Saturday, October 04, 2008
Take a look at The Roster of The Tampa Bay Rays. There is not one single player competing in The 2008 American League Division Series for The AL East Champions that does not have something to prove. Young guys trying to prove they belong. A few highly sought, one time prospects, trying to prove they are not wash outs today. Veterans looking to prove they are still viable. And a handful of journeyman proving they can play when a comfortable role is given them.
These 2008 Tampa Bay Rays are hungry. They want to belong. And they are playing like a real team.
They represent what Our Washington Nationals can be.
Tampa Bay has No Strut. No Pomp. No Circumstance. The Rays are just playing Good Ole' Hardball.
No one expected them to get this far. Now up 2-0 on The Chicago White Sox--One Win Away from advancing to The American League Championship Series.
Evan Longoria, BJ Upton and Carl Crawford are their rising stars on the field.
Scott Kazmir and James Shields are Tampa's rising stars on the mound.
And Japanese Import, Akinori Iwamura, is a pretty good all around player, better than advertised--flying well under the radar of his far more popular headline makers and countrymen--Ichiro, Hideki Matsui and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
But where Tampa Bay has found their team is in re-treads. Players that other teams no longer wanted.
It took Carlos Pena five organizations and probably is last chance to finally learn how to play Major League Baseball--but he's now realized success as a power hitter and good fielding first baseball. Talent which The Texas Rangers gave up on SEVEN YEARS AGO. That's a long time ago.
The same holds true for Eric Hinske. The supposed next big, power slugging third baseman for The Oakland Athletics that never found a home with Eric Chavez in front of him in the City By The Bay, nor in Toronto or Boston--other cities in which his career journeyed to. Now, Hinske has found a role in another City By The Bay--Tampa. How fitting.
Look up and down The Tampa Bay Ray's Roster. Not one single player has any guarantees in the game. Together these 25 Major League Players have formed a very cohesive unit. A team which is greater than The Sum Of Their Parts. One which is now a legitimate threat to advance deep into the 2008 Major League Baseball Playoffs.
Being Hungry and Untested is sometimes a good thing. A spirit which Our Washington Nationals began to show over the final two months of the just completed 2008 Regular Season. Tampa Bay may have more Major League Ready Talent this very day to compete at such a high level well into October, but you can't look at The Rays and not think Our Washington Nationals could not duplicate their success--a few short years down the road.
Washington fielded the youngest team in The Major Leagues over the last few months. They may not have won much, but Our Players did show they were craving for opportunity. Everyone knows Washington already has young pitching--still developing. But what The Tampa Bay Rays have proven is that you take those youngsters and add in the right mix of veterans and WIN--when the competitive fires have been stoked.
In this day and age of Ultra High Salaries--you can be victorious by fielding a roster of Hungry Players.
I am cheering for The Rays, the rest of the way. They are helping to turn baseball thinking upside down and away from The Big Market Franchises--at least in My Mind's Eye. Nothing wrong with that.
InGame Photo--(AP) Chris O'Meara