TORONTO — Three questions to ponder over the final three weeks:
1. If the Rays don't make the playoffs, is the season a disappointment?
For a team that had the worst record in the majors last season, that had never won more than 70 games in any season, that has one of the smallest payrolls and youngest squads, that without winning another game would already have a hefty 19-game improvement, this already has been a tremendous season.
But that said, at this point, as far as they've come, as long as they've been in first place (51 straight days, 87 overall), as close as they are now, the answer would have to be yes.
2. What if they don't win the division but get in as the wild card?
There are some people who insist that with all the past misery, failure and embarrassment just getting into the playoffs is their land-on-the-moon moment.
As significant of an accomplishment as that would be, there is also the matter of perspective, and having led the division for so long, there certainly would be some sense of failure.
But having seen the past 10 seasons end early, any postseason appearance would have to be considered something worth celebrating. So that answer is no.
3. If they do get in, who deserves the credit?
In his first extensive comments on the turnaround, former managing partner Vince Naimoli told MLB.com last week he was "as happy as I can be" about the team, but "the only misgiving I really have is that (former GM) Chuck LaMar doesn't get any of the credit. He put many of the pieces together while Stu Sternberg and Andy Friedman have added the missing links."
That's a not-surprising and semi-interesting perspective, but consider that only seven players on the 40-man roster Friedman inherited are still in the organization (plus Rocco Baldelli, who was on the DL, and Trever Miller, who left and came back).
The best way to answer that question may be to ask another: Would the Rays be in this position if Naimoli and LaMar were still in charge?