The Rays’ organization was founded in 1998 and the team has put together multiple memorable seasons since then. They have come in at least 2nd place in the American League East in 5 different seasons and have won the division twice. We’re going to have an in-depth look at some of the greatest campaigns in the history of the franchise.
We’ll start with the clear favorite, the 2008 season. Tampa Bay finished in last place in the AL East in 2007 with a 66-96 record. They made a complete 180 the next season as they finished 2008 with a 97-65 record and a trip to the ALDS. Led by manager, Joe Maddon, and players such as Ben Zobrist, James Shields, B.J Upton, Carlos Pena, and a young Evan Longoria, they would top the Chicago White Sox in the Division series 3 games to 1. The ALCS against the Boston Red Sox was a much tougher series. The Rays won in 7 games after rookie, David Price, closed out Game 7. Willy Aybar led all Rays’ hitters with a .421 average and 2 homeruns during the Championship series. Carl Crawford also had a great stat line that series as he finished with 10 hits and a .345 average. The Rays would have to face off against a loaded Phillies team in the World Series. Philadelphia had a very good pitching staff that included Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, and Brad Lidge. They also had a star-studded infield with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and the big hat in Ryan Howard. The Rays lost the World Series in 5 games, but nevertheless, 2008 was by far the best year to be a Rays fan.
The next best season in Rays’ history occurred 2 years later. The 2010 campaign was the last season that saw Tampa Bay finish in 1st place in the AL East. The 2010 squad was very similar to the 2008 team. A few of the new additions to the team included Pat Burrell, Desmond Jennings, and Wade Davis. Burrell played for the Phillies for 9 seasons prior to being a member of the Rays and even faced off against Tampa in the 2008 World Series. 2010 was Jennings’ first year as a Ray and he only played in 17 games. He came in 7th in the Rookie of the Year race in 2011 and would play for Tampa Bay until 2016. He has played for the minor leagues ever since and is currently a member of the Reds’ organization. Wade Davis played his first full season in the big leagues in 2010. He played a solid 3 seasons with the Rays as he had above a .500 win percentage each season and a stellar 2.43 ERA as a reliever in 2012. This team had a great regular season finishing with a 96-66 record, but they struggled in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers. They averaged only 2.6 runs per game in the series which led to their elimination.
Arguably, the third best season in the history of the Rays’ franchise is the 2019 season. They finished the season with the 2nd best record in franchise history and ended up in 2nd in the AL East behind a 103-59 Yankees team. It was an interesting season that saw some very unlikely heroes. One of these was Travis d’Arnaud who was acquired by the Rays during the season after Mike Zunino suffered a quad injury. He played 92 games in a Tampa Bay jersey and finished with 16 homers and a .263 batting average. He also came through in the clutch in multiple games including a huge 3-homer game against the rival New York Yankees. After playing for 3 different teams in 2019, he definitely found his niche in Tampa as he helped lead the Rays to their first playoff appearance since 2013. Another huge contribution came from Austin Meadows who was playing his first full season in a Rays’ uniform after being acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh in 2018. He slashed .291 with 33 homeruns and came in 14th place in the AL MVP race. Tommy Pham was another player the front office acquired in 2018 that payed off very nicely. He had a .369 OBP in 2019 and finished with a respectable 21 homers. The season didn’t end as well as it could have, but the Rays found themselves toe-to-toe with a very strong and “controversial” Houston club in the ALDS. They would drop the series after going the full 5 games, but they definitely electrified the fan base with some incredible moments which included an amazing relay to nab Jose Altuve at the plate.