The Tampa Bay Rays win the AL East and look to return to the World Series
For the second straight year, the Tampa Bay Rays have won the AL East. To many, this is very impressive for a few reasons. The first reason is that the Rays are a small market ball club. According to Spotrac, the Tampa Bay Rays are ranked 26th out of 30 MLB teams. In 2021 their payroll is $70,824,285. This just shows the ability to scout players and capitalize on a strategy that has worked well for the organization. They have found ways to optimize trades, sign valuable free agents, and draft talented prospects.
The second reason this is impressive is simply the division they play in. The AL East houses the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and the Baltimore Orioles. Every team in this division is fighting for a spot in the postseason besides the dreadful Orioles. The Rays look to win back to back AL Pennants and return to the World Series again this year.
This is the celebration the Devil Rays have always deserved pic.twitter.com/MrSVepl24d
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 26, 2021
How the Tampa Bay Rays got here?
In 2006 a man named Joe Maddon would become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Rays. He would coach the team for two seasons in which he would begin to turn the organization around. In 2008 not only did the team change their name they also would change the culture. Players such as Evan Longoria, David Price, Kevin Kiermaier, and many others would assist in this change. In Maddon’s tenure, the Rays would make it to the playoffs 4 times. They would make it to the World Series in 2008 losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. Maddon would end up in the windy city on the Northside coaching the Chicago Cubs. In 2015 Tampa Bay would hand over the reins to a 37-year-old manager named Kevin Cash.
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) October 24, 2014
The Kevin Cash era
In 2015 Cash took over as manager and within three years the Rays began to compete for the playoffs. In 2018 they would go 90-72. This was the year the Rays would make a blockbuster trade that would heavily favor them moving forward. On July 31st, 2018 the Tampa Bay Rays would send starting pitcher Chris Archer to the Pittsburg Pirates in return for Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane Baz. All three of these players would be significant additions to the current team.
In 2019 the Rays would go 96-66 losing in the ALDS to the Houston Astros. The season would be reduced down to 60 games in 2020 due to the global pandemic. The Rays would go 40-20 and would play in the World Series against the powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers. A questionable call by Cash was made in Game 6 when he would pull starting pitcher Blake Snell from the game after going 5.1 innings pitched getting 9 strikeouts, and only throwing 73 pitches. The Dodgers would end up taking the lead and winning the World Series.
Over the last ten months, Tampa Bay sports have been to four major pro sports championships and have won three of them.
◻️ Lightning 2020 Stanley Cup win
◻️ Rays 2020 World Series appearance
◻️ Bucs 2021 Super Bowl win
◻️ Lightning 2021 Stanley Cup win pic.twitter.com/y3WCCl47eh
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) July 8, 2021
Tampa Bay claimed the No. 1 overall seed in the AL this postseason. They will be taking on the winner of the AL Wildcard which will take place on Tuesday, October 5th. If the Rays can get hot this will be a very difficult team to beat in the playoffs as they look to return to the World Series.
AL EAST CHAMPS!!! What an absolute incredible organization to be a part of! I am so proud to wear that RAYS jersey with my teammates everyday and represent this community! We aint done yet!!
— Kevin Kiermaier (@KKiermaier39) September 26, 2021