Will the Lightning and Rays Turn Tampa Bay into Title Town?
The three major league teams that call the Tampa Bay area home share a unique trait in professional sports. Unfortunately for fans of the Rays, Buccaneers, and Lightning, that unique trait is not a significant championship pedigree. Tampa Bay has but two titles to its legacy.
Although the Tampa Bay area has been home to spring training baseball for more than a century, major league professional sports is relatively new. The Buccaneers were the area’s first team, an NFL expansion team in 1976. The NHL birthed the Lightning in 1992, and the MLB Rays (né Devil Rays) followed in 1998.
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How the Bucs Made A Quarter-Century Journey from Ignominy to Champions
Without question, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the worst-ever expansion franchise in major professional sports. Debuting in 1976, sporting creamsicle-colored uniforms and the logo of a swashbuckling pirate with porn
‘stache and a dagger in his teeth, the team failed to record a victory, going 0-14 in its debut campaign. Things did not improve much in year two, as they went zero for the first 12 games, before earning victories against the Saints and Cardinals to finish 2-12.
Both Saints’ coach Hank Stram and Cards’ coach Don Coryell were fired after dropping games to the lowly Bucs. QB Doug Williams took the helm and led the team onto a winning path, including three playoff appearances in four years. The team went back into a tailspin and experienced a 14-year playoff drought. Defensive genius Tony Dungy took over as head coach and turned the franchise’s fortunes around, making them a consistent winner.
Dungy’s lasting innovation in scheme even became known as a Tampa-2 defense. Dungy left after the 2001 season, giving way to John Gruden, who brought the team to its only title in Super Bowl XXXVII, defeating his former team, the Oakland Raiders. Quarterback Brad Johnson, wideout Keyshawn Johnson, and running back Mike Alstott were the offensive leaders, but the team thrived on its defense, anchored by Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, John Lynch, and Ronde Barber. The Bucs became the first post-merger expansion team to win a Super Bowl.
The Buccaneers have had relatively little to celebrate since then, posting only five winning seasons and two Wild Card losses. Bruce Arians took over as head coach this year, and his air attack from Jameis Winston to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans brought the team to a 7-9 finish. The 2020 team faces roster challenges as both Winston and defensive standout Shaquil Barrett are free agents. The odds for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2021 Super Bowl championship are +3500.
It Took the Lightning Only Half That Time to Become Champs
An NHL expansion franchise was awarded to the Tampa group led by Hall of Fame brothers Phil and Tony Esposito. The Lightning began play in 1992 and made their first playoff appearance in their fourth season. Financial irregularities almost led to the end of the team in the early years, but new owners took over and infused cash and talent to the team.
Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis became the mainstays of the lineup as the team achieved 93 points and a playoff berth in 2002-03. The following year, the Bolts won their division with 106 points and, in only their 12th year of existence, won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04. Up and down years followed for the team, until they won the Eastern Conference again in 2014-15, but lost in the Cup finals.
Steve Stamkos became the new franchise leader and captain and has led the team to new highs of 113 and then 128 points in the past two seasons. The team remains a serious championship contender, a few points behind Boston and Washington for the top record in the NHL. The Tampa Bay Lightning have the best odds in the league to win the 2019-20 Stanley Cup championship at +700.
The Rays Have Come Close But Have Not Tasted a Championship
The area’s newest franchise, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, began play in 1998. Like most expansion teams, they opened their existence with an extended run of futility. For their first decade, they never recorded a winning season or won more than 70 games. Prior to the 2008 season, the team was rebranded from the Devil Rays to the Rays, eschewing the manta ray logo and its multichromatic logotype for a different type of rays, Florida sunshine, and a more traditional blue type with a yellow sunburst.
The name change and logo change effected a change of fortune for the club, as they not only won 97 games and finished first in the AL East, they also won the AL pennant. Joe Maddon managed a squad headlined by pitchers James Shields and Scott Kazmir, closer Troy Percival, and sluggers Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, and Carl Crawford. Unfortunately, Cinderella’s coach turned back into a pumpkin deep in October, and the Rays lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies.
While the Rays, a small-market team, have maintained one of the lowest payrolls in baseball over the years, they have stayed competitive with young homegrown talent. They have won more than 90 games each of the last two years with a team balanced with strong pitching and opportunistic offense. Tampa Bay won a Wild Card slot in 2019, but succumbed to the Astros in the Divisional round. The odds for a Tampa Bay Rays 2020 World Series championship are the tenth best in baseball at +2200.
So… what is unique about Tampa Bay teams?
Besides the relative short history of major league sports in the area, the teams are unique in their naming. All other teams in the big four major leagues are named for a city, state, or region. The Rays, who play in St. Petersburg, and the Buccaneers and Lightning, who play in Tampa, are the only teams named for a body of water, Tampa Bay.
What are the Title Town Odds for Tampa Bay championships?
The odds of a Tampa Bay Title Town double play parlay of championships by the Lightning and the Rays are +18300
The odds of a Tampa Bay Title Town Hat trick parlay of Bolts, Rays, and Bucs are +662300.