3 reasons you should root for the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series
On Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers clash in Game 1 of the World Series, hosted on a neutral site at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
If you’re a casual baseball fan or a diehard supporter of a team that didn’t reach the Fall Classic, you may be wondering which crew to root for in the final showdown of a wild and unprecedented 2020 season.
Below are three reasons why you should root for the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series. Also see the opposing argument on three reasons you should pull for the Dodgers here.
1. The Rays have never won a World Series
The 22-year-old franchise has reached the World Series just once before, in 2008.
That season, first baseman Carlos Pena and third baseman Evan Longoria helped the Rays capture the American League pennant, before the team fell 4-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
The Rays finished first in the AL East in 2008 with a 97-65 record. In 2020’s shortened season, Tampa owned baseball’s second-best record, at 40-20. Only the Dodgers achieved a better mark (43-17) and will head in as the -217 favorite in the best-of-seven series.
2. The Rays kept the Astros out of the World Series
Unless you reside in Houston, chances are the one team you absolutely did not want to see win — or even reach — the World Series was the Astros.
Following an offseason of turmoil amid the fallout of Houston’s infamous sign-stealing scandal, the Astros unapologetically accepted the role of villain in Major League Baseball.
Had fans been allowed to attend regular-season games, the Astros undoubtedly would have shouldered plenty of verbal abuse from opposing fanbases. Instead, social media became a popular source for spewing hatred at the Astros.
But for a brief moment, it appeared Houston may get the maniacal last laugh.
In the ALCS, the Rays built a 3-1 series lead, then squandered it, as the Astros fought back to force Game 7. Thankfully, Tampa bounced back to defeat Houston 4-2 in the final game of the series and gave Twitter the chance to celebrate the villain's ultimate demise.
3. You love underdog stories
Going up against a Dodgers team loaded with household names, like Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts, the Rays represent a different type of MLB team — one built on a small budget with young, budding talent.
Tampa began the season ranked 28th in payroll in MLB. The only team to play in the World Series since 1998 with a lower ranking was Tampa’s 2008 team.
Compared to the Dodgers, who spent $107.9 million in salary on a roster that includes 12 former All-Stars with 26 combined All-Star Game appearances, the Rays’ salary equaled $28.3 million in 2020.
Pitching has been a strong suit of Tampa’s, while rookie sensation Randy Arozarena has made history with his breakout playoff performance. The outfielder became the fourth player with at least seven home runs in a postseason, before the World Series, and set an MLB record for most homers by a rookie in the playoffs.
Arozarena hit three home runs off the New York Yankees in the ALDS and four against the Astros in the ALCS, where he was named MVP of the series. He is also already tied for the second most total bases (47) in one postseason, behind only 2011 World Series MVP David Freese's 50.
On top of that, Arozarena is an underdog story himself. The 25-year-old fled his home country of Cuba on a small boat around 2015 and landed in Mexico, where he played baseball at Toros de Tijuana club, a developmental academy. There, Arozarena had to share cleats and batting gloves with another prospect.
Now, he is a rising star on the Rays and is just four wins away from guiding the franchise to its first World Series championship.