World Series preview: Phillies v Rays
In a sport steeped in legend and history it seems strange that the major story surrounding this year's World Series is that two of baseball's historically worst teams will be facing-off in the best of seven game event. The Philadelphia Philles and the Tampa Bay Rays have both endured miserable histories as they have made fans suffer through season after season of failure but this year it could not be more different.
The Phillies are officially baseball's worst ever team! They have amassed an unbelievable 10,000 losses in their 125 year history and despite one World Series crown in 1980 it barely masks what has been a turgid existence. The Rays, on the other hand, are a new franchise but in their relatively young history they have been no stranger to failure, in fact prior to this season they had finished bottom of the AL East for all but one season they had played in. So forget the Yankees, forget the Giants, this year it is a David vs. David contest and it should be great.
Tampa Bay Rays
When Tampa Bay rebranded from the Devil Rays to the Rays at the start of the season it was almost an irrelevant piece of news. With either name they were expected to be no-hopers that struggle to find their way off the bottom of the division, however, things have not turned out as predicted. They have managed to produce a team brimming with young talent while adding necessary experience that adds solidness to the line-up. Carl Crawford is the team leader and epitomises the spirit. He can run, field, hit and has a real enthusiasm for the game, just like the majority of the squad.
The Rays have home field advantage and will look to make good use of their indoor Tropicana Field. They were impressive all season long but with a home record of 57 wins and just 24 losses they obviously feel very confident of the artificial turf. They have great strength in depth throughout the roster despite being one of the smallest market teams in the MLB and with Evan Longoria producing breathtaking playoff numbers it seems they even have a superstar bat in their line-up.
On paper the Rays pitching rotation is more favourable than the Phillies. Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza are all capable of quality starts on a regular basis while their number four, Andy Sonnanstine has been a suprise package as he has made best use of average stuff. The bullpen is also a real strength and complements the rotation well. Closer Troy Percival has been injured for a good part of the season meaning that Dan Wheeler had to take over but he has been a revelation.
Philadelphia Phillies fans have finally seen an upturn in fortunes over the past few years. A post-season performance last year was the result of a great end of season run but this year they have looked threatening all season long. They have a number of superstar names in their line-up including the last two NL MVPs Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. It has been a long time coming for the Phillies but they are close to realising their potential as a potential big city, big market franchise.
The Phillies once again pipped the New York Mets to the post-season but since then have not looked back. They have an intimidating hitting line-up with Chase Utley, Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins providing the support to Ryan Howard, and although they do not bat for a high average they certainly have enough to get the job done every night. The AL generally hold the advantage in terms of hitting due to the Designated Hitter rule but if any team in the NL was capable of matching up it would be the Phillies.
The potential weakness in the rotation that the Rays will attempt to exploit is the lack of depth. Brett Myers seems to have his best stuff back and Cole Hamels is a dependable number one, it is after this that the Phillies could struggle. 45 year old Jamie Moyer has been terrible so far in the play-offs and Joe Blanton did not have the best of seasons, they will need to find a different level to their games. The bullpen is decent but in Brad Lidge they have one of the best closers around. He has not blown a save all year and if the Phillies can hand him a lead then they will be in good hands.
Everything looks to be set up perfectly for a what should be a memorable series and to make things even better William Hill is offering their usual range of pre-game betting markets as well as in-play betting via the betlive service.