Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TAMPA BAY RAYS - ALL TIME HOME GROWN TEAM vs. ALL TIME ACQUIRED TEAM



















I'm almost done with Home Grown vs. Acquired and this has been a wonderful experience for me as a baseball fan.

I've been able to interact with fans of all the teams and learn more about the rich history of every franchise.

But when I've told people about what I am doing, there has been one common question that almost EVERYONE has asked me.

"You are not doing it for TAMPA BAY, are you?"

And when I tell them that I am indeed writing an entry for the Rays, the consensus is I am insane.

Perhaps they are right. I mean it is tough to come up with Home Grown and Acquired Teams for the relatively new teams.

But at least the Rockies had the Blake Street Bombers AND the 2007 NL Champs.
The Marlins had two World Series winners to pick from.
And the Diamondbacks have had four different division winners and a World Champion in their short history.

The Rays? They've had a grand total of one season where they didn't lose 90 games.

The notion of there even being a single great moment was a source of humor on this site!

But here we are... and yes... as absurd as it may be to list TWO 25 man rosters when it took 10 seasons for the Rays to field ONE decent roster... I am going through with it.

Basically it's "The 2008 team and 25 other guys!"

How appropriate is it that for years, the franchise was called The Devil Rays... a fish that is a bottom feeder with no ambition of swimming to the surface... and the team's lone highlight was being the source of a great Disney film.

Then they change their name to a ray... literally a ray of light but figuratively a ray of hope.
And suddenly they topple two economic giants and win the AL Pennant with the lowest payroll in the league.

And have a team that features some of the brightest and most talented players in baseball... and those players are in the control of the Rays for several years before they all split via free agency.

Are we entering into a great era of Tampa Bay baseball?
Well it could have been worse than what played in the Trop between 1998-2007.

As always the rules for the rosters are here.

So here we go... for better or for worse... and Pat and Christin have been there for both the better and the worse... are the best players Tampa Bay has fielded in their rich and proud history!


ALL TIME HOME GROWN RAYS TEAM


STARTING CATCHER
TOBY HALL

For a while in 2004, it looked like Toby Hall was blossoming into a solid hitting catcher. 

He was batting .293 in late July and had a couple of big games at the plate. He got some big hits in the Devil Rays unlikely winning streak in June of 2004 and homered and drove in three runs in a July 27th game against the Royals.

He tailed off at the end of the season as did the Devil Rays and is now a capable backup for the Astros.

(Oh boy, this is going to be tougher than I thought.)


STARTING FIRST BASEMAN
AUBREY HUFF

Yes I know Huff was primarily a third baseman and an outfielder. And was a darn good one with Tampa Bay. He had two top ten finishes for the batting title in a Tampa Bay uniform, drove in 100 runs twice and actually got a few points in an MVP vote (unheard of in pre 2008 Tampa Bay.)

So why is he at first base?

Because I went through the entire history of the Tampa Bay Rays. If you can find a single home grown first baseman who played with any regularity… e mail me at info@sullybaseball.com and I will mail you a prize!


STARTING SECOND BASEMAN
JORGE CANTU

The Devil Rays gave future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar a shot to win the second base job going into 2005.  But when he retired in spring training, the job went to utility man Cantu.

His season was positively Alomar-esque. He clocked 28 homers, 117 RBI and had an unexpectedly high .497 slugging percentage.

Plus he was a thorn in the side of both the Yankees and Red Sox that year.

On a June 23rd game in Yankee Stadium, he homered twice off of Chein Ming Wang to give the Devil Rays a 9-4 win.

Then on September 19th, he homered off of Red Sox rookie Jonathan Papelbon and helped the Devil Rays win a critical 8-7 game.

The Red Sox finished the season tied with the Yankees but the Yankees were the Division Champ due to the head to head record. The Red Sox faced the White Sox and were swept. If they had one more win, they would have faced the Angels, a team they always beat.

In other words, Jorge Cantu may have cost the Red Sox the 2005 Division. 
(Let... it... go!)



STARTING SHORTSTOP
B. J. UPTON

Yes I know B. J. Upton is a miserable shortstop, but I am putting him in the starting line up for a few reasons.

First of all he is extraordinarily talented.

