Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay Rays
This expansion franchise got started in 1998, despite having one of the best managers in baseball, Lou Pinella and continous number 1 draft picks they struggled to be competitive until 2008. A combination of hogh draft choices and key trades for players such as Jason Bartlet and Matt Garza along with rookie of the year, Evan Longoria were the glue the 2008 team needed. They took the division from the bigger spending Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees and then marched into the World Series, winning a epic 7 game series vs the Red Sox. They lost in 5 to Philadelphia, but made the baseball world aware they were here to stay. they came down to earth a bit in 2009 missing the playoffs, but again won the division in 2010. They bowed out in first round to Texas, in a 5 game epic series, where the home team lost every game.
The Devil Rays began to build their organization shortly after the franchise was awarded in 1995 by naming former Atlanta Braves assistant general manager Chuck LaMar the senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager. The franchise's first minor league games took place in the 1996 season. On November 7, 1997, Larry Rothschild was named the team's first manager. The team acquired 35 players in the Expansion Draft on November 18, 1997. Tony Saunders from the Florida Marlins was the first player drafted by the Devil Rays. The team also drafted future star Bobby Abreu but traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kevin Stocker, who had very little success for the Rays. Before the 1998 season, veteran stars Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff, and Wilson Alvarez were acquired.
1998–2003: Early years as the Devil Rays
Original logo of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, used from 1998–2000.
The Devil Rays played their first game on March 31, 1998 against the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field before a crowd of 45,369. Wilson Alvarez threw the first pitch and Wade Boggs hit the first home run in team history that day. Despite losing their opening game 11–6, the team actually got off to a respectable start and were 11–8 after 19 before losing six straight and falling below .500. They would go on to lose 99 games that year. One of the first memorable moments in franchise history occurred on August 7, 1999 when Wade Boggs tallied his 3000th career hit on a home run, the only player to ever do so. Boggs retired after the season and is the only Ray with his number retired. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.
The Devil Rays acquired sluggers Vinny Castilla, Jose Canseco and Greg Vaughn along with incumbent Fred McGriff this quartet was dubbed the "Hit Show." However, all of these players were past their prime and unable to sustain their previous successes. The Rays continued to struggle in 1999 and 2000. Prior to the 2001 season, the Rays modified their team colors and uniforms and also acquired highly-touted outfielder Ben Grieve from Oakland. Early in the 2001 season, Larry Rothschild was fired as manager and was replaced by Hal McRae and McGriff was dealt to the Chicago Cubs. By the 2002 season, the Devil Rays decided to build with younger players and drastically reduced the team payroll. Randy Winn, Aubrey Huff, Toby Hall, and Carl Crawford began to emerge as key players. However, the 2002 season would prove to be the worst in franchise history to date. McRae was moved to a front office position after the season.
Before the 2003 season, the team traded Randy Winn to the Seattle Mariners for the right to negotiate with manager Lou Piniella, a Tampa native, who managed winning teams at every stop in his managerial career, including the New York Yankees, the Cincinnati Reds (whom he led to a World Championship in 1990), and the Mariners. Piniella was attracted to the Tampa Bay job because of the proximity to his family and the chance to build a losing franchise into a winner as he had done in Seattle. Piniella's first team still finished last, but was seven games better than the 2002 team. A highlight of the 2003 season was the emergence of Rocco Baldelli, a native of Rhode Island, as one of the top rookies in the major leagues.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays logo, used from 2001–2007.
Entering the 2004 season expectations for the Rays were low, but the team won 70 games for the first time and finished in 4th place in the American League East, out of last place for the first time. Entering May, the team was 10–28 before going on to win 30 of 40 games, including a team-record 12 game winning streak. The Rays peaked at 42–41 but the team was unable to sustain that success and finished 21 games below .500.
Following a 28–61 record at the All-Star Break in 2005, the Devil Rays went 39–34 for a final record of 67–95. Carl Crawford and newcomers Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes led a productive offense that finished third in the American League in team batting average. However, the pitching staff had the second worst ERA in the American League. Despite the promising finish, Lou Piniella became frustrated with what he perceived as an insufficient commitment to winning by the ownership group, and he reached a settlement with the team to release him from the last year of his contract and Angels coach Joe Maddon was named manager, the fourth in team history.
