The Tampa Bay Devil Rays began their history in Major League Baseball beginning with a March 9, 1995 meeting in West Palm Beach as they and the Arizona Diamondbacks became the 13th and 14th expansion teams with a 20-0 vote. The team began play in 1998 with stars such as Wade Boggs, Kevin Stocker, Wilson Alvarez and Fred McGriff dotting the roster. The team later acquired a number of veteran hitters; Vinny Castilla, Jose Canseco, and Greg Vaughn to help bolster the lineup but the team would struggle for a decade before they would be able to claim any success.
The inaugural season for the Devil Rays would end with the team 51 games behind first place. The team would slowly get better over the coming seasons. By 2003, the Devil Rays would acquire Lou Piniella to manage the team. Although it would take a while, the team’s fortunes began to change. The 2004 season saw the squad win 70 games for the first time in team history but took a downward turn in 2005 finishing 67-95. Piniella would become frustrated with the front office and demanded a release from his contract which the franchise granted. In turn, the front office hired Joe Maddon as the teams 4th manager.
Ownership changed hands after 2005 with Stuart Sternberg taking control of the team. His first duty was to fire GM Chuck LaMar and declined to fill the position calling it “outdated.” Instead, he hired Matthew Silverman as Team President and Andrew Freidman as Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations. The team would progress over the next couple of seasons as it began acquiring pieces of a championship puzzle. Some of those players signed were James Shields, Akinori Iwamura and Scott Kazmir.
The 2008 season saw a number of changes for the franchise as they changed their names to the Tampa Bay Rays and changed team colors to navy, Columbia blue and gold. The team also increased its payroll to $43 million which allowed it to sign players such as Matt Garza, Evan Longoria, Troy Percival and Jason Bartlett. The team also signed its first overall draft pick from 2007, pitcher David Price. The Rays finished with a 97-65 record and entered the playoffs as the AL East Champions. In the ALDS they faced the Chicago White Sox and swept them in four games to clinch their first playoff victory. Advancing to the ALDS, the Rays faced the Boston Red Sox. It would take a full seven game series but the Rays would emerge victorious as they won their first American League Championship. In the World Series, the Rays faced the Philadelphia Phillies who would come out on top in game one of the series. The Rays would bounce back in game two doubling up the Phillies 4 to 2. Game three was pivotal and emotional for the Phillies as music sensation Tim McGraw, son of Phillies great Tug McGraw, spread his father’s ashes on the mound before the start of the game. The Phillies would win that game 5-4 and the rest of the series.
The team payroll again increased in 2009 bringing it above $60 million. With most of the AL Championship squad in place the team also added Carlos Pena but traded the team’s all-time leader in wins and strikeouts, Scot Kazmir to the LA Angels for two prospects. The team would finish 84-78 and 19-games out of first place. In 2010, the Rays would bounce back to finish with the best record in the American League (96-66) and entered the AL Division Series against the hot Texas Rangers. The Rangers would come out swinging taking games 1 & 2 but the Rays would recover taking games 3 & 4. All the wins thus far were on opposing home fields. The Rangers would overcome and take game five to end the series for the Rays.
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