Big League Stew - MLB

Like 2008's Nail in the Coffin series, 2009's Walk Toward The Light aims to memorialize the eliminated teams that are gone and will likely be forgotten.

Tampa Bay Rays

Current record 83-77

Season highlight Evan Longoria(notes) burst from the gate in April, recording a line of .369/.419/.714 with six homers and 24 RBIs for the month. Though he understandably didn't keep up with that frenetic pace, he still put together a great season, being voted an All-Star starter and assuring the Rays that he's the cornerstone of the franchise (at least until David Price(notes) starts showing us he's the pitching stud we're expecting him to be). 

Season lowlight Being on the wrong end of Mark Buehrle's perfect game was bad, but can we submit the entire year? Finishing over .500 would have been a huge deal just two years ago, but these Rays were defending the American League championship and were expected to hang with New York and Boston. The Rays pitching staff, however, never really came together and disappointing seasons from B.J. Upton(notes) and Pat Burrell(notes) sentenced them to the consolation prize of finishing above sea level. It was definitely a disappointing campaign, though Rays fans should be pleased with how far expectations have come in St. Petersburg. 

We knew the Rays were done for when ... they went on an 11-game losing streak from Sept. 3 to Sept. 13. Yes, the Yankees had long since separated themselves by then, but being swept in New York and Boston killed the Rays' wild card chances. 

The Stew's favorite posts featuring the Rays:

Joe Maddon becomes the man in black The team's winning percentage may not have carried over from 2008, but Joe Maddon's offbeat style certainly did. In August, he channeled Johnny Cash and dyed his hair as the Rays tried to make a playoff push. 

Rays trophy saved from Chicago thrift store Our own Dave Brown went looking for cheap shelving, returned with Florida artifact to place upon said shelves.

Carlos Pena answers to Answer Man Months before the Rays first baseman made his first All-Star Game, he showed Stewies everywhere that not every baseball player is the dumb jock you expect him to be. One of the season's best sessions.  

Smooth Carl Crawford steals six The Rays' speedster tied a modern-day record by swiping six bases from Jason Varitek(notes) and the Red Sox back in May. 

Raccoon terrorizes Rays' spring training While reporting some preseason happenings, DB found himself in the middle of a battle between a rampaging raccoon and some overly excited Rays workers. If anything were to ever sum the '09 Rays' failures of corralling the AL East, it would be this video below.  

Rays hand out AL championship rings Like every World Series loser traditionally does, the team handed out runnerup bling in a public ceremony. Like any reasonable person, I didn't see a problem with this, but DB did and a classic Stewards Debate ensued.  

What the team needs to do for 2010  After a decade of high draft picks, the Rays still have the most young talent in the league and you can expect them to be gunning for the division again next season so long as that young rotation matures to expected levels.

That's not to say the Rays should (or will) stand pat; in fact, they could well be one of the most active offseason teams since they'll definitely have to shore up what was an awful bullpen and figure out what they can get for Crawford if they decide to trade him. Carlos Pena(notes) and Dioner Navarro(notes) also might bring a haul for a team that's still constrained by payroll limits, so pay close attention to GM Andrew Friedman's whereabouts this season.   

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