THE TAMPA BAY RAYS
The Tampa Bay Rays began play in the American League as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998.
Twenty-five years ago.
They sport patches on their caps and uniform sleeves celebrating the franchise’s history.
Until the recent past, there wasn’t a lot to celebrate.
My, how times have changed.
The club’s first decade of play was marked by abject failure.
They finished last in the AL East in each season but 2004.
That year they finished second to last.
In 2008, they posted their first winning record.
In fact, they won their first AL East Division Championship and defeated the rival Boston Red Sox to claim the AL pennant.
They lost to the Phillies in the World Series, but the corner had been turned.
And the die was cast.
Since then, the Rays have played in the postseason seven times.
And they won the AL again in 2020, this time losing to the Dodgers in the Series.
Red Sox fans are familiar with their team’s rich history of heartache–86 years between titles–and ultimate successes–2004; 2007; 2013; and 2018.
Through 2022, the Rays have compiled an all-time record of 1,912–2,034 (.485).
And at this writing, the Tampa Bay Rays are 13–0 out of the gate tying the 1982 Braves and the 1987 Brewers for most consecutive wins, in the modern era, to begin a season.
So here’s the rub:
The Rays have become the Red Sox.
And the Red Sox have become the woebegone Rays.
Too soon to discredit John Henry and his vast Fenway Sports Group empire?
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in April 2023.]