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Post walk-off Rays Reflections: I. Can’t. Even.

What the heck is this team?

Cleveland Indians v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images

Remember how this season started? The trades, the DFAs, the injuries.

The media claimed the Rays were tanking and ruining baseball in the process.

The MLB Players Association said the Rays were engaging in unfair labor practices by not even trying to win and filed a grievance against the Tampa Bay Rays and three other teams.

They traded face of the franchise Evan Longoria (supposedly so he could be part of a winning team this year. LOL). They traded former All-Star Corey Dickerson, and budding star, Steven Souza Jr. They traded away veterans Jake Odorizzi and Brad Boxberger. Other than in the Souza deal, the returns for these veterans were, on the whole, underwhelming.

To the outside world, the Rays were in full on tank mode. They clearly had no sense of shame, heading into the season with Joey effing Wendle in a starting role.

I mean, when Opening Day arrived they didn’t even have a five man starting rotation. Their Opening Day designated hitter was Rob Refsnyder.

And for the first three weeks of the season, the pundits appeared to be right. The Rays started the year 4-13, including an eight game losing streak. In May, the Rays traded away more veterans, sending Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle. In June, they sent Brad Miller to the Milwaukee Brewers. In July, the traded away even more: Jonny Venters, Nate Eovaldi, Matt Andriese, and their former ace, Chris Archer.

Well, that first pick of the 2019 draft was going to be pretty sweet.

But wait: Since starting the year 4-13, the Rays have compiled a record of 74-51, the 7th best record in the majors since April 18th.

This is thanks to the Rays front office for getting players other teams had thrown to the scrap heap. This is thanks to Kevin Cash for getting the players to believe in the team and the unconventional things they’ve had to in order to compete. Lastly, this is thanks to the players who are going out there and performing out of their minds to make baseball exciting in Tampa Bay on every single night.

Ji-Man Choi, acquired from the Brewers for Brad Miller

Joey Wendle, acquired from the Athletics for Jonah Heim

Tommy Pham, acquired from the Cardinals for three prospects

Mallex Smith, acquired from the Mariners/Braves for Drew Smyly

C.J. Cron, acquired from the Angels for Luis Rengifo

Carlos Gomez, Chaz Roe, Sergio Romo, and Wilmer Font were just guys that were available to anyone who would take them.

The Rays are currently the hottest team in baseball, winning 17 of their last 20 contests, but despite this late season surge, they remain a longshot to make the playoffs. The Athletics ending the year on a hot run as well.

Still, this team was not supposed to win 90 games, or 80 games. Their loudest critics wondered if they would even sniff 70 wins.

But somehow, they have managed to produce one of the best years in franchise history, and it’s certainly been one of the most fun to watch.

There are currently 19 regular season games left for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 and they’re 7.5 games back of the Oakland Athletics for the second Wild Card spot. They’ll welcome the Athletics in for three games this weekend.

The Rays current path to the Wild Card? Win every game. And we know that’s not likely. That’s why we’re focused on enjoying the ride and ignoring the scoreboard.

But, if by some miraculous chance, the Rays managed to sweep Oakland, things could get very...very interesting.