It's hard to admit this, but I'm gonna go ahead and do it anyway: as a Red Sox fan, the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays scare me.
Last season, I kicked around an idea that made it as far as the drafts section without ever actually graduating to "Publish Post" status. The thinking was that the Rays, with a slew of young players on the rise, were in serious danger of putting their bleak history behind them and unleashing the pent-up fury of ten futile years on the American League...much like the 1969 Mets did during their Amazin' run to the pennant. The similarities were there, I could just never quite fit it all together the way I wanted.
Now, with the 2008 season fast approaching, I'm willing to try revisiting that line of thought. Here goes, in wonderfully lazy bullet point form:
- The Mets finished ninth or tenth in the first seven seasons of the franchise's existence, never winning more than 73 games. The Rays have finished fourth or fifth in the first ten seasons of their existence, never winning more than 70 games.
- The Mets were led by a pair of good young pitchers who set the league on fire in 1969: Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. The Rays' rotation is anchored by former Mets draft pick Scott Kazmir and James Shields. Kazmir and Shields are 24 and 26, respectively - the same age as Seaver and Koosman in 1969.
- The Mets had an exceptional bullpen featuring Ron Taylor, Jack Dilauro, and Tug McGraw. The Rays have Juan Salas, Al Reyes, and Troy Percival. Okay, so it's not perfect.
- Average age of position players on the '69 Mets: 25.9. Average age of position players on the '07 Rays: 25.9.
- The Mets gained legitimacy in their early years thanks to their first manager, Casey Stengel. The Rays were first perceived as a threat when Lou Piniella came on board. Neither lasted past a fourth season or had a winning record with their respective team.
- It's likely that each team will field a rookie third baseman (Wayne Garrett and Evan Longoria), a shortstop who is below-average offensively and makes plenty of errors (Bud Harrelson and Jason Bartlett), an outfielder who is good offensively, but not as good as I first thought (Tommie Agee and Carl Crawford), and a player who is better with the bat than I expected (Cleon Jones and B.J. Upton).
God, I hope not.