I know the Rays are young and talented. I know they all buy into the team concept. I know that they slapped Boston around in the playoffs. And yet, I'm not too worried about them contending in the AL East. Everything went right for them last year. They avoided injuries by and large. Their young pitchers came of age, and they got all of the timely hits you could ask for.
They accomplished all of this when the expectations were at their lowest. After getting to the World Series, the Phillies put the breaks on the magical ride. They expended a lot of emotion in beating the Red Sox, then couldn't get things done under the pressure of the WS. Now that they will be sneaking up on no one, will they have the same regular season success?
I personally think there will be a drop off. The Rays of old are definitely deceased. I'm not talking 100 losses here. They will be competitive and a thorn in the Red Sox side. However, with all the mileage on the young arms and the unbridled enthusiasm of the 2008 season in the rear view, 85-88 wins is most realistic.