The Tampa Bay Rays won't represent the Junior Circuit in the World Series this year: The team's defense of its 2020 American League championship is over. In the 2021 MLB playoffs, the Rays couldn't get past their division series showdown against the Boston Red Sox, an AL East rival they had managed to beat by eight games in the division standings during the regular season. No excuses losing to a wild-card team, although a particularly controversial call in Game 3 certainly didn't help Tampa Bay's cause before a tough Game 4 loss ended the series.
The Rays are one of the best-run franchises in the game -- on the field, at least -- regularly winning with a low payroll and a sometimes surprising or even confounding combination of under-the-radar players who combine to be more than the sum of their parts. But now, with some young budding stars such as Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena added to the mix, Tampa Bay could prove to be an even more formidable squad in the years to come. David Schoenfield takes a look at where the Rays stand and answers three key questions for the club moving forward to 2022 and beyond.