Secondly, it looks more and more like he is getting his head straight and if he recovers from off season rehab, he might harness that tremendous power in the regular season.

Thirdly, he hit three homers in the Division Series against the White Sox... and that was just a warm up for his tremendous performance against the Red Sox in the ALCS

He hit 4 homers, drove in 11, batted .321 and had an OPS of 1.180 in the seven game series.

OK, but why stick him back at shortstop? Because I COULDN'T FIND ANOTHER HOME GROWN SHORTSTOP!

I almost included Fernando Cortez and he played in only one more game at shortstop than the Conquistador, Hernando Cortez!


STARTING THIRD BASEMAN
EVAN LONGORIA

Admit it, you chuckled the first time you heard his name. I mean what were the chances?

Sure there could be a player named Terry Hatcher and it wouldn't be startling. But having both the Evan AND the Longoria?

Well, Evan looks like he'll make a name for himself. He already has a Rookie of the Year under his belt, six post season homers and seems poised to be the face of the franchise.

Granted, Eva has the sexier face... but let's see HER hit six post season homers!


STARTING LEFT FIELDER
CARL CRAWFORD

On March 31, 2003, the Red Sox took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth for what looked like an easy opening day win for Pedro Martinez in the Trop.

But the new Red Sox bullpen-by-committee fell apart and Carl Crawford launched a 2 out, 3 run walk off homer to win it. At the time I said "Who the hell is Carl Crawford?"

Well, since then we have found out! He is a solid professional left handed hittter with power, speed who comes up big in big games. 

Basically the Rays answer to Bernie Williams and Garret Anderson, he possesses much more speed, leading the league in steals four times and triples three times.

And the memory of that homer lingered in Grady Little's mind that fateful night in New York.


STARTING CENTER FIELDER
ROCCO BALDELLI

An unusual mitochondrial disease and many injuries have partially derailed a wonderful career... but Baldelli always seems to fight back.

There were comparisons to Joe DiMaggio right off of the bat for Baldelli, and not just because of his Italian name and the #5 on his back. 

A solid all around right handed hitter, he possessed double digit home run power, 20 stolen base speed and played solid defense like Joltin' Joe.

Then the medical issues piled up as he missed all of the 2005 season and most of 2006, 2007 and 2008. But he came back in time to help the Rays down the stretch.

He homered in the ALCS Game 3 rout of the Red Sox. And when play resumed in the Selig inspired farce that was Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, Baldelli hit a game tying homer to prevent Cole Hamels from getting the win.

The Rhode Island native is now coming back to the Red Sox, but will remain a loved figure in Rays lore.


STARTING RIGHT FIELDER
DELMON YOUNG

Young was the #1 pick over all in the 2003 draft and he became well known before he even made it to the show.

Unfortunately he was well known for flinging a bat after a strikeout and the bat hit the umpire. Whoops.

He did make it to the majors in 2006 and homered and drove in two in his first game.

He finished second to Dustin Pedroia in the 2007 Rookie of the Year vote when Young drove in 96 runs. He was dealt in the off season in a deal that brought over Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza from the Twins.

So far he hasn't flung any bats in Minnesota.


STARTING DESIGNATED HITTER
JONNY GOMES

There are some days that Jonny Gomes looked like he was going to put it all together and become a star... and then he'd be sent down to the farm like he was in the 2008 stretch run.

But his good streaks can be impressive. In April of 2006, he homered 11 times including a two homer game on April 20th against the Red Sox.

He hit only 9 homers the rest of the season... 

Catch him on a good streak, and he would be as good as anyone.


THE STARTING ROTATION

JAMES SHIELDS

It may seem premature to dub him "Big Game" James Shields, but he did throw some terrific games against both the Red Sox and Yankees in 2008.

And while he lost his two starts in the 2008 ALCS, he did win game 2 of the World Series.

He pitched shutout ball into the sixth inning and wiggled out of jams in the second and the fifth innings.

That was a pretty big game I must say.


I trashed Sonnanstine in 2007 and I've had to take it back ever since!

I called him a tomato can, but it turns out he was quite an effective pitcher. A 13 game winner for the 2008 AL Champs, he inflicted the worst kind of pain to me by winning Game 4 of the 2008 ALCS in Fenway Park, giving the Rays a 3-1 lead.

