Rays' rise inspires hope

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October 23, 2008|By RICK MAESE

I love franchises with roots deep in the ground and more heartache and suffering than a Nashville jukebox. But let's not pretend the Tampa Bay Rays haven't paid their dues and made a sufficient offering to the sporting gods.

A good friend of mine is a Tampa, Fla., native and a Rays fan from Day One. He points out that it takes most teams many, many years to lose 972 games. Tampa Bay spent years simply fighting for a team and then managed to squeeze decades of despair into 10 short seasons.

As for the sport in general, it's important for teams like Tampa Bay to reach the World Series. It gives hope to small-market teams, reinforces the idea that there's parity in baseball and limits the excuses that mediocre and meandering teams like the Orioles can offer to their fans year after year.

With teams like the Rays building from the ground up and somehow finding their way into the World Series, we're reminded that even with no salary cap, something about baseball works, despite fans like Kevin crying foul.

In October, only two teams can vie for a championship, but that's not what makes the game beautiful. The key is come spring, fans of all teams need to think they have a shot. Watching the Rays take on the Philadelphia Phillies the next several days isn't just simply reward for suffering Tampa Bay fans. It also fuels the hopes for fans of every other team in baseball.

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