On Monday an email was sent out to a baseball PR list breaking down the postseason odds. At the top, of course, were the Los Angeles Dodgers, heavily favored to win it all. Right below them in second place: the New York Yankees.
The Rays were in third with 7-1 odds.
The Yankees finished seven games behind the Rays this year. Of all the AL teams to make the postseason, they had the third worst record behind the Astros and the Jays, and who they bested by one win. They had a worse record than the three AL Central teams who made the postseason. Yet they were favored second-highest to win the World Series.
In order to get to the World Series, the Yankees — who have a 2-8 record against the Rays this season and an atrocious .379 road record — will have a lot of work to do, yet everyone seems to think their AL victory is a foregone conclusion, and that’s because no one seems to take the Rays seriously, even now.
Think back to the start of the season. Despite the Rays making it to the ALDS just last year, losing to the soon-to-be-investigated Houston Astros in 5 games, predictions at the beginning of 2020 were still talking about how the Red Sox might bounce back after trading Mookie Betts. As if talent was just an accident.
Fast forward to the Rays having a 40-20 record on the pandemic shortened season. Even in the recent MLB-made hype video, more time was spent turning Fernando Tatis Jr into a cartoon than was spent highlighting the Rays (I counted two Rays clips in the quick collection, but at least three or more of the Yankees.)
It’s hard to be mad at them for featuring Tatis Jr so heavily, as he’s one of the most exciting players in ages, and MLB has long struggled to market their best players, but when so few promotions of the game by MLB exist, the imbalance is palpable.
Dancing Ji-Man Choi was a nice touch, admittedly. A celebration by Willy Adames is earned. You might have had to pause the video to notice either of them, though.
The frustration, for those of us who follow closely, is in wondering just what the Rays need to do in order to be taken seriously.
They’ve made it to the postseason in back-to-back years; they crushed Justin Verlander with a bullpen game in the 2019 ALDS; and despite financial restrictions that have sacrificed fan-favorite players to trades again and again, the Rays have crafted one of the best farm systems in baseball, as well as a well-oiled machine at the MLB level that pumps out executives and managers to other franchises like doughnuts on a Krispy Kreme conveyor belt.
Critics call them cheap, because Charlie Morton is how they go for big ticket free agents, but who else could have salvaged incredible undervalued players like Tommy Pham, who is now postseason bound with the Padres, and then turned him into present and future value via trade? That should have never worked!
The Rays have proven themselves time and time again to be a savvy team, packed with talented young players, thriving veterans (hello top-3 Cy Young finisher Charlie Morton), and are holding all the receipts that say they’re the best damn team in the American League, yet they’re still fighting to be legitimized, to be respected, to be seen as a real threat.
By the end of October the Rays could be hanging a World Series banner at Tropicana Field and someone on MLB Network will still be wondering if the Red Sox could make a comeback next season.
At this point, Rays fans like it that way. Go ahead and forget about us.
Just be sure to tune in. In case you need reminding, ours is the opening game of the playoffs. We’re the fans with the No. 1 seed. And we’re all here to make some noise.