Shortly after the season ended, new owner Stuart Sternberg, immediately fired Chuck LaMar along with most of the front office. Matthew Silverman was named the team president, and Andrew Friedman took the role of Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations. Sternberg decided not to have a de jure General Manager, calling the position "outdated."
With the change of ownership and the strong finish to the 2005 season, Tampa Bay fans were optimistic about the 2006 season, the official attendance for the Rays' home opener was 40,199, the highest turnout since the 1998 inaugural season home opener. At the All-Star break, Tampa Bay was only eleven games under the .500 mark (39–50). However, the front office became convinced that the Devil Rays would not contend in 2006 and they traded several veteran players and the Devil Rays struggled in the second half particularly on the road, and finished with a league worst 61–101 record.
The Devil Rays were involved in two unusual triple plays in 2006; one they hit into, the other they executed themselves. On June 11 against Kansas City, they hit into the third triple play in major league history, and first since 1937, that involved an appeal. Russell Branyan flew out to center, Rocco Baldelli tried to advance to second base and was thrown out, and then Aubrey Huff was called out when the umpires ruled that he left third base early when he tagged up. Then, on September 2 against Seattle, the Rays executed a 2–6–2 triple play where the ball never touched the bat, something that had never been done before. The triple play involved a strikeout and two baserunners caught off base. Tampa Bay pitcher J.P. Howell struck out Raúl Ibáñez. Catcher Dioner Navarro fired the ball to shortstop Ben Zobrist, who tagged out Adrián Beltré trying to steal second base. During that throw, José Lopez tried to go home from third, but Zobrist returned the ball to Navarro in time to put Lopez out at the plate, completing the first 2–6–2 triple play in MLB history. The Devil Rays finished with a winning record at home (41–40) for the first time ever and home attendance increased by 20% from 2005.
The Tampa Bay Rays are a Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays are a member of the Eastern Division of MLB's American League. Since their inception in 1998, the club has played at Tropicana Field and has finished out of last place only four times. Their first season with a winning record was 2008, when they won their first division title and proceeded to win the pennant.
In November 2007, majority owner Stuart Sternberg made significant changes to his franchise's image, changing the club's name from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the "Tampa Bay Rays", which he described as "a beacon that radiates throughout Tampa Bay and across the entire state of Florida." The teams' primary colors, formerly black, green, and blue, were changed to navy blue, Columbia blue, and gold, and the team's symbol was changed from a manta ray to a ray of sunlight. The manta ray symbol, however, is still used on the sleeve of their jerseys, and there is still a tank of cownose rays in the outfield.
Professional baseball in Tampa Bay
See also: Baseball in Tampa Bay
The name "Tampa Bay" is often used to describe a geographic metropolitan area which encompasses the cities around the body of water known as Tampa Bay, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Bradenton. Unlike in the case of Green Bay, Wisconsin, there is no municipality known as "Tampa Bay". The "Tampa Bay" in the names of local professional sports franchises (Rays, Rowdies, Bucs, Lightning, etc.) denotes that they represent the entire region, not just Tampa or St. Petersburg.
Civic leader and St. Petersburg Times publisher, Jack Lake, first suggested St. Petersburg pursue a Major League baseball team in the 1960s. The notable influences Lake held in the sport are what led to the serious discussions that changed St. Petersburg from a spring training location to a major league city. He spoke to anyone who would listen about his desire to see the city of St. Petersburg have a Major league baseball team. His colorful direction dominated the mindset in both sports and business circles dating back to 1966. He was said to have the foresight and prominence to make it happen.
Local leaders made many unsuccessful attempts to acquire a major league baseball team in the 1980s and 1990s. The Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, and Seattle Mariners all considered moving to either Tampa or St. Petersburg before deciding to remain in their current locations. The Florida Suncoast Dome (now named Tropicana Field) was built in St. Petersburg in 1990 with the purpose of luring a major league team. When MLB announced that it would add two expansion teams for the 1993 season, it was widely assumed that one of the teams would be placed in the Dome. However, in addition to the application from St. Petersburg, a competing group applied to field a team in Tampa, prompting much conflict over the bid. The two National League teams were awarded to Denver (Colorado Rockies) and Miami (Florida Marlins) instead.
In 1992, San Francisco Giants owner Bob Lurie agreed in principle to sell his team to a Tampa Bay based group of investors led by Vince Naimoli, who would then move the team to St. Petersburg. However, at the 11th hour, MLB owners nixed the move under pressure from San Francisco officials and the Giants were sold to a group that kept them in San Francisco.