I must say I feel partially responsible!


ROLANDO ARROJO

On April 1, 1998, the Devil Rays played their second ever game. They lost the first one to Detroit and sent Cuban expatriate Rolando Arrojo to the hill. It didn’t look good for him when he let up consecutive RBI hits to Bobby Higginson, Tony Clark and Luis Gonzalez to put Tampa Bay in a 3-0 hole before they even came to bat.

But the Devil Rays responded with RBIs from Fred McGriff and Paul Sorrento in the first and a four run rally in the fourth.

In the end, Arrojo’s line score wasn’t sterling.
6 innings pitched, 4 earned runs.

But he did do something that nobody else can ever claim: He got the first ever win in the franchise’s history.


DEWON BRAZELTON

On June 25, 2004, The Devil Rays had shockingly won 13 of 14 games and had pulled to just one game under .500. They played the Marlins in the heated cross state rivalry. (Maybe not.)

Taking the mound that day was Brazelton, the 3rd overall pick in the 2001 draft looking for his first ever big league win.

He responded big time, throwing a no hitter through seven innings. In the 8th he got the first two batters out before Mike Lowell hit a ground rule double to break up the no no.

The Devil Rays got the win and were .500 at the latest point in their history. They win the next day too and have a winning team. Would Brazelton become a new star on a winning Tampa team?

Nope, it was his only win of the year and the Devil Rays would go 35-56 the rest of the way... but it looked bright that day!

The late Joe Kennedy never did become a star, but he had his shining moments.

No game shone better than on May 2, 2003 against the Detroit Tigers. 

Tigers lead off man Andres Torres singled in the first... and that was it. He shut down the Tigers and faced only one batter above the minimum. 

He walked a batter in the 7th, but he was erased on a double play. Kenendy went the distance on his 1 hit shut out, striking out Gene Kingsale to finish it.

He was only 28 when he died. No doubt as a capable left hander, he had a long career ahead of him.


THE BULLPEN

DAVID PRICE

Oh I know he won't be in the bullpen for long. 
If his stuff is any indication, he will be the ace of this staff.

But as a Red Sox fan, all I have to do is look at his stats in the ALCS to say "Yeah, he's got stuff."

He wiggled out of a 2 on, 1 out 11th inning jam to get the win in Game 2... and then there was the jaw droppingly clutch bases loaded strikeout of playoff hero J. D. Drew in Game 7. Oh yeah, he also worked around a lead off walk in the 9th inning.

As someone who is fascinated by pitchers who close out playoff series, I think the young Price already has the highlight of a lifetime. 

He's only 22.

Wheeler was a 34th round draft pick of the Devil Rays in 1997. Usually the 34th round is where teams draft a scout's nephew to fill out their short season A team.

The Rays got a big league pitcher. Granted, after coming up with the Devil Rays in 1999 he moved from team to team... clinching the 2004 Division Series and 2005 NL Pennant for the Astros and cashing some checks with the Mets.

He came back to Tampa in 2007 and provided some veteran leadership to the bullpen. And in the playoffs, he got out the White Sox to save Game 1 of the Division Series.

Not bad for a 34th rounder.

On September 27th, 2003, the Red Sox and Devil Rays were battling in the Trop. By the 4th inning the score was already 4-4 and Devil Rays starter Rob Bell was done.

Gaudin came out of the bullpen and shut down the Red Sox. He pitched 4 1/3 innings out of the pen, retiring players like Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon.

Travis Lee homered and Gaudin's tremendous effort was rewarded with a win.

(To be fair, this was the second to last game of the season and the Red Sox had already clinched a playoff spot and were resting many of their regulars midway through the game... but I needed SOMETHING to make Chad Gaudin's entry to sound dramatic!!!)


MARK MALASKA

Did you know that Mark Malaska has a World Series ring? He really does!

He pitched 19 games for the 2004 Red Sox, obviously wasn't on the World Series roster, but got a ring out of it.

That's pretty incredible when you think that he has a ring and players like Tony Gwynn don't have one. 

I digress. This is a  Tampa Bay entry. He pitched 22 games in relief for the 2003 Devil Rays and posted a respectable 2.81 ERA along the way.

