I'm rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays to take it all! Before you think I'm nothing more than a johnny-come-lately bandwagoner, let me explain a few things. First, the Angels are still my favorite team. Second, I can, in fact, name a number of players on Tampa Bay. And third, I have 1,500 reasons to root for them.
Back in March, I made my annual March Madness trip to Reno. While there, I often times look at the futures for all of the sports to see if there's some fun longshot that would be worth rooting for. This year the Rays jumped out at me. I'm not going to lie and say I knew they would have the best record in the majors at the beginning of June. But when I saw the listing, they had the longest odds to win the World Series - substantially longer than Kansas City, Toronto, San Francisco, and plenty of other completely lousy teams.
And this is where my knowledge of their players came to my aid (if that's what it was). I drafted BJ Upton with the #1 pick in a keeper league (simulation baseball) back when he first appeared in 2004. I kept him in my league through 2005, when he spent the entire year in the Minors and had to waste a roster spot on him. So I've been following and rooting for him for a long time. I had heard great things about Evan Longoria, and of course, my Angels had been rumored to be pursuing Carl Crawford in a trade. On the pitching side, I saw Matt Garza pitch in New Britain, CT two years ago. In that year, he started the season in Single-A and proceeded to dominate all three levels of the minors and make the Majors by August. Dominant stuff. And of course, there's Troy Percival, the best closer in Angels history (K-Rod's good and all, but I hold my breath in the 9th inning a lot more often now than I did through most of the 1990s). I certainly thought Percy was done, but I was rooting for his comeback attempt.
So there I was in Reno, thinking "Energetic hitters, young starting rotation, veteren bullpen, solid defense (once Iwamura replaced Upton at 2B)." They reminded me a little of the Rockies from last year. And the Rockies made the World Series. So, after texting a number of friends with messages like "I think I'm freaking insane, I want to bet on the Devil Rays," I finally put $10 on them to win the World Series at 150/1 odds.
The two or three people that knew what I was doing kept laughing in April. Hey Wombat, your Rays won again. In May, one remarked they were watching ESPN and the analysts were all saying "Nobody saw this coming," and he thought "One person did." Now all I get are a lot of "How did you know?" and "I wish I had gone along with you."
Now, to be fair, I did NOT see this coming. I just thought they were better than they had been and I liked some of the players. But now that they have a 2 game lead in the AL East (and a 6 or so game lead in the Wild Card), all i can say is that I'm rooting for them. I think they're young and exciting, they built a solid team and play sound baseball. And I've got $1,500 riding on them. Go Rays!