Finally, on March 9, 1995, new expansion franchises were awarded to Naimoli's Tampa Bay group and a group from Phoenix (the Arizona Diamondbacks). The new franchises were scheduled to begin play in 1998.
The Tampa Bay area finally had a team, but the stadium in St. Petersburg was already in need of an upgrade. In 1993, the stadium was renamed the Thunderdome and became the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and the Tampa Bay Storm Arena Football League team. After the birth of the Rays, the naming rights were sold to Tropicana Products and $70 million was spent on renovations.
2008: New name, uniforms, outlook, and results
Main article: 2008 Tampa Bay Rays season
Prior to the 2008 season the team unveiled new uniforms along with a name change, and the team was now officially called the "Tampa Bay Rays." The new team colors were "navy, Columbia blue and a touch of gold" and a new team logo featured a bright yellow sunburst symbolizing the Sunshine State of Florida. Following a front office promise to increase the team's payroll, it was raised to $43 million
The Rays lineup remained largely intact from 2007, several key trades and free agent signings improved the team, additions included Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and veteran relief pitcher and closer Troy Percival. Top third-base prospect Evan Longoria was expected to be the starter at the hot corner while the Rays also signed the #1 pick in the draft last year, pitcher David Price, who was widely recognized as one of the top players in college baseball. Longoria was called up at the end of April.
The Rays and Red Sox brawl at Fenway Park on June 5, 2008.
The Rays finished spring training with a club record 18 wins and tied for highest winning percentage in the Grapefruit League. They began the season with a win in Baltimore and snapped a 7-game losing streak in road openers.
As they did during the 2007 season, the Rays played a regular season home series at Champion Stadium in Walt Disney World for the April 22–24 series against the Toronto Blue Jays. As in the Orlando series in the previous season, the Rays won all three games and followed with their first-ever sweep of the Boston Red Sox in Tropicana Field.
The Rays became the first team in modern Major League history (since 1900) to hold the best record in the league through Memorial Day, after having the worst record in the league the year before. This marked the best start in franchise history and the first time ever that the team was 11 games over .500. In June, incidents over the course of two consecutive games led to a bench clearing brawl against the Boston Red Sox.
Within the first week of July the Rays stretched their division lead to 5½ games, but then lost seven consecutive games heading into the All-Star Break. Trailing the Red Sox for the division lead by ½ game, they still led the Wild Card. Scott Kazmir and Dioner Navarro were selected to play in the All-Star Game. Evan Longoria was voted into the roster by the fans in the Final Vote giving the Rays a team record for All-Stars. In another franchise first, Longoria participated in the Home Run Derby.
Despite injuries to several key players in early August including Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, and Troy Percival, the Rays finished August on a 5-game winning streak, compiling a record of 21–7 for the month, the best single month in franchise history. With an 84–51 overall record, the best in the league, their lead in the division grew to 5½ games going into the final month of the season.
On September 20, the Rays, with the best home record in Major League Baseball, clinched their first-ever postseason berth in franchise history and clinched the AL East Pennant shortly thereafeter.
In the American League Division Series the Rays defeated the Chicago White Sox in 4 games of the (ALDS), clinching their first playoff series victory and advance to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) where they defeated the Boston Red Sox in 7 games, to go to the World Series for the first time. Despite having home-field advantage in the series, the Rays lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, four games to one, in the World Series.
The Rays' turnaround was mostly credited to much improved defense and pitching. The Rays also stole 142 bases, more than any other team in the AL. They also had five pitchers throw over 150 innings, more than any other team in baseball: Shields, Kazmir, Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, and Edwin Jackson. While the 2007 bullpen and defense were historically bad, stats for 2008 were among the best in the majors, and the best in franchise history.
Main article: 2009 Tampa Bay Rays season
Tampa Bay Rays secondary logo, used from 2008–present.
With the Rays' new payroll total above $60 million principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced that unlike previous seasons the Rays had no more flexibility to make additions during the upcoming season. In the 2008 season, despite the Rays being contenders the entire season, attendance was still among the lowest in the league. Sternberg also stated the only team that did not have an average attendance higher than the league average in the season following a World Series appearance was the Florida Marlins, who did so twice after each of their championship seasons. He accepted that the Rays might become the third occurrence, saying about the 2008 season, "it wasn't the best year to win," because of the current state of the economy.