And then he got a World Series ring. Man, the stuff I find out writing this blog!

Orvella was the 2004 Devil Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year and looked like a closer for the future. 

He gave the Devil Rays a nice rookie year, throwing a decent 3.60 ERA over 37 games out of the pen.

On June 12, 2005 against the Pirates, he pitched a scoreless bottom of the 13th for the save.

It would be, as of this writing, his lone big league save.


THE BENCH


RESERVE INFIELDER
JARED SANDBERG

OK, the pickings were slim enough for the STARTING infield. Now I need a bench?

Sandberg showed some decent pop in 2002, smacking 18 homers in 102 games. He had two 2 homer games 

He's also is the nephew of Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg... so maybe his uncle could show up to a few games.

RESERVE INFIELDER
REID BRIGNAC

OK, why is Brignac here? 

I have as many major league hits as he does.

But the 23 year old left handed hitting infielder is one of the Rays bright prospects and might be one of their stars as they build towards another pennant run.

There! That's good enough reason to put him on an ALL TIME TEAM!!!


RESERVE OUTFIELDER
JOEY GATHRIGHT

Gathright didn't bring a lot of power to the Devil Rays line up. He had no homers in 409 at bats in a Tampa Bay uniform. But he had terrific speed. 

He stole 20 bases in only 76 games in 2005, including three in one game on September 30th.

He ran a 6.1 second 60 yard dash and in this You Tube clip can be seen jumping over cars. 

I'm not 100% sure how that is useful in baseball, but it's pretty cool.


RESERVE OUTFIELDER
Why is Fernando Perez on this list?

A few reasons...

The Devil Rays' 7th round pick in the 2004 draft became a useful pinch runner for the 2008 American League Champions.

Plus he hit a key double off of Jonathan Papelbon and scored the winning run in the Rays September 9th win over the Red Sox which prevented Boston from taking the lead in the Division.

In Game 2 of the 2008 ALCS, he came in as a pinch runner in the 11th and scored the winning run.

And after sending a text message of a picture of a gun to his girlfriend, I just couldn't include Elijah Dukes.


RESERVE CATCHER
SHAWN RIGGANS

Riggans was Dioner Navarro's primary backup in the 2008 season.  He played in 44 games and twice came up big against the Yankees in '08.

In fact he became a personal tormentor of Yankees flop Ian Kennedy.

On April 4th he hit a three run double off of Ian Kennedy to lead the Rays to a 13-4 win.

Then on May 15th, he hit a two run jack in the Rays 5-2 win in Tampa.

He never got to play in the post season (but he would have played in Game 2 had Fernando Perez been thrown out at the plate. Perez was pinch running for Navarro.) I'm sure Riggans didn't mind not playing.


25TH MAN
TIM BECKHAM

OK this is a little absurd, I grant you. The #1 pick in the 2008 draft hasn't played a game in the big leagues yet. He hasn't played a AAA game yet. He hasn't even played a AA game yet!!!

So what is this Princeton Devil Ray and Hudson Valley Renegade on this list?

Because the absurdly talented infielder could fly through the system and represents an on going threat by the Rays:

They are stacked with talent! A team that is already boasting B. J. Upton and Evan Longoria for the next five or six years might have another superstar on the way! 

It's a novel approach to beating the Red Sox and Yankees:
You guys sign superstars when they are expensive... and we'll have superstars when they are young and hungry.

It just might work.






OK, that was interesting... some mindboggling talent... and some guys who are warm bodies.

Three of the players on this all time list (Price, Brignac and Beckham) have a COMBINED 9 regular season games under their belt in the majors. (Price has 5 post season games... raising the total to 14.)

And 11 players on the list suited up in 2008.

For almost a decade, winding up in Tampa Bay either by a trade or free agency was the baseball equivalent of being sent to Siberia... a much warmer Siberia, granted.

Let's see how the Rays (and the Devil Rays) did in acquiring players over the years...





ALL TIME ACQUIRED RAYS TEAM


STARTING CATCHER
DIONER NAVARRO

How would Navarro look in a Yankees uniform these days? With Jorge Posada's career winding down, the Yankees veteran catcher could take Navarro under his wing and there would be a smooth transition.

