ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Imagine if you'd told someone back in 2003 that you were leaving a big successful company in New York to go work for a small, unsuccessful baseball team in Florida.
Seriously now, which company had a better future, Goldman Sachs or the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Bear Stearns or the Devil Rays?
Where would you rather be working now?
You don't have to answer that. It's too obvious.
Yeah, the world sure has turned around in five years. It's turned around in just the last year, which is why the renamed Tampa Bay Rays are going to win the World Series which begins tonight at Tropicana Field. And why Rays president Matt Silverman (formerly of Goldman Sachs) and general manager Andrew Friedman (formerly of Bear Stearns) will be drenched in champagne sometime in the next 10 days, for the fifth time this year.
I'm not saying that there's no way the Phillies could win. They're a talented team, and Game 1 starter Cole Hamels is one of the best pitchers in baseball right now. They have the perfect closer in Brad Lidge, and setup man Ryan Madson has come out of nowhere to throw 99 mph in October.
But the American League is clearly baseball's better league right now, and the Rays play in baseball's best division. Their 97 regular-season wins mean a whole lot more than the Phillies NL-tainted 92 wins, and their playoff run through the White Sox and Red Sox is much more impressive than the Phillies' wins against the flawed Brewers and flawed Dodgers.
Not only that, but the Phillies have been an on-and-off offensive team all season. They can look great one week, and awful the next. Taking a week off at this time of year has to hurt them, just as it hurt the Rockies last year and the Tigers the year before.
The Rays have a deeper rotation, they have a lineup that works and they have a manager who can work magic even with an average bullpen.
In short, they're the team of 2008. This is the place you want to be, especially if the alternative was working for failing companies on Wall Street.
"You know it's funny, but going through this, I haven't had time to really reflect on it," Friedman said, when I asked him how much better it is now to be a Ray than an investment analyst.
Besides, even when the stock market is thriving, no one at Goldman Sachs pours champagne over your head. There's nothing on Wall Street that compares to winning the American League pennant.
"I think that feeling can only be achieved in sports," Silverman said. "I had a lot of people say they felt like they were 8 years old again, winning in T-ball. There's nothing like that in business."
There's nothing like the World Series, and nothing like winning it.
Rays in 5.