Following a lackluster start the Rays finished May with an overall record of 25–28 and just half a game out of last place but pulled within 4 games of the AL East and 1½ back in the wild card toward the All-Star break. Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, Ben Zobrist, and Evan Longoria were named as All-Stars for the American League in the All-Star Game with Longoria earning the start at third base but was unable to play due to injury. Carlos Peña was added as an injury replacement and participated in the 2009 Home Run Derby. In the All-Star Game Carl Crawford won MVP honors by making a leaping catch at the wall to take away Brad Hawpe's home run.
In August Iwamura returned from injuries sustained in May and the Rays traded Scott Kazmir to the Angels for two minor league prospects and a player to be named later. Kazmir left the team as the all-time leader in wins and strikeouts.
The Rays stumbled in September, losing 11 games in a row at one point, and lost Carlos Peña for the remainder of the season to a broken finger from a hit by pitch. At the time Peña was leading the American League in home runs. The Rays clinched a winning season but the team did not make the post-season finishing with an 84–78 record, good enough for 3rd place. On October 2 B.J. Upton became the first Tampa Bay player to hit for the cycle.
After the 2009 season second baseman Akinori Iwamura was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for relief pitcher Jesse Chavez who was than traded to the Atlanta Braves for closer Rafael Soriano.
Main article: 2010 Tampa Bay Rays season
In spring training the Rays finished with the best record in the Grapefruit League and set a franchise record for wins in spring training. Second baseman Sean Rodriguez, who had been acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade with the Angels, was considered a breakout player during the spring, on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Although the Rays had the league best record at the time, Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics threw a perfect game against the Rays in May. It was the league's second perfect game in a row thrown against Tampa Bay, the last being in 2009 by Mark Buerhle, and at the time was the shortest amount of time between perfect games in Major League Baseball. The Rays were once again victims of a no-hitter on June 25 at Tropicana Field, thrown by former Ray, Edwin Jackson of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jackson threw 149 pitches against his old team, and although 10 batters reached base, none were the result of a base hit.
David Price, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, and Rafael Soriano were named to the American League team in the 2010 All-Star game. Price was named the starting pitcher for the AL.
On July 26, 2010, Matt Garza threw a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers, becoming the fifth pitcher to throw a no-hitter that season. It was the first no-hitter ever thrown by a Tampa Bay pitcher in the franchise's history.
On the last day of the regular season, the Rays won their second AL East championship in three years, and finished the 2010 season with the American League's best record (96–66), and behind only the Philadelphia Phillies by one game for the Majors' best record. The Rays' ace pitcher David Price finished with 19 wins, and closer Rafael Soriano converted 45 saves, both setting new franchise records in those respective categories.
In the postseason, the Rays were eliminated in the ALDS, losing to the Texas Rangers in five games.
Main article: 2011 Tampa Bay Rays season
During the offseason, several key players from the Rays were either traded away or lost to free agency. They received five minor league prospects from the Chicago Cubs in a trade that included starting pitcher Matt Garza, while shortstop Jason Bartlett was sent to the San Diego Padres for four minor league prospects. Seven relief pitchers would not return to the team in 2011. First baseman Carlos Peña, the franchise's all-time leader in home runs, signed with the Chicago Cubs. Perhaps the biggest loss for the Rays was left fielder Carl Crawford, who signed a lucrative deal with the Boston Red Sox.
Among their acquisitions were veterans and former teammates Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, who each signed one-year contracts with the Rays.
Tampa Bay's primary rivals are the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The Red Sox/Rays rivalry dates back to the 2000 season, when Devil Ray Gerald Williams took exception to being hit by a pitch thrown by Boston pitcher Pedro Martínez and charged the mound, resulting in a game full of retaliations and ejections on both sides. There have been several other incidents between the teams during the ensuing years, including one in 2005 which resulted in two bench-clearing fights during the game and a war of words between then-Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella and then-Boston pitcher Curt Schilling through the media in the following days. The rivalry reached its highest level to date during the 2008 season, which included a brawl during a June meeting in Fenway Park  and a 7-game American League Championship Series between the teams that ended in the Rays' first ever pennant win.
