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Previewing the AL East: The Rays of Tampa Bay

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Steve Slowinski of DRaysBay wrote a preview of his team for us.

Every time I think about the 2010 Rays a rather odd phrase keeps popping into my head. It's not a phrase you're likely to hear cast about in the clubhouse or used in any newspaper column, but it's one that strikes me as remarkably descriptive and fitting. That phrase? Ichi-go ichi-e.

For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese, "Ichi-go ichi-e" is a phrase commonly used in the martial arts and in tea ceremonies. It translates generally to "One Chance, One Moment", reminding everyone that this one moment in time is entirely unique. Look around you right now. You only have the chance to be living this exact moment in time once; are you living that moment in a way you want? Ignore the past, ignore the future - all that matters is this one moment that you are living right now. Immerse in the moment and become lost in the present.

As you may or may not know, this is a seminal year for the Rays. With contracts expiring for Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Pat Burrell, Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour, and Dan Wheeler, there is going to be a very high turnover going into the 2011 season. Not that the turnover is going to harm the Rays' competitiveness necessarily - with a large influx of prospects like Jeremy Hellickson and Desmond Jennings ready to go, the Rays look to be just as strong in 2011 - but this is the last season that we Rays fans can expect to see the familiar nucleus intact. This is the last season to win with Crawford and Pena aboard and the Rays need to make the most of it.

Recognizing the high turnover coming up in 2011, the Rays' front office decided to go all in this past off-season. Instead of shedding payroll by trading Crawford and/or Bartlett like many were expecting, the Rays instead went out and traded for a $7 million closer in Rafael Soriano. They brought back Gabe Kapler, almost got Milton Bradley, filled the hole at catcher by trading for Kelly Shoppach, and signed low-cost, high-upside guys like Joaquin Benoit. The Rays' payroll is now the highest it has ever been and the roster is stocked to the gills with talent and depth.

All of these moves have sent a very clear message to Rays' fans: the time is NOW. Ichi-go ichi-e. No-holds barred. Boston and New York both have stacked rosters as well, but most projection systems have placed the Rays within a win or two of them both, well within striking distance. Sure, it will take some luck for the Rays to be able to make the playoffs, but luck is one thing that the Yankees and Red Sox cannot buy. The Rays have put themselves in the best position they can for a playoff push and now we just have to see how it all unfolds.

So there it is. The Rays are going to be underrated by everyone going into this season because of their finish last year and the fact that they didn't have a showy off-season, but the truth of the matter is that this team has a deep roster that has the potential to compete with the likes of Boston and New York all season long. Don't dare count them out or you may find yourselves sitting at home come October.

One chance, one moment. Ichi-go ichi-e.

 

Thanks, Steve. The Rays look like a better team (on paper) than the Red Sox.