Maddon: This is just the beginning
PHILADELPHIA -- For every championship team that sprays champagne, chews victory cigars and rants and screams in a manner that might get you arrested on Main Street at midnight, there's a corresponding losing club forced to deal with the crushing disappointment of it all.Shortly after their 4-3 victory in Game 5 of the World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies let down their hair in celebration of the second title in franchise history. It would have taken a soundproof bunker and a few extra sheets of protective plastic over the locker stalls to contain their euphoria. At the other end of Citizens Bank Park, the Tampa Bay Rays came to grips with reality. Some players lingered in the dugout for a few minutes after Eric Hinske's game-ending strikeout to watch the Phillies go wild and 45,940 fans pop their cork. Most of the Rays headed quickly up the runway to the clubhouse, where manager Joe Maddon thanked them for a job well-done and told them how proud he was of their effort and poise under pressure. "Obviously, you want to win the World Series when you get to this particular juncture, but for us to get here this year is just unthinkable," Maddon said. "I know from my perspective, this is just the beginning. That was part of my message to the players. We need to grow. This World Series will provide us the best instructional video in the history of the organization." With that, the Rays showered, dressed, paid their clubhouse dues and boarded a bus to a charter flight that carried them home to some warm memories and a bright future. They failed in the pursuit of their ultimate goal, yet were secure in the knowledge that baseball in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market will never be the same.
At the peak of this team's grand adventure, cowbells clanged, Mohawk haircuts became fashionable, a teenage saxophone player named BK Jackson became a national anthem-playing sensation, and Dick Vitale, Paul Azinger and Gen. David Petraeus were among the luminaries to throw out ceremonial first pitches at Tropicana Field.
And wonder of wonders, the fans in Tampa-St. Petersburg turned out with enough numbers and fervor to drown out the traveling bands of Red Sox diehards in the ALCS. That will be part of the 2008 Rays' legacy.
"These guys have created baseball in Tampa Bay, I believe," said Stuart Sternberg, the Rays' principal owner. "It's a large amount to bite off and chew. But I don't think the region's three million-plus people knew what baseball could mean until this year. And that's something that's going to stick for generations."
The only thing left to lament was the pale imitation that showed up for the World Series. The Rays were regarded by many as favorites over Philadelphia because they played against superior competition in the American League during the regular season and in October. But that didn't count for much when it mattered most.
And the Rays seemed just a tick off their game when it counted. Two plays in the Series finale spring to mind.
In the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday, with the Tampa Bay infield playing in, second baseman Akinori Iwamura failed to make a difficult catch on Jayson Werth's pop fly to shallow center field. Geoff Jenkins scored, and the Phillies took a 3-2 lead.
After Rocco Baldelli's solo homer off Ryan Madson tied the game in the seventh, Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett got overaggressive on Iwamura's infield single and was cut down by Chase Utley at home plate to end the inning.
Might things have worked out better for Tampa Bay if Maddon had employed his relievers differently? Perhaps. But the Rays manager pronounced himself satisfied with his choices of Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell and Chad Bradford in front of David Price, and the Rays were left to concede that the Phillies were simply a better club.
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WORLD SERIES GAME 5: PHILLIES 4, RAYS 3
The Phillies won the franchise's second World Series title by defeating the Rays 4-3 in a game that spanned three days.
Story | Series page
• Jayson Stark: Wait finally over for Philadelphia
• Jerry Crasnick: Just the beginning for Rays
• Amy K. Nelson: Grand finale for Burrell?
• Gene Woj: Manuel's mom right again
• Jim Caple: Suspended game not so bad after all
• Hamels named Series MVP
• Lidge finishes perfect season
• In-game chat with Rob Neyer
• Game 5 blog (Part II)
• Fans in Philly soak in title
• Inside Edge reports: Phillies | Rays
• ZOOM gallery: See the series in pictures
• Jayson Stark: Weather changes plan
• Jim Caple: Rays go hotel shopping
• Howard Bryant: Rays thought it was almost over
• Gene Woj: Bud did the right thing
• Selig: No shortened game
• In-game chat with Rob Neyer
• Game 5 blog
• Phillies win first title since 1980
• BBTN looks back at World Series
• Phillies players react to championship
• Hamels talks about being MVP
• Kruk on what this means for Philadelphia
• The managers break down Game 5
• Pena, Longoria examine loss
• Rays' season in review
• Stark, Caple Game 5 video blog
• Caple: This World Series all about weather?
• Postgame interviews