My first highlight of the season was Barry Bonds complete lack of an appearance. One might say that was decided before the season even began. My second moment of the season came nearly all the way at the end. It’s Game Seven of the American League Championship Series.
This game is still so fresh in everyone’s mind that I do not think I need to waste words or your time recapping it, so instead I will focus on why I felt it was a moment of magnitude beyond that of just your typical pennant-deciding playoff game. The game itself (I swear I’m not going to recap it) was close and tense, which always increases the drama ten-fold when we’re dealing with a deciding game. And it was decided at home, in front of a Tampa Bay (baseball) crowd that had never seen anything even remotely like this.
I will not go as far as to say this game signaled a transformation in baseball or any such hyperbole of that sort. If anything, last year’s playoffs were more of heralding of youth and the successes of modern analysis than this season’s. No, what this (American League) season ended with was this game, the Tampa Bay Rays who had finished last in every year of their existence, except one when they finished fourth, up to 2008. It was about a team, not just breaking through, but shattering notions of what’s what in baseball. The Rays kept the Yankees out of the playoffs, they competed with the budgets run amok in Boston and New York and they won. They won because of talent and because of smart management. They get to be the new flag bearer for every small market fan to look toward and say to him or herself that maybe someday his or her team might triumph in the same way.
Ultimately, it’s the arrival of Tampa that I predict 2008 will be remembered for when we look back in a decade or so. I do not think this is a flash in the pan team. There’s too much talent on the field now, in the front office and in the minor leagues for them to fade as quickly as they emerged. Boston, New York, say hello to a new competitor for the division. Toronto, Baltimore, your jobs just got even tougher. Rest of America, you got your first exposure to the Rays, I hope you’re ready for more.
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