As a fellow member of the AL East Division, the Yankees and Rays play many times each season. There has always been some feeling of a rivalry between the teams because the Yankees make Tampa their spring training home and fan loyalty in the Tampa Bay area has historically been divided, especially among transplants from the northeastern US. The rivalry became more heated in spring training of 2008, when a home plate collision between Rays outfielder Elliot Johnson and Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli was followed the next day by spikes-high slide by Yankees outfielder Shelley Duncan into Rays' second baseman Akinori Iwamura, prompting Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes to charge in from his position in right field and knock Duncan to the ground.
620 WDAE-AM has been the flagship station of the Rays radio network since 2009. The play-by-play announcers are Dave Wills and Andy Freed with Rich Herrera serving as the pregame and postgame host. The (Devil) Rays original radio team consisted of Paul Olden and Charlie Slowes, who broadcasts games from 1998 to 2005. Slowes went to the Washington Nationals, where he is now lead announcer, while Olden pursued a photography career before replacing Bob Sheppard as the public address announcer at Yankee Stadium in 2008. Rays games have been aired on WFLA 970 AM (1998–2004) and WHNZ 1250 AM (2005–2008) in the past.
Sun Sports broadcasts the Rays' games on television. Through the 2008 season, many games also aired on Ion Television affiliate broadcast stations throughout the state of Florida, with WXPX in Tampa as the flagship. However, after the 2008 season, Sun Sports signed an agreement to become the exclusive local broadcaster of the Rays, and will air 155 games per year through 2016. Fox Sports Florida began broadcasting a portion of the schedule in HD beginning in 2007 after Tropicana Field's broadcast equipment was upgraded for in-house HD production. Most Rays home games are now broadcast in HD.
Dewayne Staats (play-by-play) and Brian Anderson (color commentary) are the TV voices of the Rays, with Todd Kalas, the son of Philadelphia announcing legend Harry Kalas, serving as the pregame and postgame host as well as a field reporter during games. Todd also hosts magazine shows and specials on Sun Sports throughout the season. For the first 11 seasons of the franchise, Staats teamed with Joe Magrane on the Rays' TV broadcasts. Magrane left after the 2008 season to take a position at the MLB Network. Kevin Kennedy served as the primary color commentator in 2009 and 2010, with Brian Anderson filling in on some road trips. Anderson took over as the everyday commentator for 2011.
Staats, Magrane, Kalas, Wills, Olden and Slowes have all been nominated for the Ford C. Frick Award, the broadcasters' path to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays were featured in the movie, The Rookie, a 2002 drama directed by John Lee Hancock. It is based on the true story of Jim Morris, who had a brief but famous Major League Baseball career with the team.
Morris was 35 year-old high school baseball coach who could repeatedly throw a baseball 98 miles per hour (158 km/h), an ability that only a few major leaguers can equal. He was persuaded to try out for professional ballclubs and signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization. Morris was initially assigned to the minor league Class AA Orlando Rays (now the Montgomery Biscuits), but quickly moved up to the AAA Durham Bulls and was called up to the "Bigs" during the September roster expansions.
Jim Morris spent parts of two seasons with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as a relief pitcher. He pitched 15 innings in 21 games, with an earned run average of 4.80.
Although widespread support has been slow to build with the lack of success in its first ten seasons, it has taken some cues from the powerhouses of the American League East. Whereas Red Sox fans are referred to as Red Sox Nation, and Yankee fans are referred to as Yankees Universe (and the team itself being called the "Evil Empire"), the Rays have adopted the term Rays Republic for their fan base. Their slogan is "X = 10th Man. X = Rays Republic." The team has also had its fair share of notable fans and outrageous fan traditions over the years.
The Happy Heckler
"The Happy Heckler" is a fan by the name of Robert Szasz, a Clearwater real estate developer. He has season tickets near home plate, and is known for his rather boisterous heckling. He is so loud that he is clearly audible on both TV and radio broadcasts. He is also known as an "ethical" heckler, heckling opposing players only based on their play and never throwing personal insults. Despite this, he has drawn the ire of some opposing players. He is especially known for heckling Bret Boone so viciously once that Boone confronted him after a strikeout.
