Tampa Bay Rays: Looking back on a decade filled with wins and farewells
By Austin Reimann
Rays Colored Glasses site-expert , Austin Reimann, gives a unique and personal perspective to this past decade in Rays baseball.
With the dawn of a new decade came with it a Tampa Bay Rays team in the middle of their greatest stretch in franchise history. With the arrival of 2010 came the team’s second division title and a return to October baseball after a season long hiatus. They would return again in 2011 and once more in 2013 prior to a five-year playoff drought that was ended in the decade’s final breath.
At the beginning of the decade Rays fans enjoyed sustained success, that of which dated back to that miraculous 2008 season. But following the 2013 season, the success would give way to sustained mediocrity that withstood for nearly half the decade. Then, with the decade nearing a close, success in 2019 brought the Trop to life once again.
At a glance, this was the reality Rays fans enjoyed over the past 10 seasons. Sustained success followed by sustained mediocrity, followed by more success to close out the 2010’s. The seasons were filled with excitement and exhilaration but also farewells and failure.
Despite the sustained mediocrity that spanned from 2014 through 2017, Rays fans still witnessed the sixth most wins in all of Major League Baseball. They experienced four trips to the playoffs and celebrated a Cy Young award, two Rookie of the Year awards, and a Manager of the Year award.
Personally, I began the decade as a 10-year-old baseball fan enamored with Longoria’s glove, Price’s windup, and Crawford’s speed. The Rays were an exciting bunch. After 2013, that excitement faded into aggravation and by 2017, the aggravation faded into disappointment. But, as the decade came to a close, that youthful excitement that I experienced in the earliest stages of the decade had returned. This time I was a 19-year-old fan enamored with Willy’s personality, Snell’s curveball, and Glasnow’s fastball. Luckily, I get the chance to write about them now.
This is the past decade in Rays baseball though my eyes…
Rays fans, including myself, eagerly awaited the final out of Garza’s no-hitter in 2010. We waited with bated breath as Alex Cobb left the field on a stretcher after being struck by a line drive. Then, just months later, we watched anxiously as he tossed 6.2 scoreless innings, leading the Rays to a victory over the Indians in the wild card game.
We watched as Evan Longoria and David Price matured into two of the greatest Rays in franchise history. Our jaws dropped as Evan Longoria sent the Rays to the playoffs with one swing of his bat in 2011. Then for the second year in a row, we shook our heads as the Texas Rangers ended our season in the American League Division Series.
In the decade’s infancy, we watched Carl Crawford steal his 409th and final base in a Rays uniform and walk into free agency. As Evan Longoria, David Price, James Shields, and Ben Zobrist grew as baseball players we grew as fans of the game and of them. Then, we watched as they were traded away one by one, each one a more difficult pill to swallow than the last.
As the franchise cornerstones that defined the first half of the decade disappeared one by one, we spent the second half of the decade searching for new cornerstones. Despite winning the Rookie of the Year award, Will Myers came and went. Jake Odorizzi also came and went, and Christian Arroyo never panned out. Chris Archer was the ace with elite stuff who never was truly elite, and eventually he would be traded too. Steven Souza Jr. was traded away after three seasons and Tim Beckham played well for half of a season before also being shipped off.
The revolving door of the “next big thing” was dizzying. Players came and went with regularity until the arrival of Willy Adames this October. As Longo was traded away, all eyes turned towards Willy Adames as the next face of the franchise. With his debut in 2018, the David Price trade seemed to sting a little less and as the decade culminated with a Game 5 defeat in Houston, Willy Adames had seemingly arrived as the franchise’s next cornerstone.
Now as we approach a new decade the Rays are led by Adames, Snell, Meadows, and Kevin Kiermaier. Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz wow us with their power and Tyler Glasnow’s stature on the mound is jaw dropping. Wander Franco headlines the best farm system in baseball and Kevin Cash has become one of the best managers in the game.
The decade ended just as it started, with a bang. The mediocrity that stained the middle of the decade is fading away, giving way to a young core that is looking to usher in a new decade with continued success. This past decade was filled with wins, marred by farewells, and has now come to a close. I couldn’t imagine following a different team these past ten seasons.