But the Yankees needed Randy Johnson... so Navarro was sent packing first to Arizona, then to Los Angeles and then to Tampa Bay.

Who would have thought that Tampa would offer the quickest route to the World Series?
Navarro became an All Star in 2008, handled the pitching staff brilliantly and came up big in his first post season series. He hit .400 with an OPS of 1.038 in the Division Series against the White Sox, driving in a run in the Game 4 clincher.

But I am sure the Yankees are glad they got Randy Johnson to bomb in two playoff series.


STARTING FIRST BASEMAN
CARLOS PENA

Pena looked like he was going to be a talented player who just never made it. The Northeastern Graduate had played for three different big league teams after two seasons. And after a blink and you'll miss it stint in Boston, he landed in Tampa Bay.

And there everything suddenly clicked.

He socked 46 homers (second in the league), drove in 121 runs, had an eye popping 1.037 OPS and was named the Silver Slugger First Baseman.

He showed it wasn't a fluke with more power numbers in 2008 and added a Gold Glove for good measure.

He then returned to Boston and haunted them with 3 homers and a 1.060 OPS in the ALCS

Maybe the Sox should have kept him.


STARTING SECOND BASEMAN
AKINORI IWAMURA

Just when the Red Sox, Mariners, Yankees and Dodgers seemed like the landing place of all Japanese stars, the Devil Rays stunningly opened their pocketbooks for Iwamura before the 2007 season.

And the third baseman played well and then moved to second base to make room for Longoria.

And along the way became a major pain in the butt for Red Sox fans! He had some big games against the Sox including a 2 run homer to beat Clay Buchholz on April 26th, and RBI single in a big come from behind rally on July 2, and hit the 2 out single that sparked a game winning 14th inning rally against the Sox on September 10th.

And if that wasn't enough, he recorded the final putout in the ALCS against the Red Sox. A few more games like that and he'll be Akinori F---ing Iwamura.


STARTING SHORTSTOP
JASON BARTLETT

A nice fielding decent hitting shortstop while with the Twins, Bartlett came over in the Delmon Young trade and paid immediate dividends.

He allowed B. J. Upton to not even think about the infield and provided stability up the middle defensively. 

Plus he singled twice and drove in a run in the Rays Game 2 win in the 2008 World Series.

With a Timothy Beckham in the minors, he might become a solid trade chip in a few years. I bet the Twins would like to deal Young straight up for him!


STARTING THIRD BASEMAN
WADE BOGGS

If Dave Winfield was a little more subtle before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Wade Boggs might have a Devil Rays cap on his plaque.

Follow me.

Boggs wanted to go into the Hall of Fame as a Devil Ray. That of course is absurd... as if Frank Robinson should go in as an Angel or Eddie Mathews as an Astro.

But the Tampa resident, who didn't leave things well in Boston and had just left the Yankees, felt at home in Tampa Bay. I guess a pressure a free environment to pad his stats suited him just fine.

He hit the first homer in Devil Rays history, homered again in the Trop for his 3,000th hit and even pitched 1 1/3 innings in a game.

So why not put a TB on his Hall of Fame plaque?
Well Dave Winfield basically offered the hat on his plaque to which ever team would hire him... and the Padres stepped up. The Hall of Fame didn't like that and heard rumors that the Devil Rays were offering Boggs some bonuses for the plaque.

Cooperstown changed the rules and prevented the player from choosing which cap their plaque would have. Boggs is in as a Boston Red Sox.

Seems silly doesn't it?


STARTING LEFT FIELDER
GREG VAUGHN

Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMarr had a great idea.
His team stunk, but what if they stunk but also hit a lot of homers?

Veterans Vinny Castilla and Greg Vaughn were signed on the same day, December 19, 1999 and added to a lineup that also included Fred McGriff and Jose Canseco.

What they did NOT have was a time machine to make it 1995.

Vaughn hit 28 homers in 2000 his first season in Tampa and 24 the next when he was named to the All Star team (a classic Mike Sharperson pick.)

Canseco was gone from the Devil Rays in 2001. McGriff was traded, Castilla cut and Vaughn was the last of the sluggers on the team when 2001 ended and the Rays lost 100 games.

Meanwhile the other expansion team from 1998, the Diamondbacks, won the World Series that year.

