Since the Rays downed the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS, I've heard from many people that they weren't going to watch a pitch of this World Series. A few of them cited the aesthetic shortcomings of Tropicana Field, a lack of rooting interest and just general frustration that both Chicago teams fared some miserably.
And yet despite all these comments, Game 1 of the World Series will be played Wednesday night in St. Petersburg. Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I've got a lot of enthusiasm for this Fall Classic.
It's no secret that we've been on the Rays' bandwagon for some time now. It's hard not to root for a team that is playing so beyond the expectations set for them. And the way they're doing it is pretty fearless, as exampled by untested rookie David Price picking up the four-out save in the deciding game against Boston.
Sun-Times baseball guru Chris De Luca reports that the upstart Rays aren't likely to get a case of stage fright.
"''One thing that surprises me about Tampa is how their young guys don't care what situation they're in,'' Phillies closer Brad Lidge told MLB.com. ''These are guys 24, 25 years old that look like they're 10-year veterans. They look like they've been there before. They're obviously very talented, but at the same time they're not blinking.''
The Rays finished 51 games out of first place in their 1998 debut season. Before this season, the closest they got to a division title was finishing 18 games out in 2000 under Larry Rothschild, now the Cubs' pitching coach and the first manager of the Devil Rays.
They would have had every right simply to be content to reach the playoffs. Watching them hold off the defending World Series champion Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series showed that the young Rays have their eyes on the ultimate prize.
Across the diamond, a well-rested Phillies team is looking to bring the city of Philadelphia its first world title since 1983. A SPAM musubi-fueled Shane Victorino is tearing the cover off the ball and starting pitcher Cole Hamels has been downright dominant in the postseason.
Pat Burrell has been excelling in other ways.
When they wrapped up their series with the Dodgers in five games, we sort of jumped the gun, claiming the Fightins' would take the World Series in five games as well. We'd like to retract that.
Vegas pits the Rays as favorites, Rays fans are learning the only prescription for baseball fever is more cowbell and it's just too good of a Cinderella story to have an unhappy ending. Even though it'd be great to see legendary Phillies' broadcaster Harry Kalas singing again, we think it's going to be Tampa hoisting that trophy.
Sports Pros(e) says: Tampa Bay in Six
What do you think? Who wins and in how many games?