Go ahead, pencil the Tampa Bay Rays into the playoffs again. You certainly won't upset Joe Maddon's confident bunch.
There may be teams with more star power and money, but none enters 2012 with loftier expectations than the Rays, who have earned postseason berths three of the past four seasons despite one of the major leagues' lowest payrolls.
Maddon and his players have proven they can go toe-to-toe with the big-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the rugged AL East, and they believe they have everything it takes - superior pitching, strong defense and an improved offense - to win it all this year.
''Expectations should be the fuel that we need to get this done,'' said Maddon, who guided Tampa Bay to division titles in 2008 and 2010 before erasing a nine-game deficit last September to edge the Red Sox for the AL wild-card spot on the final night of the regular season.
After reaching their first World Series, where they lost to the Philade...