The Rays' Cowbell was originally a promotional idea thought up by principal owner Stuart Sternberg, who got the idea from the Saturday Night Live sketch. Since then, it has become a standard feature of home games, something akin to the Sacramento Kings of the NBA and the bells their fans ring during games. Road teams have often considered the cowbell a nuisance. Once a year the Rays hold an annual "cowbell night" and give away free cowbells. Cowbells are available for purchase throughout the year as well. The most famous proponent of the cowbell is Cary Strukel, who is known as "The Cowbell Kid." Strukel can be seen at most home games sitting in right field and wearing some kind of costume, typically topped with a neon colored wig or Viking horns. The cowbells are rung most prominently when the opposing batter has two strikes, when the opposing fans try to chant, and when the Rays make a good play.
Rays games are frequently visited by professional wrestlers, as there are a large number of wrestlers living in the Tampa Bay Area. The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags), Brutus Beefcake, and Hulk Hogan all appear on a semi-regular basis at Rays games. John Cena appears on occasion.
The Rays held a "Legends of Wrestling Night" on May 18, 2007, featuring several wrestling matches after the game, an 8–4 loss to the Florida Marlins. Outfielder and wrestling fan Jonny Gomes ran interference for the Nasty Boys during the main event.
A second "Wrestling Night" was held on April 19, 2008, after a 5–0 win over the Chicago White Sox. Gomes participated again, this time making a post-match save for the Nasty Boys.
9=8 (spoken as "nine equals eight") was the mantra used by the Rays during the 2008 season. The phrase was originally created by manager Joe Maddon while riding his bike after the 2007 season. The meaning of the phrase was that if nine players play nine innings of hard baseball everyday, that team would become one of the eight teams who qualify for the playoffs. Prior to 2008 season, the Rays had never had a winning season in franchise history, much less a playoff appearance.
After a slow start to the 2008 season, the Rays began to pick up speed and found themselves among the best teams in the league that year. Maddon had blue t-shirts made with the phrase on the back in yellow, representing the team's new colors, and gave them to the players during the season. His idea to put the slogan on the back of the shirt, rather than the front, was that a person who was walking behind someone wearing the shirt would see it.
Rays right fielder Gabe Gross, who was acquired by the team through a trade early into the 2008 campaign, said it was so much 9=8 as it was more along the lines of 13=8, because the Rays had many players contributing to the team's success that season.
The Rays played well enough throughout the year that they surpassed their previous team record for wins in a single season by more than 20 wins and ultimately clinched a spot in the 2008 MLB Playoffs for their first postseason appearance in franchise history. As the phrase 9=8 had come to fruition, Maddon stated that the phrase also meant that theory and reality had come together.
With each level the Rays reached, the equation was changed. After they clinched their playoff spot, it became 9=4, to represent the teams advancing to the LCS. When they won the ALDS, it became 9=2, for the teams advancing to the World Series. When they won the ALCS, it became 9=1, representing the possible World Series Championship. In the end, they did not win the World Series, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies four games to one.
A week before Spring Training for the 2009 season, Maddon introduced a new slogan, '09 > '08. The meaning of his new idea was that he doesn't like to use the words "great" or "greater," but would rather the phrase be spoken as "better than." His only problem was that there is no symbol for "better than." Originally thinking about creating a new symbol to mean "better than," he admitted that he didn't want to get "too nuts," so the symbol for greater than would have to do. Re-emphasizing that 9 would always equal 8 in the Rays' math, the upcoming season would be greater than the previous. He wanted the players to understand that "in order to build this new road we have to be better than we were last year." Unfortunately for the Rays, 2009 was not better than 2008. Though they finished the season in 3rd place with an 84–78 record, making it the second best season in franchise history, they failed to reach the playoffs.
For the 2010 season, another slogan was created. Unlike the previous two seasons, this slogan did not involve any sort of math. The slogan was WIN, an acronym that stood for What's Important Now?, with the message being "stay in the moment." In his explanation of the slogan, Maddon credited Ken Ravizza, the performance consultant of the Rays and a sports psychologist, as the creator. Maddon stated, "It's always about staying in the present tense and having a higher state of awareness." GTMI became another notable slogan during the year, standing for Get The Man In (though it is reported a player has used a "more colorful" term to take place of the word "man"), referring to an in-game situation in which the Rays had runners in scoring position. Historically, the team had a habit of stranding runners on third base with less than two outs. In practices during the 2010 season, the Rays would run the "get-the-man-in drill" to improve situational hitting. Derek Shelton, who came into the season as the team's new hitting coach, taught that batters should not look for a pitch they could hit for a home run, but one that they could hit well enough to score runners.
- Tampa Bay Rays
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