MLB story lines: Will the Rays keep winning?

Updated: March 30, 2009, 12:19 PM ET
SportsNation

The Rays experienced the thrill of victory in 2008.
Let's be honest here -- for all the early-season buzz about the "new and improved" Rays, not one of you predicted that they would win the East, win the pennant, and actually make it to the World Series. Not these Rays -- that team of low attendance, garish uniforms and year after year of last-place finishes.

Fortunately, those last-place finishes gave the Rays a bevy of young, talented players. Up until 2008, they had never been able to bring this valuable resource to bear in any meaningful way. A new front office, led by the young Andrew Friedman, had been marshalling the Rays' young talent since 2005, a tactic which paid great dividends when combined with a few savvy free agent signings. With players like Scott Kazmir, B.J. Upton, and rookie of the year Evan Longoria leading the way, the Rays were a team that far outstripped both the injured Red Sox and aging Yankees.

Of course, one-year wonderdom is nothing to aspire to. The Rays are largely intact, and have acquired a powerful new DH in the person of Pat Burrell, a former rival. Could Tampa Bay be the new hot destination for free agents? Only time will tell, but what is apparent is how much the Rays have improved. Will they keep up their status as the AL's hot young team?

What We're Saying

Jerry Crasnick: "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."
Oct. 28, 2008
Maddon: This is just the beginning

Peter Gammons: "Everyone saw what happened to the Tampa Bay Rays when they concentrated on run prevention. They improved almost every defensive position in 2008 and went from the bottom to close to the top in defensive efficiency, and topped it with the maturation of B.J. Upton in center field.'
Feb. 8, 2009
Falling back in love with defense

Jayson Stark: "What's a guy have to do to make a team these days, anyhow? Get himself ranked as the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball? Nope. Apparently, that won't do it. Get himself named USA Today's 2008 Minor League Player of the Year? Nope. That won't, either ... OK, how about marching in to save the game in October that launched his team into the first World Series in franchise history? Sorry. Not quite enough."
March 24, 2009
Believe it or not, Price headed to minors

By the Numbers

The Rays are built primarily on young talent, with three players in particular representing the wave of the future in Tampa Bay. All three had their moments in the postseason, though the Phillies shut them down in the World Series.

Evan Longoria


Longoria made an immediate impact for the Rays.
2008 Stats
OPS: .874
OPS+: 125
OBP: .343
Awards: Rookie of the Year, 11th place in MVP voting

2008 Postseason Stats
G: 16
HR: 6
RBI: 13
R: 10
SLG: .532
OBP: .254
AVG: .194

B.J. Upton


A wrist injury sapped Upton's power, but it came back in the playoffs.
2008 Stats
OPS: .784
OPS+: 107
OBP: .383
OBP: .401
SB: 44
HR: 9

2008 Postseason Stats
G: 16
HR: 7
RBI: 16
R: 16
SB: 6
SLG: .652
OBP: .333
AVG: .288

David Price


Price delivered despite limited time in the majors.
2008 Stats (minors)
W-L: 12-1
IP: 109.2
ERA: 1.82
K: 109
BB: 32
HR: 7

2008 Postseason Stats
G: 5
IP: 5.2
W-L: 1-0
SV: 1
ERA: 1.59
K: 8
BB: 4