Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tampa Bay: AL East champs?

By grinding out wins on successive nights in Boston, the Tampa Bay Rays have made a strong case that they might cling to their 2 1/2 game lead in the AL East, despite a tough September schedule, as previously discussed.

(Of course, after the infamous collapse of the Mets a year ago, going 5-12 over the last 17 games, no lead is safe.)

The Rays have hung in despite losing two stars -- Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria -- for most of the past two months to injury.

They are also an inspiration to small-market teams everywhere: they play in the shadows of AL East superpowers Yankees and Red Sox, with a combined $340M payroll.

In fact, with the Red Sox paying Manny Ramirez's salary for the entire year (a condition for the July 31st three-way trade with the Dodgers and Pirates), the Sox pay almost as much for their (two) leftfielders (Ramirez ($19M) and his replacement, Jason Bay ($6M) as the Rays pay their entire team ($43M).

Tampa Bay Rays.

Good for baseball.

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