Last year, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays sported an unsightly 66-96 record.
This year, with the "Devil" dropped from the team nickname, the Rays won 97 games, and are heading to the World Series, after finally putting away a feisty Boston Red Sox team in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, winning the penultimate game, 3-1.
Of course, it could have gone in a different direction, especially after the Red Sox won game 5, 8-7, mounting a terrific comeback from a 7-0 deficit. The Red Sox were trying to come back from a 3-1 series deficit for the third time in five years; the past two times, they won the World Series. But, the Rays, behind Game 7 starter Matt Garza, hung tough, and gritted out a win to propel them to the World Series to face the Philadelphia Phillies, another team with loss issues.
What's interesting is that, with its Game 7 win today, all of the post-1990 teams have now made it to the World Series, with the Florida Marlins winning in 1997 and 2003, the Arizona Diamondbacks winning in 2001, the Colorado Rockies getting swept by the Red Sox last year, and now, the Rays. Will the Rays go the way of Florida and Arizona, or will they join the Rockies in losing?
It's a toss-up. The Phillies line-up is packed with power hitters, with some outstanding pitching. The Rays have some power and solid pitching, but they do seem focused on winning. Even if the matchup isn't that dramatic, as I'm sure that some were rooting for a Dodgers-Red Sox, or an all-Chicago Series, the World Series will be played by two teams that have a history of losing, and are finally getting the chance to redeem themselves and bask in championship glory.