After purchasing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays earlier this month, new owner Stuart Sternberg announced that he would consider a change to the club’s nickname. The World Series title for the White Sox, on the heels of last year’s championship for the Red Sox, led to an obvious choice. Sternberg’s team will now be known as the Devil Sox.
“Clearly it’s the right time to capitalize on the Sox trend,” noted Sternberg. “Last year the Red Sox ended a long drought by sweeping the World Series. The White Sox accomplished the same feat this season. I might as well order the World Series rings for the Devil Sox right now.” Some observers pointed out that the champions from Boston and Chicago had been waiting over 80 years for a title. However, Sternberg responded that due to Arizona’s 2001 World Series victory, his long-suffering club is the only franchise that entered the major leagues in 1998 and still does not have a title.
The announcement was met with skepticism around the major leagues. A fellow owner even mocked Sternberg for his decision. “I can’t imagine changing a franchise’s name to one that will just invite ridicule,” remarked Arte Moreno, owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Perhaps Sternberg is engaging in wishful thinking, but any change has to be good for this franchise. Tampa Bay is coming off a 70–91 season – the best campaign in the entire existence of the Devil Rays. The club is somehow less famous than its AAA affiliate, the Durham Bulls. The only memorable moment in the Devil Rays’ history was the 3000th hit for Wade Boggs in 1999. Boggs is far better-known for winning batting titles with the Red Sox, celebrating on horseback after a Yankees’ World Series title, and allegedly downing 64 beers on a cross-country flight.
However, if the Devil Sox defy the skeptics and reach the Fall Classic, the odds could be in their favor against the National League adversary. The Rays did have a 13–game inter-league winning streak in 2004. Also, teams that play in domes (excluding retractable roof facilities) have never lost a World Series. Indeed, the roof at Tropicana Field cannot be opened, so the controversy encountered this year in Houston will not be an issue. The only possible objection from the league office is if commissioner Bud Selig decides that the venue is “just too crappy for our showcase event.”
The announcement has immediately sparked buzz in Tampa Bay. 2006 season ticket orders have already doubled from the 2005 total of 28. Many local fans even claim that they will consider watching Devil Sox games over “Matlock.” They know that it is time for a World Series in their town. First the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl. Then the Lightning skated off with the Stanley Cup. Next, 2006 will once again be the year of the Sox.