The Tampa Bay Rays season finally came to an end, losing to the American League champion Boston Red Sox on Oct. 8 at Tropicana Field.
There are many reasons why Central Florida has found a place for the Rays in their hearts.
They are lovable, gritty, resilient and low-budget. Their payroll for 2013 was $57 million, which ranks third lowest in the entire league.
In addition, the team won seven of their final eight regular season games, beat the Texas Rangers in Arlington to make the playoffs, and stunned the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in order to get an opportunity against the Boston Red Sox.
But much to the dismay of local fans, that is where Tampa’s run was halted. Unfortunately, it is an all too familiar feeling.
They have finished above .500 six years in a row, only having made it to the World Series one time, and losing in the first round of the playoffs three other times.
“It’s tough; it feels like they do this to us every year. They provide a source of optimism, and fall just short,” senior Alex Cueto, a recent fan of the Rays, said.
He started rooting for the team after spending the past several years at Florida Southern College.
There has been much skepticism in regards to management.
Many fans are starting to wonder if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman, the respective manager and general manager, are at fault.
Maddon took over the team in 2006, when they had never come close to a winning season.
The Rays broke out in 2008, under Maddon, when they won 97 regular season games and advanced to the World Series, only to fall short against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“Maddon cannot go anywhere. He is the man, plain and simple. Our franchise has never won without him, and he arguably coaches with less talent than other successful teams,” Nathan Leavitt, senior, said.
Leavitt was in attendance for game three against the Red Sox, when Jose Lobaton launched a walk-off home run into his actual section.
Leavitt considers himself a lifelong fan.
“We have never won a World Series with this management. We need to find someone who will,” Tye Jensen, another lifelong Rays fan from FSC, said.
The Rays fan base at FSC appears to be at a crossroads in regard to management.
Does ownership need to change it up and bring in new faces to freshen up the clubhouse?
Or should they stick with their guns, and give Maddon and Friedman the benefit of having limited resources?
Either way, fans on campus are still stinging from their abrupt playoff exit.
With that being said, champions or not, it iss hard to argue against the exciting roller coaster ride the Rays are delivering year in and year out.
Photo courtesy of Wayne Koehler