Winning is great. But winning can also suck. When you win, your fanbase expects you to keep winning. When you're not winning, everyone asks why you're not winning and comes up with their own theories to get the team winning again.
Ok, enough about winning. I'm really here to talk about expectations. Last season the Rays finished with a record of 97-65 and secured home filed advantage in the playoffs. The team's Pythagorean Win/Loss record was 92-70, which would have still been good enough to land the Wild Card, but without home field advantage who knows how far the team gets last season. The team won an abnormally high number of close games, something that surely could not be duplicated this season.
So far this year the Rays are six games over .500 at 44-38, but have a Pythagorean Win/Loss of 48-34, which would put them tied with Boston in the win column. On this date last season the Rays were 22 games over .500 and held a two game lead over Boston, granted they had played a few more games. If this were last season and the Rays had a 44-38 record after 82 games we would all be estatic. Last year the Rays probably played a little above their head, and this season they're seemingly being evened out and playing a bit under it. I'm not saying the Rays can't get a few extra bounces to go their way and climb back to the top of the AL East, but the way things are going it doesn't look likely.
Say you're a small business owner and you work really hard in creating a product that everyone loves and is wildly successful. You're a hit, you're a star. But every year the market changes, the competition changes, and it makes things that much tougher for a small business owner like yourself to keep up the same level of success.
Winning is the magic formula that cures all that ales you. It's what's in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction. Karl Marx famously said 'Religion is the opiate of the people'; I think the same can be said for winning. Our expectations in this area have been raised, but before we get our heads too far into the clouds lets not forget where our heads where last season.