x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tampa Bay provided a ray of hope for the little men

Year Review When the 2008 Major League Baseball season started, the Chicago Cubs were this years' version of the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

Tampa Bay's J.P. Howell helped them win the World Series.
Tampa Bay's J.P. Howell helped them win the World Series.

When the 2008 Major League Baseball season started, the Chicago Cubs were this years' version of the 2004 Boston Red Sox. In 2004, the Sox were the team that the nation got behind as they finally shook off 86 years of coming up short to win a title. The Cubs came into the season with a title drought of an even 100 years.

With no Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens clogging up the sports pages with performance-enhanced headlines, the Cubs took control by dominating the regular season. It appeared that this would indeed be their year to shake off a century-long curse. Then the script took a sharp turn courtesy of an unlikely source. The Tampa Bay Rays, who were the worst team in the 2007 season, started the season as hot as the Cubs and were able to make it to the midway point of the 2008 season in first place in the American League over the big-spending New York Yankees and Red Sox.

The light-spending Rays winning a World Series would have been akin to Hull City topping Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League. So now we had two underdog teams going into the play-offs instead of just one. The Cubs trimmed that total in half when they were swept in the first round of the play-offs. The Rays continued to prove that they were not just a good story as they advanced to their first World Series in team history.

Unfortunately a Hollywood ending was not to be as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Rays four games to one to win their first Series' title since 1980. As teams tweak their rosters through the winter months, the frustrated Yankees broke the bank to sign All-Star pitcher CC Sabathia to a seven-year, US$161 million (Dh591m) contract. They also spent $180m on the All-Star first baseman Mark Texiera, signing him in an eight-year deal. Once again the Yankees, who will move to a new stadium in 2009, proved to be recession proof.

ppabst@thenational.ae