The Walkoff Walk 2010 Playoff Previews: Tampa Bay Rays

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Previewing the Rays shouldn't take more than 20 words, really. "They're really, really good." And...we're done. This Rays team is excellent at baseball and there isn't much you or anyone else can do about it.

If I was to pick one word to describe the Rays and their fanbase, it would be "aware." Rays fans are quite aware of how good this team is. The Rays themselves seem to appreciate that, too. Both sides seem acutely aware of how well-assembled the 2010 Mantamen of the Rayspocalypse are; a brilliant jumble of stars and complimentary pieces. By no means are any Rays fans content with simply making the playoffs, they're in it for the long haul. They've bought into the Process and damned if they won't see it through.

Playing against and/or watching the Rays can be, well, trying. I don't think the word unconventional quite does them justice. The roster is constructed in such a way as to ring every ounce of worth out of each non-Rocco drawing a paycheck. This leads to lots dudes playing second base and right field on consecutive nights. Expect lots of right fielders in general.

The Rays do things like load their lineup with right handed batters when facing a right handed pitcher because his best pitch is tougher on lefties. If you suggested such an idea to Tony LaRussa he would soil his pants and call you a heretic. They pinch hit with their backup catcher because he's a good bunter. They hit their starting catcher leadoff.

At the behest of enabling hipster Joe Madden, the Rays deploy crazed offensive schemes and overmanage their way to "undeserved" victories. More times than I care to reflect on, Overmanagin' Joe Maddon made a dizzying array of changes which somehow conspired to deliver a W; bringing his DH in defensively, placing his pitcher in the heart of his batting order and ordering a Malbec to go with his freshly caught grouper. CHRIST MAN, ARE YOU SOME KIND OF SAVAGE?

From their gimmicky outfits to their gimmicky ballpark, it would be easy to dismiss the team as a joke and wait for the inevitable Yankee parade. Despite the occasionally bizarre machinations of the Head Hipster in Chief, the Rays are an excellent team with a rock solid core. The rotation is strong, the bullpen even better. They run like crazy but they'll take a walk, too. This is a team you simply do not want to play. There's a good chance three different fanbases will learn that very same lesson over the next few weeks.

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They have also convinced some superstars to accept wages way below market value. That helps.

Where have you gone, Quinton McCracken?


Who can resist the siren song of Ybor City?

It helps in the future - Longoria would still be pre-arb poor without his team-friendly deal.


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