It’s incredible how much things can change in a year. I remember last April reading every season preview out there and seeing all of them give the Rays a little courtesy mention. Read them talking about how they’re almost there, but they don’t have what it takes to seriously compete in against the Yankees and Red Sox. But following the team for some time, myself and those faithful few out there felt something approaching.
We didn’t know quite what it was exactly, but we were hopeful that it had something to do with wins. I remember just at least hoping for meaningful games after July. I just wanted to see what it felt like to endure a wild card race. I’d rather of had the pain of just missing the playoffs then writing them off completely after summer. What we got was something that will forever go down as one of the most magical seasons of all time.
While I was expecting improvement, 97 wins (and all the excitement that goes with it) was something no one could have predicted. Not only did the Rays show they can win, they did it against the best. Although they didn’t win the season series with New York, they showed they can win when it matters. That last series of the regular season in Boston (The Dan Johnson Game included), was a monumental step for the franchise. A step which carried into the ALCS. The team showed it’s grit when it didn’t let the biggest single game comeback affect them. Unfortunately, the magic ran out, but it left a sour taste. A taste that should give them the motivation they need to show why many writers have placed the Rays into baseball’s elite.
There’s a completely different feeling going into 2009. But if 09>08, then this summer should be another to remember. What a difference a year makes.