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Not your Daddy's Rays

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For those who don't pay attention to the AL, here is a quick breakdown on the construction of the American League champions.

1st - Carlos Pena - Former Texas number one pick has been involved in two major trades(Oakland, Detroit), released by Detroit, NYY, and Boston and then just one bad spring from being banned to baseball purgatory took advantage of an injury in the spring of 2007 to win a spot on the 25 man roster. From there he was an improbable MVP candidate breaking every possible Tampa offensive record. In 2008 he regressed but still put up a 130 OPS+ and gives the Rays their one real source of LH power.

2nd - Akinori Iwamura - Unheralded free agent signing in the winter of 2007. Played 3rd base and did okay. Was moved to 2nd this year to make room for Longoria and while his offense regressed a tad his defense helped solidify the Ray infield defense which was among the worse in 2007. Has solid on base skills but lacks much power. His bat plays much better at 2nd then 3rd.

SS - Jason Bartlett - acquired in the Delmon/Garza trade he was expected to plug the hole at SS and he did just that. Nothing flashy but makes the plays and hits just enough. He's not starting because of his offense and bats 9th.

3rd - Evan Longoria - the savior signed a major league contract through my lifetime before ever playing a game. I can't think of a single major league player who I would trade him for based on his future production and his contract.

C - Dionar Navarro - he was fighting for a job when he something clicked in the 2nd half of 2007. Many didn't notice because of how poor he had been in the 1st half of 2007 but his 2nd half should gave a possible indications that he had arrived. In 2008, he built on that 2nd half and was arguably the best hitting catcher in the league not named Mauer upto the all-star game. For his efforts he made the all-star team but like most catchers who play allot of games, he slowed down in the 2nd half.

LF - Carl Crawford - the dean of this Tampa team with 7 years and he's only 26. After watching his OPS+ climb every single year that he played it peaked in 2007 at 117 and fell to 91 this year. Fought injuries this year and missed all of Sept. Dynamic base runner with surprising power.

CF - BJ Upton - had a disappointing year until the postseason began and then he put the league on notice that his shoulder was healed and the sky is the limit. Probably the closest thing to a young Eric Davis baseball has seen. Speed, Power, and Plate discipline. After being jerked around he is now ensconced in CF for the foreseeable future.

RF - Gabe Gross - picked up from the Blue Jays Brewers and provided some key game winning hits. They say he plays a good RF but maybe he gets distracted when JD Drew is up. Only faces RHP and is probably the weakest link on this team.

RF - Rocco Baldelli - he used to be the CF of the future but injuries have curtailed what was once a very promising career. He battled back from mitochondrial myopathy to help them out in Sept when Crawford went down. Still has power but the speed seems diminished from when he was the fastest RHH in the majors.

DH - Willie Aybar - Helped plug the hole at 3rd base when Longoria broke his wrist in Aug and then turned into an excellent DH in Sept/Postseason.

DH - Cliff Floyd - the only real veteran featured in this offensive lineup. Still has some pop against RHP.