No Yankees or Mets, But Plenty of Fun


Reliever David Price, a late-season addition to the Tampa Bay Rays, collected his first career save in a Game 7 win against the Boston Red Sox. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

Published: October 30, 2008

For many New Yorkers, the baseball season ended once the NFL season started. The New York Yankees and New York Mets both missed the postseason—first time since 1993—so there was no reason to follow baseball anymore.

If you haven’t been following the playoffs, this is what you have missed. The Tampa Bay Rays, perennial losers of the American League East and former whipping boys of the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, have passed both teams to reach the World Series. Opposing them are the Philadelphia Phillies, one of the oldest franchises in the MLB and winners of only one championship in 125 years. They aren’t the franchises you expect to see in October, but there are plenty of reasons why this may be a World Series worth watching.

10. Best of both worlds: For Yankee fans, it’s a chance to root for the Phillies, the Mets’ nemesis. For Met fans, it’s a chance to root for the Rays, the Yankees’ newest nemesis.

9. This is something fresh: A month ago, no one could have predicted the Phillies would be in the World Series as the Cubs dominated the National League. A year ago, the Rays were still bottom-feeders in a strong American League East. No longer are the Yankees or Red Sox dominating World Series talk.

8. The Pitchers: Cole Hamels had an amazing NLCS giving up just three runs and 11 hits in two victories over the Los Angeles Dodgers and will continue to dominate from the mound. Mets fans will be cringing every time Scott Kazmir takes the mound, reminding Queens what could have been. A few years ago, the Mets gave away top prospect Kazmir for Victor Zambrano, a pitcher that was supposed to be molded into something great. Unfortunately for the Mets, he is no longer even on the roster.

7. Tampa’s Magical Run: The Rays may be in the middle of a magical run, similar to what the Mets did in 1969 and what the Florida Marlins did in 1997 by going from a bottom-feeding team to a World Series Champion. Last year, the Rays had 66 wins. This year they had 97.

6. The Curse of Billy Penn. Philadelphia has not won a championship in any of the four major sports since the Sixers won the NBA championship in 1983. A superstition suggests it is because city builders have broken tradition and made buildings taller than the statue of state founder William Penn that tops Philadelphia ’s City Hall. Whatever the case, the city’s drought remains the longest of any American metropolis with local teams in the four major sports. If the Phillies win this year, people will have plenty of reasons to celebrate.

5. The Fight for Ray Hawk Freedom: In their first playoff run of all time, most Tampa Bay players, including manager Joe Madden, are sporting the same haircut—the Rayhawk. This mohawk style haircut has even led to fans getting their own, including a 12-year-old boy in the Tampa Bay area who got suspended from school for violating uniform regulations.

4. Home runs: Three players on the Phillies’ lineup have more than 30 home runs this season, with first baseman Ryan Howard leading the way with 48. Third baseman Evan Longoria and center fielder B.J. Upton of the Rays have six and seven home runs respectively thus far in the postseason, so there is no question these young guys are feeling relaxed at the plate. This World Series should have plenty of homers, especially since at least two of the games will be played at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, a notorious hitters’ zone.

3. The “Rays”: Ever since dropping the word “devil” from their name, the Tampa Bay Rays have excelled, despite having hardly anyone watch them (they are ranked 12th out of 14 American League teams in attendance). Not only that, but they are the true definition of a baseball organization. Players emerge from the farm system and not through blockbuster trades (I’m looking at you, Ivan Rodriguez.)

2. Evan Longoria. The third baseman for the Rays may be the best rookie ever to set foot in the MLB playoffs. In Game Four of the ALCS against Boston, Longoria hit his fifth home run of the postseason, giving him the playoff record for rookies, despite not yet taking part in the World Series.

1. This may never happen again. Who knows how long these two teams will revert back to their losing ways?