes that even as everything has gone wrong, it has still been this fun to watch them play.