TORONTO — There will be a lot of words written, spewed and posted over the next few days about all that went wrong for the Rays and what they had to overcome in reaching the postseason for a franchise-record fifth straight year.
About the number of players they lost to injury, and who they were and how, including three top starters requiring season-ending elbow surgeries.
The legal and disciplinary issues, and uncertain future, facing star shortstop Wander Franco, as investigations by Major League Baseball and Dominican Republic authorities continue into allegations of inappropriate relationships with minors.
And their confounding July skid, when a 5-15 run wiped out the seemingly comfortable American League East lead they built over the first three months, costing them the division title and first-round playoff bye they so coveted.
But there should also be time to remember and consider some of the things that went right in a season stacked with achievements and accomplishments.
Here are 10 of the most notable:
• The 13-0 start that tied the modern-era record shared by the 1982 Braves and 1987 Brewers, and led to research and conversation about the fascinating tale of the 1884 St. Louis Maroons, who held the all-time record at 20-0.
• The power and speed performances by outfielders Randy Arozarena and Josh Lowe. Arozarena became the first player in franchise history with three straight seasons of 20 homers and 20 steals, and relished in the Randy Land Friday night seating areas. And Lowe, in his first full big-league season, joined Arozarena as the only Rays with 20 homers, 30 steals and 30 doubles in a season.
• Yandy Diaz’s breakthrough season as a league MVP candidate, hitting a career-high 22 homers while going to the final day with a chance to lead the league in batting (hitting .330 through Friday) and on-base percentage (.411).
• Isaac Paredes’ emergence, at 24 and in his first full big-league season, as a legitimate source of power and production, going into play Saturday with 31 homers and 97 RBIs, and the chance to be the fifth Ray to go 30-100. Similarly, the much greater than expected, and much needed, contributions from converted starter Zack Littell, and relievers Kevin Kelly (a Rule 5 rookie), Robert Stephenson (acquired in June from Pirates) and Shawn Armstrong.
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• The overall team power show, going into play Saturday two home runs short of the franchise record of 228 (set in 2017) and 16 runs from that team mark of 857 (set in 2021).
• A majors best-matching 53-28 record at home, including an MLB-most 11 walkoff wins, coupled with a 27.7% increase in attendance for a total of 1,440,301 fans that was their most since 2018. Plus the Sept. 19 announcement of an agreement to build a new stadium in downtown St. Petersburg.
• The season put together by free-agent addition Zach Eflin, who won an AL co-leading 16 games while ranking along the league leaders with a 3.50 ERA (3.50) and 1.02 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched.
• The job done by manager Kevin Cash in handling all the injuries (20 players serving IL time) and issues involving Franco (who was benched for two games in June) and others, while steering a team laden with young players to the brink of 100 wins.
• Having two players, Arozarena and Diaz, elected to start for the AL All-Star team for just the second time in franchise history, joining Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford in 2010. And Arozarena putting on a show in the Home Run Derby.
• Harold Ramirez’s team single-season record 11 pinch hits (producing nine RBIs), and an uncanny 20-for-40 performance the last two seasons.
Rock and Roll All Nite
Kelly, 25, didn’t know that much about the legendary rock band Kiss before last week, figuring he was familiar with only one song, Rock and Roll All Nite.
That changed Wednesday when, in one of the most elaborate costumes ever for a rookie dress-up trip, he found himself decked out in the full Gene Simmons black leather and spikes outfit, wig, boots and full makeup (that Courtney Ellison, the team dietician, spent about 40 minutes helping him apply).
Kelly figured he was in for something outlandish, given his teammates earlier in the season had him dress up in cowboy boots, tight jeans and a hat for pre-game warmups in Texas and last weekend as Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield.
But that still didn’t prepare the quiet right-hander for when he saw the outfit awaiting him Wednesday, after the team’s playoff-clinching celebration.
“I was at a loss for words,” he said. “It was cool.”
Not only did he have to wear it out of Fenway Park, but through Customs and in the lobby of the team hotel in Toronto. “There were a lot of stares and laughs,” he said.
Eflin, who with reliever Jake Diekman is behind much of the team frivolity, said Kelly “might only know one song, but he absolutely rocked the costume. He rocks everything.”
Though a random Instagram post sparked social media speculation last week, there has been no change in Franco’s status, nor is one expected anytime soon, as he remains on administrative leave. … Cash will be in consideration for a third AL Manager of the Year award in four seasons; the Athletic’s Jayson Stark pegged him a close second to Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde, with voting done before the start of the postseason.. … A USA Today feature on process and analytics coach Jonathan Erlichman called him the Rays’ “dugout Jedi.” In the article, Erlichman said one of the biggest adjustments he made after joining the staff five years ago was “prioritizing sleep quality.” … ESPN gave the Rays a B+ for the season. … Bench coach Rodney Linares made The Athletic’s short list of top manager candidates, as he should for any such lists this offseason. ... Odd coincidence the Rays were beaten out for the AL East title by the Orioles and Triple-A Durham lost in the International League championship series to Baltimore’s Norfolk team.
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