In 2007, the Rays won 66 games. During the offseason, they increased their payroll to $40+ million. In 2008, with a potent combination of prospects and no-names, they won 97 regular-season games in the most competitive division in baseball and went on to the World Series. I see no reason why we can't be them.
What the 2008 Rays didn't have...
A 15-game winner
A starting pitcher with a sub-3 ERA
Scott Kazmir's ERA was 3.49, Edwin Jackson's was 4.42, and everyone else was in between.
A .300 hitter
Six of their starting nine hit between .272 and .295
A 32 home run hitter
A shut-down closer
A good-batting team
The 2008 Rays ranked second to last in the AL in batting average.
They had the second-youngest batters in the league (average age 27.0).
They had the second-youngest pitchers in the league (average age 27.5). Their oldest starter was 26-year-old James Shields.
Why they won anyway...
The 2008 Rays led the league in stolen bases and were second in walks. They were also second in team ERA. They had a lot of young guys who were supposed to be good in 2009 and 2010, but nobody expected them to challenge in 2008. Their preseason odds of winning the AL East were 30/1 and their odds of winning the pennant were 60/1. They won because even though they didn't have marquee players, their average talent produced like slightly above-average talent, and young, unproven guys played to their potential.
Why the 2010 Padres can win...
A healthy Chris Young can be one of the best starters in the game and anchors a solid rotation. Heath Bell is among the best closers. Adrian Gonzalez is one of the best offensive players in the nation. The rest of the 2010 lineup is approximately one year more experienced than the 2009 lineup, and should give Adrian more RBI opportunities and more pitches to hit.
I'm not saying that we're definitely going to the World Series this year... I'm just asking, if the 2008 Rays could do it, why can't we?