In nine years under Joe Maddon's management, Tampa Bay dropped the Devil from their name and emerged from a miasma of losing baseball and turned into a perennial winning team and surprise World Series entrant in 2008. Take a look back at the Joe Maddon Era.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY SpoJohn E. Sokolowski
Team record: 61-101 Memorable moment: Not a lot, but there was a 19-6 smackdown of the Yankees in New York on July 29, where the Devil Rays chased Randy Johnson in the fourth and poured it on late for one of their biggest wins of the season. Season at a glance: Maddon's first season was not much to write home about, as the then Devil Rays finished with 100+ losses for the third time in franchise history. But hope was on the horizon: James Shields made his debut May 31, a 22-year-old Scott Kazmir finished with a 3.24 ERA that would have been fourth in the AL had he pitched enough to qualify. Also making appearances were future franchise regulars B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist.
Getty ImagesVictor Baldizon
Team record: 66-96 Memorable moment: Scott Kazmir struck out 10 and allowed 5 hits in seven shutout innings against the Red Sox on Sept. 10. Dan Wheeler and Alberto Reyes eached threw a scoreless inning of their own to finish off a 1-0 victory. Season at a glance: The core of the future was on display in 2007. The lineup featured Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton (now in a starting role) and free-agent addition Carlos Pena, who set a franchise record with 49 home runs in his first season in Tampa Bay. The rotation was bolstered by James Shields and Scott Kazmir, and key 2008 contributors Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson each got their first taste of extended MLB action.
Getty ImagesGreg Fiume
Team record: 97-65 Memorable moment: Take your pick: How about Sept. 20, when the Rays (just the Rays from now on) beat the Twins to clinch their first ever playoff berth? Or what about Matt Garza's seven sublime innings in Game 7 of the ALCS as the Rays beat Jon Lester and the Red Sox to advance to the World Series? There is plenty to choose from in Tampa Bay's magical season. Season at a glance: Evan Longoria bursts on the scene, winning Rookie of the Year and making the All-Star team. Carlos Pena crushes 31 home runs, a sixth of the team's total. Factor in the great seasons from James Shields and Scott Kazmir, to go with a solid Rays' debut season from Garza and the great bullpen performances from Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and J.P. Howell. Oh, and some guy named David Price made his MLB debut.
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesRich Pilling
Team record: 84-78 Memorable moment: Jeff Niemann struck out nine Royals and allowed just two hits and one walk in a shutout of Kansas City. Season at a glance: The Rays slipped after their run in 2008, finishing 11 games back of the Red Sox for the wild-card spot. Ben Zobrist stepped into a role as a regular and was selected as an All-Star along with teammates Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford.
Getty ImagesJim Rogash
Team record: 96-66 Memorable moment: While not as big as next year's Game 162, the final game this season was crucial. And a 3-2 victory over the Royals in 12 innings Oct. 3 gave the Rays their second division crown in three years. Season at a glance: Evan Longoria turns in a sensational season, hitting 22 home runs, winning his second straight Gold Glove and making his third straight All-Star team. Carl Crawford was masterful in his final season in Tampa Bay, grabbing a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. Rafael Soriano proved to be a force in the bullpen, saving 45 games to go with a 1.73 ERA. But the Texas Rangers (in their first time spoiling the Rays) beat Tampa Bay in five games in the ALDS.
Getty ImagesJ. Meric
Team record: 91-71 Memorable moment: Game 162. Could it be anything else? Season at a glance: No season could, or should, be boiled down to one game. But the gravity of Sept. 28, 2011, overshadows most of what else happened during the year. Facing a seven-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth, the Rays scored six times, capped off by a three-run home run from Longoria. Dan Johnson (he of the .119 batting average) hits a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth to give the Rays hope. And then Longoria caps off the playoff-clinching victory with his second home run of the night, this time barely clearing the wall in left, in the 12th inning, and the Rays are in the postseason once again.
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Team record: 90-72 Memorable moment: Closer Fernando Rodney got one out Oct. 3 for his 48th save, a team record. He also lowered his ERA to 0.60, the lowest baseball history. Season at a glance: The Rays missed the playoffs in what was a bit of a transition year. Pitcher James Shields (traded) and center fielder B.J. Upton (free agent) were playing their final seasons with the Rays. Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist shouldered the load at the plate, and David Price threw 211 innings with a 2.56 ERA to win the Cy Young Award. The future of the rotation was display with Matt Moore and Alex Cobb each playing in their first full seasons. One of the lasting images of the season was a tearful Upton sitting on the bench after receiving a standing ovation in his final game for the franchise.
USA TODAY SportsKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Team record: 92-71 Memorable moment: Game 162 was so two years ago. How about Game 163? A fired-up David Price bested the Texas Rangers in the season's final game after the final game. Season at a glance: James Loney, Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and Ben Zobrist solidified Tampa Bay's lineup, and great seasons from Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer paved the way to 90+ victories. The Rays got the best of their foil of recent years, beating the Texas Rangers behind a complete game from Price to earn one of the two wild-card spots. They beat the Indians 4-0 in Cleveland in the wild-card game before losing in the ALDS in five games to the Red Sox.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Team record: 77-85 Memorable moment: July 31. The Rays trade David Price, who had ascended to the staff's ace and leader, to the playoff-bound Tigers, a sign that again Tampa Bay was making a transition. Season at a glance: A team predicted by many to not only make the playoffs but also challenge for a World Series title fell flat. Injuries to Matt Moore and Wil Myers strained the rotation and lineup, respectively, and a bullpen in disarray left the end of games a rollercoaster. Shortly after the end of the season, general manager Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers, and now Maddon is searching for his next opportunity.