By Matthew Curtis | Enzian Theater October 22, 2008 at 11:02AM
Can you really bet against the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series? The team that had never won more than 70 games in a season in their miserable 10 years of existence that went on to win the toughest division in baseball (AL East), beating out the Boston and New York mega($$$)powers and a good Toronto club with an astounding 97 victories? The team that went from the worst record in the league last year with 96 losses to playoff victories against the Central Divison winning Chicago White Sox and the mighty, ever-resilient World Champion Boston Red Sox, who they took out in a pressure-filled 7 game series? The same Red Sox team that had been 9-0 in elimination games under Terry Francona and had all the momentum in the world after a miracle 7-run comeback late in Game 5 and a solid road win in Game 6 of the ALCS?
While Vegas odds are favoring the Rays, most of the pundits on ESPN are picking the Phillies to win the Series based on their 3-All-Star infield (Howard, Utley, and Rollins), experience, and unblemished stopper in the bullpen, Brad Lidge (49-0 in save opportunities!?). Of course, these were the same experts who picked the Red Sox and Dodgers to meet in the Series. If the Rays win, they will be the first team in history in any of the four major sports (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey) to go from absolute worst to a world championship the very next season--it's never been done before.
It's already one of the greatest sports stories ever, if not one of the greatest underdog stories ever. Journalists are using the "Miracle on Ice" and the '69 Mets as reference points. A World Series victory would simply be icing on the cake to this amazing turnaround. I may be a bandwagon fan, but with this team who isn't? And at least Tampa has two former Twins players (ALCS MVP Matt Garza and shortstop Jason Bartlett) in key roles. This is awesome (and pretty damn fun to boot!)--the Rays in 7.