Who would have guessed that a team name change and a new uniform design would have such a positive effect on a team that has finished last place in their division nine years in a row?
There have been a variety of motives used to explain why the Tampa Bay Rays instituted a name change.
Owner Stuart Sternberg defends his decision by saying, “We were tied to the past, and the past wasn’t necessarily something we wanted to be known for.
Nobody’s running from it or hiding from it, and we’re proud of certain aspects of it, but this is something the organization was able to really put their arms around.
I hope and expect the fans who come out will see it
as a new beginning. “
Ray fans and critics attribute the change to other sources, which may or may not have influenced Sternberg’s decision. Many fans and team officials had already become accustomed to calling the team “Rays” for much of the team’s existence. Although this would seem like a very logical reason to change names, there is still a laundry list of other reasons floating around the rumor mill.
Some fans were displeased that their team was named after a marine animal that is not widely known in the waters near
Other fans, including some religious fanatics, were offended by the word “devil” being included in the name and felt that God may be cursing the team because of this. Whether or not any of these factors influenced Sternberg to drop “devil” from the team name, the Tampa Bay Rays’ new name has resulted in success for the team that is yet to experience a winning season. .
The Devil Rays played their first game on March 31st, 1998 against the Detroit Tigers.
The early years of the club were disappointing despite their lineup being comprised of seasoned veterans.
Jose Canseco, Wade Boggs, Greg Vaughn, Vinny Castilla, and Fred McGriff were among their star bats.
Despite the big names in their lineup, the Devil Rays “stars” were well past their prime.
The team piled up 99 losses in their inaugural year, and has yet to experience a winning season.
Over the next few years, the formerly veteran team was rebuilt into a youthful squad full of talent that hoped to rid the city of its losing reputation.
However, the team could not rise from the last place cellar of the competitive AL East division and still could not finish above .500.
Despite the losing seasons continuing to pile up, fans and critics were beginning to show optimism for this expansion team.
In 2007, the Devil Rays put the youngest starting lineup on the field since the 1983 Minnesota Twins.
Many of their young stars were beginning to mature and the team began taking strides in the right direction.
Carl Crawford had another All-Star season and continued to display his rare mix of power and speed.
In only his second year in the league, BJ Upton propelled himself into one of the elite second basemen in the league.
Evidently, Carlos Pena found his home in
The well-traveled first basemen broke franchise records with an unprecedented 46 homeruns and 121 RBI’s.
Offense wasn’t the only light that shined for the club.
Starting pitching turned out to be another key strength for the team.
Their top ace, 24 year-old Scott Kazmir led the American League in strikeouts in only his third season.
James Shields also proved to be a very solid and consistent starter who can pitch deep into games. Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, and a slew of other young pitchers continued to mature and develop their skills.
Despite all of the successes on the team’s young roster,
With an astounding 6.16 ERA, many of their young pitchers were robbed of their potential victories due to the struggling bullpen.
The club also posted a league low of 28 saves with closer Al Reyes.
Fortunately, this void was addressed during the off-season with acquisitions of Dan Wheeler and Gary Glover. In addition, 38 year-old renowned closer Troy Percival joined the cast.
Despite his time away from the game, Percival successful comeback in
In a division habitually reigned by the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays are sitting on top looking down. Only time will tell how long the Rays can hold off the champion Red Sox and the late season surges from the Yankees.
The recent addition of minor league sensation Evan Longoria (not to be confused with the Desperate Housewife hottie) has provided power and exceptional defense to the Rays’ lineup.
It is evident that the Rays have undergone much more than a simple name change.
The Rays, along with their growing number of fans, have a winning attitude, which may drive the team to its first winning season, and eventually the next destination—-the playoffs.