On the Rays and their fans
I'm gandering at the shoutbox, where I see Madisoncubaholic and cjaxson talking about Tampa Bay - a team that has won for the first time ever, supported by fans who provided them with one of the worst attendance figures in baseball in 2008. They finished the year 26th in the league, having averaged 22,259 - far and away the worst of any team that reached the playoffs.
Unlike probably most of the GROTA Army, I've been inadvertently following the Rays since March. I say "inadvertently" because I listen daily to a radio show that is broadcast out of Tampa, and they've been talking about the Rays ever since the bench clearing brawl against the Yankees during Spring Training. And although their fans suck, I've been pulling for them to succeed. Permit me to offer an alternative take on what has happened there this year:
Unlike the Cubs - yes, unlike them - the Rays are an organization that has been choked with failure at every level. Before this year, they had never won more than 70 games in a season. They've been unable to keep the few star players they've had, guys like Aubrey Huff (whose Baseball Reference page GROTA sponsors, because I love anybody with the balls to express himself honestly). They've been mismanaged and misowned, and consequently the fan base never appeared there.
It's different than with the Cubs - when Chicago was a terrible team, at least they had a beautiful ballpark. Tampa plays in a hole. I think that everybody here would agree that if the Cubs didn't have their ballpark and their history, the fan base would be perhaps a little less rabid. So when we say that the fans don't deserve the Rays, perhaps we could also argue that the Rays don't deserve their fans.
However, while it certainly is ridiculous for these crying fans to suddenly jump aboard and root for the team they've been "waiting for" all their lives - or, for the past 10 years - I think we'd be even more critical of the Rays if fans failed to appear at this point to support them.
Anyway, the short of it is this: I don't hate Tampa for in the World Series. I admire them. They are evidence that it takes more than a large payroll to reach the Series - it takes a well-built team. As much as I've come to admire Jim Hendry for putting a talented squad together, I believe he remains the most overrated GM in baseball when it comes to actually developing prospects. The Rays have reached this pinnacle because they've been well-developed. For the Cubs to become a long-term successful franchise, they'll need to do that too.
As far as the fans of the Rays go ... eh. The Cubs have had their share of bandwagoners, too. If the Rays win, I will admire them, but their fans mean nothing to me and I don't really see them as being a part of it. And while we could look at it from the simplest standpoint that this new team will have something that the Cubs do not, I think that's hardly a reason to be jealous or angry. More to the point, it's just further evidence that anything can happen, and eventually will.