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Year Founded: 1998
Division: American League East
Home Stadium: Tropicana Field
American League Penants: 2008, 2020
Last Playoff Appearance: 2021
The Rays keep reaching the brink of baseball glory only to fall just short. Will 2022 be the year that Tampa Bay breaks through and claims the title? Phenom shortstop Wander Franco and company are as well positioned as any team to take care of business.
A well-balanced roster landed the Rays at second in runs scored and fourth in runs allowed in 2021. The results were evident, as Tampa Bay took one of baseball's toughest divisions by eight games. Past Tampa Bay teams that embraced the role of underdog in the AL East have given way to the current team that is expected by many to top the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays. While never overwhelming with talent on paper, the Rays always seem to get the best out of their guys and push the right buttons at the right time to succeed.
Franco had an impressive foray into the big leagues with a .288 batting average and .347 on-base percentage in his first 70 games. He had 18 doubles, five triples, and seven home runs in a well-rounded sample of 281 at-bats. Virtually all MLB scouts have never wavered in their belief that Franco will be one of the best hitters in the game with the potential to be an all-time great. At 21 years old, he's likely the most promising player to ever don a Rays uniform. Randy Arozarena is another player who has been in the spotlight over the last couple of years. He followed up his record-breaking 2020 playoffs with a very solid 2021. It became evident that he likely wouldn't immediately be the MVP-caliber player from that memorable postseason stretch, but he turned in a .935 OPS over the last half of 2021 and solidified the Franco-Arozarena duo as a problem for opposing pitching.
Brandon Lowe plays the role of a modern slugging leadoff hitter and Ji-Man Choi will likely fulfill cleanup duties. Overall, the lineup has a nice variety of left- and right-handed hitters, especially considering that Franco is a switch hitter. The pitching staff presents question marks but is fairly experienced and buffered by a strong bullpen.
The Rays will be a fun team to watch in 2022. A win ugly approach carried the team through the last half decade, but now Tampa Bay has some star hitters and exciting players, such as electrifying centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier. Playing frequent host to traditional division powerhouses, such as New York and Boston, and also to the burgeoning Toronto Blue Jays make games at Tropicana Field especially intriguing this season.
One of the best places to sit at Tropicana Field is in centerfield near the famous stingray tank. Fans can be close to the action and also observe and even touch the stingrays in the pool. Behind the tank is the Hitter's Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to franchise greats. These two free experiences are a bonus to the ballpark experience and especially good for families and first-timers at "the Trop." Sunday games feature free experiences such as baseball simulators, arcade games, and the opportunity for fans to create their own custom baseball card.
The Rays made their introduction to Major League Baseball in 1998. They didn't find success as quickly as their fellow expansion team; the Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001. However, time has proven Tampa Bay to produce a more constantly strong product on the field. After reaching their first playoff series 11 years after inception, the Rays have played in the postseason six times in the subsequent 13 years, including the last three years. They advanced to the World Series in 2008 and 2020, falling 4-1 to the Phillies and 4-2 to the Dodgers, respectively.
The original name for the team was the Devil Rays, another name for menacing-looking manta rays. In 2007, executives shortened the name to Rays, as in rays of the sun. While the team usually dons uniforms with sun rays and two tones of blue with yellow, they've reincorporated their original mascot, hats, and jerseys for several games over the last couple of seasons.
Tampa Bay wouldn't have been considered as a rival for New York or Boston in the early years of the franchise, but the team's recent success has increased the tension among the three fan bases. All three got into the playoffs in 2021 and stand a good chance at a similar feat this season, especially given the expanded playoffs.
A couple of notable things about Rays fans is the moniker "Rays Republic" and the frequent attendance of professional wrestlers at home games. Many wrestling pros, such as Hulk Hogan and John Cena, live in Tampa Bay for part of the year and love to come out to a ball game. The Rays have even hosted wrestling matches after games as promotions.
Last Updated: April 25, 2022
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