1998: As it turns out, the '98 expansion Devil Rays were actually 4 games over .500 at one point in the season. That of course was when they were 10-6 on April 19, and Larry Rothschild went to bed each night dreaming of his Murderers Row of Fred McGriff, Quinton McCracken, Paul Sorrento and Wade Boggs leading his D-Rays to World Series glory. The 1998 Devil Rays finished 63-99, an astounding 51 games out of 1st place.
1999: Again, they made it to 4 games over .500, this time pushing it a week later into the season (11-7 on April 23). They only managed to get shutout 7 times in '99 (as opposed to 17 times in their inaugural year). The team finishes 69-93.
2000: Now this is tough to do (well, I thought it was tough...read on)- the Devil Rays were never more than 1 game over .500 in 2000, and that sadly was day 2 of the season, after Tampa beat Minnesota 7-0 to start the year. The D-Rays finish 69-92, and Larry Rothschild, against all odds, stays employed.
2001: Tell me if this sounds familiar. The Devil Rays win their opener to get 1 game over .500. And that's the apex of the season. Larry Rothschild is mercifully put to sleep 14 games into the season, replaced by Hal McRae, which is great for me, because now I get to post this epic meltdown:
Tampa Bay backslides, losing 100 games for the first time in franchise history (all 4 years of it). Tanyon Sturtze is the staff ace. Yep, Tanyon Sturtze...that's how you lose 100 games.
2002: Hal McRae, captain of the Titanic. The Rays go an atrocious 55-106 in '02, after actually starting the year 3-0 (obviously 3 games over .500 is their high point). They lose a whopping 33 games by 5 or more runs. Our boy Tanyon Sturtze goes 4-18.
2003: Welcome aboard Sweet Lou...to a 63-99 mark that drove you so bonkers you dyed your hair at some point (I think...that might've been 2004...but I'm too lazy to google "Lou Piniella dyed hair"). Lou's '03 club joined the 2000 and 2001 D-Rays in the "Start 1-0...never get another game over .500 again" club. Pretty terrible name for a club if you ask me. The D-Rays go 5-21 in June...and manage a 3-15 interleague mark. Ugh.
2004: Holy shit, look, a 70 win season (the first in franchise history). The team gets to 2 games over .500 - on July 3rd no less (40-38). They have a 12 game win streak. They go 15-3 in interleague play. The stupid Mets trade them Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. Lou's got them going in the right direction, Tampa is turning it around, etc. etc...
2005: ...um, not so fast my friend. Tampa Bay finishes the '05 season 67-95. They get to 3-2 on the young year, and are never more than a game over .500 again. Piniella threatens to kill multiple people throughout the season, including several of his players. Somehow Jorge Cantu hits 28 bombs and drives in 117 runs.
2006: Lou is gone, Joe Maddon is in, and here comes another 100 loss season (61-101). On April 16th they're 7-6 and 1 game over .500 - that's the best they have to offer. Tampa Bay goes 20-61 on the road.
2007: They got all these young kids, they're supposed to turn the corner, Sports Illustrated throws them on the cover as the team of the future...and we get a final record of 66-96. Yep, I feel like a broken record - Tampa gets to 2-1 on April 6th...and that's it again for games over .500. If you're scoring at home, that means in 6 of their first 10 years Tampa Bay has never been more than 1 game over .500 at any point in a season.
2008: It took until season 11, but the magic barrier was finally broken. 5 games above .500 for the first time ever. Well played Rays, well played.