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Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Rays will be Rays, count on it

So, how will they do it this season? You know they will.

Pitching and defense, sure, but they’ll need more than that to get to 90 wins, but everyone around baseball figures they will.

It used to be the Red Sox are the Red Sox — that’s back after that rebound and world title last season.

It used to be the Yankees are the Yankees — maybe that will be back after a year’s absence now that new money is spent.

But the Rays are the Rays.

Add that in there.

Baseball’s most magical transformation is going on its seventh season. The Little Team That Could keeps grinding out 90-win seasons. The Rays keep it up, despite losing pieces, they keep going. It doesn’t seem like 2014 will be any different.

The Red Sox might drop back, the Yankees might surge. Who knows about the Orioles and Blue Jays?

Face it: The Rays might be the steadiest line in the East.

Go back a while. Go back to 2006. No one believed a thing. Joe Maddon arrived, and he saw it, every day.

“They came to the ballpark thinking they were flying on chartered airplanes and collecting big-league meal money,” Maddon said. “That’s all it was about. It was very annoying.”

It’s 2014.

“It’s accountable professionals,” Maddon said.

It’s Evan Longoria, accountable professional, who has been here since the run began in 2008, talking about people talking about the Rays being the Rays in 2014.

“It’s a very good thing, because it tells you that the belief of the organization, the collective mindset, has completely changed,” Longoria said. “Before, it was a losing mindset, when we were the Devil Rays, everybody expects to be in the last place, everyone who comes to the ballpark and expects to lose. Now, you know, there isn’t one person who comes to the ballpark and doesn’t expect to win.”

Here’s accountable professional Ben Zobrist:

“It’s not the way other people perceive us, it’s the way we perceive ourselves, because we know we have winning players, we know the atmosphere is a winning atmosphere. We already believe before we even play a game this season, that you’re that team.”

They can’t get out of the first round of the playoffs. They’re tired of that. They’re hungry. They’re annoyed.

Accountable professional David DeJesus joined the Rays late last season.

“It’s different here,” DeJesus said. “They’re going out there thinking we’re going to probably win this game, even though we don’t have this big $200 million budget. I love it. It’s like we’re the underdogs. We’re not supposed to be there, but we’re there.”

The Rays are the Rays.

Grant Balfour helped this franchise turn it around. He was a big part of the 2008 World Series team. Now he’s back to save games.

“When I left, we were a real successful team,” Balfour said. “I came back and we’re still a successful team. It just goes on.”

How will they do it this time around? Can you really count them out of anything?

Here’s accountable professional and reliever Joel Peralta:

“From the beginning, it’s got to be the World Series. This is the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here. At least to me. It has to be the best team. It has to be this year. It can be this year.”

Here are the Rays, with David Price back, the entire infield back, and a few new pieces.

“This has a chance to be a very special team,” Longoria said.

Here are the Rays, close as ever in the clubhouse.

“This might be the closest,” Longoria said.

Maddon said. “It’s nice to be counted on. It’s kind of fun to be included in that conversation every year and expect to be included in that conversation. Never permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.”

The Rays are the Rays.

It just goes on.

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