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AL East: The Blindside

The American League East, already the toughest division in baseball, now has a blindside.  Meaning there is a team that could blindside the Yankees and Red Sox right out of the playoffs. This team could come on just as cold, as it could hot and don’t even realize the most powerful force is themselves.

This team is the Tampa Bay Rays.

To be honest, I have been trying to figure out the Rays the last three seasons, and pretty sure the Ray have been just as confused themselves. I can confirm that this team is stacked with young, talented and raw baseball players.

Names like Pena, Crawford, Longoria, Upton…..are just four players on the roaster of the talent packed Tampa Bay Rays.

To best describe the Rays, read this quote from Babe Ruth who said it best,

The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club wont be worth a dime. – Babe Ruth

In 2008, the Rays made it all the way to the World Series a first for the organization, but surely not the last. Losing to Phillies in the end did not damper their impact.

This Ray ball-club was hungry, fresh and kept teams on their toes. Manager Joe Madden utilized the players, with inexperience being their sole weakness that season.

Coming into 2009 the Rays were reigning AL Champions and finally a stadium of regular Rays fans. The Yankees and Red Sox were scared for good reason.
It was no longer their division to fight for every year.

Unfortunately, injuries struck in Tampa leaving the Rays struggling in the second half of 2009. Also, the team-spirit from 2008 that had been so tantalizing to watch was gone, both from the team and the fans. It was not the season hoped for, but gave the Rays a wake-up call to how hard it is to succeed in the AL East.

In 2010, players need to check their attitudes at the gate, and leadership roles from players like Pena, Longoria and Crawford need to be emphasized in order to contend mentally in the Division.

Now with some experience behind them, the Rays can give their fans a reason to keep coming back to Tropicana Field.

This is the Rays year to define themselves as the AL Champs from 2008 or the over-hyped babies from last season. Everyone seems healthy in Tampa thus far which makes for no excuse baseball.

This team can hit for power consistently, and have a wickedly strong defense to go with it. The Rays can wear-down opponents by stealing bases leading the AL with 196 in 2009, and 142 in 2008. This team can threaten on base whether good or bad, Crawford stole 60 bases alone last season which is ridiculous.

Center-fielder BJ Upton will have his full potential on display, same way he ended last year. This guy is phenomenal and should start to live up to his hype.

The Rays rotation is the teams most potent to date. Featuring James Shields, Matt Garza, and Jeff Niemann as the top three who all can pitch phenomenally, but bomb just the same. They are so erratic it can leave your head spinning trying to figure  out why not one can win more than 14 games. Rounding off the starters are youngsters David Price and Wade Davis, who are great prospects but are still adjusting with no real veteran mentor to learn from.

The Rays front office wasted no time signing closing pitcher Rafael Soriano, fixing a major issue and making a statement that they mean business for 2010 season. The Rays have no money to spend, but before some of their stars at the end of 2010 this is their best chance and the only affordable one.

The Rays are so complex, cause they have such good players who should not stink and lack the hunger most get from reaching the World Series and for the first time ever for the club.

Maybe someone needs to give better directions or it could be the absence of veteran players from decades past, or even one from the 12 years the organization has been around to inspire them.

See for a team to as easily win 100+ games, make the playoffs and maybe win the division, WHILE at the same time could end up fighting for last place, winning 65 games and filling the stadium only when the Yanks or Red Sox come to town……it is just INSANE to comprehend. Also add to the later…. when the Yanks and Red Sox do come to town the Rays sweep, but still can’t barely get over .500 all season. It is discouraging to think about.

Regardless, the Rays have been to the main stage, and fallen off fast which normally would work in the teams favor, but with the Rays who knows? Baseball will be blindsided either way.

This is the team to keep your eyes on, especially if you are the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox.

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