Rays' 2020 a sign of bigger things to come

October 28th, 2020

It might take weeks, or even months, before Rays fans are ready to move on from manager Kevin Cash’s decision to pull Blake Snell in the 3-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

However, the lasting image of the 2020 Rays shouldn’t be Snell walking off the mound and Nick Anderson subsequently giving up two runs. Instead, it should be all the things this team accomplished and the memorable moments it provided during a time when people needed it more than ever.

On March 12, the Rays came off the field at Charlotte Sports Park not knowing when they’d be able to play another inning. Just four months ago, they took the field in an unprecedented Summer Camp, which was just a preview for a season that would be as challenging as any in Major League history.

That didn’t stop the Rays from accomplishing most of their goals, creating memories along the way.

The Rays won their first American League East title since 2010, they were the top seed in the AL with 40 wins, and they made their second World Series appearance. All of that is impressive on its own, but how they got there is what really separated this team from the others.

Mike Brosseau’s solo home run off Aroldis Chapman to beat the Yankees in Game 5 of the AL Division Series will go down as one of the biggest hits in franchise history. The club's countless stellar defensive plays against the Astros in the AL Championship Series will go on highlight reels that will be shown on a loop as the Rays look to develop top defenders within the organization. Brett Phillips’ single that led to Tampa Bay's thrilling walk-off finish in Game 4 of the World Series is now one of the most memorable and improbable plays in Major League history.

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Then there’s what these Rays were able to do off the field. They captivated an audience unlike any other team in the postseason. They leaned on selflessness, joy and passion to win. And when they won, Phillips and breakout star Randy Arozarena lit up social media with epic dance battles.

That’s what these Rays should be remembered for. And they’re not going anywhere.

In a few months, the Rays will head back to Spring Training, looking to make a run at the first championship in franchise history. Making the World Series is never a guarantee, but if you’re looking for a team that’s built to win, the Rays are it.

The Rays have a few key roster decisions to make, including whether to pick up team options on Charlie Morton and Mike Zunino. Tampa Bay has until Sunday to make a call on both options. Morton’s is for $15 million, while Zunino’s is for $4 million. There is also the chance that Morton will opt to retire after a successful career.

Aside from those decisions and Aaron Loup becoming a free agent, the Rays’ core group of players are back, and now they have experience under their belts. They’ve experienced a handful of elimination games in the past two seasons and understand just how well they have to play in order to make a deep postseason run. Now it’s just a matter of finding a way to finish the job.

Oh, and they also have Wander Franco, the top prospect in baseball, ready to make his debut in 2021. Despite the sour ending to the '20 season, all signs indicate that this is just the beginning for the Rays.

“We all go through tough things throughout the season and to watch how our players navigated some difficult circumstances all the way to the end, it was just an honor,” Cash said. “We’re all very proud to be representative of the Tampa Bay Rays.”