Rays Should Now Be Considered MLB Contenders
on Apr 15, 2019 11:32 AM EDT
A few things have caught the eye at the start of this 2019 MLB season; the Red Sox sluggish start, which no one can decide if it is a World Series hangover or part of a deeper malaise; Cody Bellinger's ultra-hot start for the Dodgers; Mike Trout and his mega-contract.
Some teams have started unexpectedly well, including the Tigers and Mariners. The Mariners, in particular, have had a superb start and, at 11-2, have the best record in MLB at the time of writing. However, one ballclub that possibly hasn't got the credit it deserves is the Rays, who sit proudly atop the AL East, a full six games ahead of the 2018 World Series champions, Boston.
The thing about the Rays is that they had a great season last year; 90 wins would have clinched a Wild Card spot in most seasons. The problem is that they came up against the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros who all had historically good seasons. The Rays weren't starting from scratch this offseason, they added talent to a winning team. The question is: Can a good team become a great one?
Morton could be an astute signing
Charlie Morton brings a lot of experience, and no little amount of class, to the Rays' pitching staff. In this (very) early part of the season, the Rays don't have a couple of star players carrying the team, hitting .300 plus. However, they do have almost everyone in the first-choice line up hitting .250 and above. Already you can see it's a well-rounded team, and it could go a lot further than most expect.
Looking at the odds, you can get 50/1 from Paddy Power that the Rays win a first World Series. That bookmaker offers a free bet on sign up, and the Rays seem the perfect side for a shot to nothing bet. Consider that teams like the Rockies are 22/1, the Mets half the odds at 25/1. The Rays are a value bet at that price, make no mistake about it.
Red Sox and Cubs' odds rise
Indeed, some of the top candidates at the start of the season are really struggling, leaving sportsbooks scratching their heads. The Red Sox, who started the season as favorites, are now down to 9/1 with Bet365. The Cubs, who look to be in all sorts of difficulties, have gone out to 20/1. Incidentally, the Astro's are the new betting favorite at 4/1 with Bet365.
Nobody is saying that the Rays will definitely be playing ball in late-October - far from it. The point is the team is a better one than those odds above and the majority of the media suggests. Sure, there is a lot that will have to go right for Tampa, even to sneak ahead of the Yankees and Red Sox. You would have to fancy the latter to start getting things right sooner rather than later, although they have gone from first to worst in the past.
There is also a feeling that Kevin Cash is still learning his trade as a manager at the Rays. This is now his fifth season in the job, but there seems to be tangible evidence he is growing into the role. In the end, it might take a minor miracle for the Rays to go all the way, but those happen all the time in sports. And, with each passing game in this strong start, belief in the Rays looks less foolish.