Not Yet Midnight: Rays' Cinderella Story Continues

Nick JohnstonCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2008

Who would have predicted it? The Tampa Bay Rays continue to laugh in the face of expectations.

Tampa Bay had never won more than 70 games in a season. They'd never so much as smelled the excitement of playoff fever in their 10-year history.

Tied for the lead AL East at the all-star break, "experts" said it wouldn't last.

Entering the playoffs, they "lacked experience." After Game Five of the ALCS, they were believed to have cracked under the pressure. The Boston Red Sox would stage one of their now-famous comebacks.

Cinderella tried to stay out past midnight.

But last night, Tampa Bay clinched the American League pennant and a spot in the World Series.

Suddenly, they're a force to be reckoned with. The Rays—the ugly duckling of the American League—are now a beautiful swan and the favorites to clinch baseball's most prestigious crown.

It sounds like a low-budget Hollywood sports film. The team that can't win anything, written off and mocked by everyone, makes its first playoff series and defeats the reigning champions by the tightest of margins.

Then there is the deciding series that will make or break this remarkable season.

With a strong defense lead by Scott Kazmir, Andy Sonnanstine, James Shields, and ALCS MVP Matt Garza, the battle between the Rays and the power offense of the Philadelphia Phillies' Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, and Chase Utley should give us a World Series to remember.

It's a new experience for almost everyone involved. As far as I'm aware, Brad Lidge and Cliff Floyd are the only players on either side's roster with World Series experience.

Neither manager has been to a World Series either. Yet these men have all proven themselves at the top level and are about to enter the biggest week of their lives determined to make history.

The Rays have come through this season to win in what is arguably the hardest division in baseball, followed by a seven-game series against the most consistent team in the MLB over the past five years.

Tampa Bay can win at home or away. They can play with power or precision. They can out-score or out-pitch any team in baseball.

The Red Sox couldn't end this fairy tale. Can the Phillies call time on this Cinderella story?