Expectations Rays'd

Over the course of the history of this weblog and my blogging in general on the Internet, I've had some problems with the Tampa Bay professional baseball franchise. I've had some problems with the mainstream coverage of the team when moves were made (blindly) to improve the team in 1999. The gaffes, the laughs, the horrors... Larry Rothschild, Hal McRae, Lou Pinella, Chuck "Chuckles the Clown" LaMar and some of the beyond-bizarre moves that he made as GM, and of course Vincent J. Naimoli who rounded out the ills and the thrills and the chills of the first few years of Tampa Bay baseball.

I've also lashed out blindly and ignorantly - trying to connect the dots that just weren't there - to current Rays managing general partner Stuart Sternberg. I thought something sinister was afoot and recalled recent ill-conceived notions of contraction by Major League baseball.

I don't have the links right now to all this "goodness". And I don't really want to spend time researching it. No.

Why? Because in their 11th season, almost 11 years to the day of the 1997 expansion draft, the Tampa Bay Rays ballclub will be participating in game one of the 2008 World Series.

That's not a misprint.

That's not a typo (and I should know, I make many).

I day I did not expect once again is here. Through all the squabbles I have been through both this season and in seasons past, I never really expected to see this day. I didn't expect this team -- the Wunderkids of St. Pete -- to get thsi far though I could very well see them making a pennant chase.

And still ghosts haunt me. While I revel in Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Scott Kazmir, Andy Sonnenstine, Akinori Iwamura, Carlos Pena and the rest of the Tampa Bay roster... The unease of days past still linger. Brian Kelly, Greg "Toe" Nash, Jose Canseco, Gregg Vaughn, Wilson Alverez, and so on and so forth. The names are malignancies that have not been wiped out just yet.

So while I revel int he impossible -- the Rays getting this far -- it seems surreal to me. It will undoubtedly remain unreal to me for a long time to come. This is the apex of Tampa Bay's baseball history. A quest that spanned decades and routinely pulled up disappointment.

And the question that stands out in my mind isn't "How will it end?" No, it's how much higher to the top? Because that's where a Ray shines from -- the top. And all this team has done this season is shine.

Shine on, Rays.