Thursday, May 15, 2008

The first-place Rays: Believe it

I wrote this sentence Wednesday night for the Rays on-line notebook:

“The Yankees responded with a 2-1 victory, their third in their last eight games, and moved within 3 ½ games of the first place Rays.”

I’ve been covering the Rays since their inaugural season in 1998, fulltime with the Bradenton Herald since 1999, and I’ve always wondered if there would ever come a day when the Rays would be among the best teams in baseball.

The answer? Yes.

I don’t know if I will be writing sentences like that in September or a month from now or a week from now. But the season is old enough to know what a team has, and the Rays have the goods to hang with the top teams in the American League this season.

The pitching is not a fluke.

The bullpen is the envy of most teams.

The defense makes everything work.

Now, if they can start hitting, they will remain a force.

There were some pretty dark days at the Trop in years past. I remember many nights walked to the parking lot with Dick Scanlon of the Lakeland Ledger after another miserable loss and we would talk about how it couldn’t possible get any worse, and, of course, it would.

The other night I walked to the parking lot with Scan, and we wondered if it could get better.

Yes, if the hitting comes around, it can get much better.

I think we’re looking at a fun summer of baseball in Tampa Bay.

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