The Tampa Bay Rays have been baseball's version of Seabiscuit over the past six seasons, the plucky team with the diminutive payroll racing and often winning against War Admirals such as the Yankees and Red Sox.
Logic tells us that the Rays shouldn’t be able compete for the postseason annually, and yet year after year they have rolled out contending teams, accumulating, in order: 97 wins in 2008, 84 in 2009, then 96, 91, 90 and 92 over the next four seasons. They've made the playoffs four times in six seasons, an astounding feat that probably doesn't get the attention it deserves.
We could be tempted to say this happens because of The System of player evaluation developed by general manager Andrew Friedman and his staff, or because of the symbiosis that exists between the front office and Joe Maddon, who is regarded by some rival evaluators as the pre-eminent manager in the sport. We could credit players such as Evan Longoria and David Price.
But I've always thought that the central root of the Rays' success comes down to this: