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Rays Tales: Tampa Bay Rays' turnaround after decade of dismal play among the best ever

Those days seem so long ago, when the Rays — actually the Devil Rays — were bumbling and stumbling through their dismal debut decade, historically bad in losing 90-plus games each season and having the worst record in the majors during that span.

"It seems forever ago," said RHP James Shields, a member of the organization since 2000. "It definitely seems forever ago."

Now these Rays are on a different short list, one of only seven teams to make the significant turnaround of following 10 or more losing seasons with three consecutive winning seasons. (And starting with 2008, they have the third-best record in the majors.) Of the six teams that had done it before (and mostly without the benefit of playoffs much less wild cards), only one other made it to the World Series during that three-year window: the 1914 Braves, who won it featuring Hall of Famers Johnny Evers and Rabbit Maranville and managed by George Stallings.

The special seven

(ranked by improvement)

Philadelphia A's

1915-1924 528-963 .354

1925-1927 262-194 .571

Improvement: +.217

Boston Beaneaters/Doves/Rustlers/Braves

1903-1913 597-1062 .360

1914-1916 266-191 .564

Improvement: +.204

Proof: ’14 World Series

Washington Senators

1901-1911 610-1008 .377

1912-1914 262-198 .553

Improvement: +.176

Tampa Bay Devil Rays/Rays

1998-2007 645-972 .399

2008-2010 264-194 .565

Improvement: +.166

Proof: '08 World Series

Philadelphia A's

1934-1946 736-1245 .371

1947-1949 243-219 .526

Improvement: +.155

Phil/KC/Oak A's

1953-1967 939-1422 .398

1968-1970 259-227 .533

Improvement: +.135

Montreal Expos

1969-1978 705-907 .437

1979-1981 245-185 .570

Improvement: +.133

Proof: '81 NLCS

Eighth is enough

A lot has gone into the Rays' success this season, especially their play late in games. The eighth inning has been especially key. Here's a breakdown of their runs scored and allowed by inning (through Friday):

Opp Rays

1 70 65

2 49 50

3 63 85

4 57 68

Opp Rays

5 48 90

6 83 80

7 48 56

8 47 103

Opp Rays

9 43 52

X 10 14

Tot518 663

Interesting company

With his honorary doctor of letters degree from Lafayette College, manager Joe Maddon joined an interesting group of others so honored by the Easton, Pa., school (though not Stephen Crane, who attended briefly in the 1890s):

• TV host Joan Lunden

• The Marquis de Lafayette (for whom the school is named)

• Comedian Bill Cosby

• Former President George H.W. Bush

• Poet Maya Angelou

• Political commentator George Will

• Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin

• Cartoonist Gary Trudeau

• Astronaut Neil Armstrong

• Actor Meryl Streep

Rays rumblings

Bench coach Dave Martinez and third-base coach Tom Foley have both come up in the Marlins' discussions about their managing job. … Several Rays have firsthand knowledge of the buzz around Reds phenom Aroldis Chapman from facing him in the minors: Dan Johnson was hit on the elbow by a 99 mph pitch and Dioner Navarro in the back by one clocked at 102. "A legit 102," Navarro said. … Look for RHP Jeremy Hellickson to get some minor-league player of the year honors. … Yes, Bobby Valentine did call them the "Devil Rays" on ESPN last week. … Peter Gammons said nice things on WFAN radio about the Rays team and horrible things about the Trop ("really hard to get to … terrible neighborhood") and the market (wondering if they'll draw 15,000 for a playoff game). … In a makes-sense move, the Rays will have their instructional league crew play some games at the Trop. … Triple-A Durham radio man Neil Solondz did well in his callup hosting the pre- and postgame shows while Rich Herrera was doing Bulls play-by-play. … The Nationals, for some reason, continue talking about making a run at Carl Crawford, who seems much more likely to go to a winning team. … Aaron Gleeman raised an interesting (and unanswerable) question on — was Wednesday's starting outfield of Crawford, B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings the fastest in MLB history?

Got a minute? Rocco Baldelli

Best meal you can make? The only meal I can make are egg sandwiches — English muffin, over easy egg, American cheese. And then I cook a ribeye steak with it in a frying pan.

Karaoke song if you had to? The Weight by The Band. Or anything by Phish.

Time killer at the mall? I'm never killing time at the mall.

Late-night TV? I've been watching True Blood a lot on HBO.

Dream date? Rachel McAdams. And run a good picture!

Rays Tales: Tampa Bay Rays' turnaround after decade of dismal play among the best ever 09/04/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 4, 2010 9:19pm]
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