Safe to say they had a better plan.


STARTING CENTER FIELDER
RANDY WINN

Another Sharperson-esque All Star pick, Winn was taken from the Marlins in the expansion draft and became a solid all around player.

He hit for a decent average, had good power and 20 stolen base speed.

Later was traded to Seattle for permission to negotiate with Lou Piniella. 

He played in the ill fated 2002 tied All Star Game where he singled, stole a base and scored a run.

If he didn't score that run, the NL would have won and there wouldn't have been a tie and the All Star Game wouldn't be used now to figure out who has the home field advantage in the World Series. 

Blame Winn!


STARTING RIGHT FIELDER
BEN GRIEVE

The son of Tom Grieve looked like he was going to be part of a big revival in Oakland in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He won the Rookie of the Year in 1998 and was a 27 homers, 104 RBI hitter who needed to cut down on his strikeouts. 

He had a playoff under his belt and along with Giambi, Tejada and Chavez looked like he was a big piece of a potential championship puzzle...

Or become trade bait.

Grieve was in a trade so convoluted that figuring it out is like trying to figure what wire goes where behind your DVD player, VCR and TV. All I know is when the dust settled, Johnny Damon, Mark Ellis and Cory Lidle were going off to Oakland, Roberto Hernandez and Angel Berroa were heading to Kansas City and Grieve was banished to Tampa Bay.

He showed some decent double digit power numbers in Tampa Bay including a 5 RBI game on May 2, 2001 against the Orioles. 

But injuries derailed his career and the A's didn't look too dumb trading him while his stock was high.


STARTING DESIGNATED HITTER
FRED McGRIFF

The Crime Dog just wanted to go home. He had played for the Blue Jays, the Padres and the Braves... he had won home run titles in both leagues and became a playoff hero and World Champion with the Braves.

So when the Devil Rays were formed, the Tampa native signed on and gave the home town fans something to cheer for.

He became a 30 homer 100 RBI man again and had a .957 OPS in 1999. Midway through the 2001 season, he turned down a trade to the Cubs.

He didn't want to leave. He was home.
A few weeks later he accepted the trade with a bonus. Nothing makes home life better than a little cash.

He returned to Tampa in 2004 hoping to hit 9 homers and reach 500. He hit 2 and then was cut... and then he went home.


THE STARTING ROTATION


MATT GARZA

It seemed so locked up, didn't it? Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS was in the bag for the Red Sox. The Red Sox had the mind boggling win in Game 5 to stay alive and then the tight wire act in Game 6 to force the finale.

Now they had their ace, Jon Lester, on the mound. Sure he had a crummy game 3, but what were the chances that he was going to pitch badly again.

And he didn't. He threw 7 innings, letting up 6 hits, no walks, 3 earned runs and 8 strikeouts.

Nine times out of ten that gets a win.

And when Dustin Pedroia homered in the first inning, it looked like the rout was on. It was a vintage comeback like the ones the Red Sox staged against the A's, Yankees and Indians in recent years. 

A funny thing happened on the way to back to back pennants:

Matt Garza.

Garza let up only one more hit and only walked three as he pitched into the 8th inning. And the poised 24 year old never let the moment overwhelm him. He won the game, finished the series 2-0 and was named the series MVP.

I guess the A's, Yankees and Indians just needed Garza!
Here's something fun to do if you are bored and want to make a Mets fan angry:

Mention Scott Kazmir.

It's fun watching their faces go red and watching them reach for the phone to call WFAN.

Think the Mets could have used a 22 year old stud in the 2006 NLCS. Or a 23 year old throwing 239 strikeouts in 206 2/3 innings in 2007?
How about last year when he continued throwing more than a strikeout an inning and was named to the All Star Team in New York of all places.

Met fans rightfully hated that trade for Victor Zambrano the nanosecond it happened. If you told them then that Kazmir will be in the World Series for Tampa before the Mets won another pennant, they might have burned down Shea Stadium right then and there!

Hey! Speaking of Zambrano!

As Devil (Ray) Advocate, he DID win 12 games and have a not terrible ERA of 4.21 for a 99 loss Tampa team in 2003. 

And the Mets, still with ambitions for the playoffs despite a 47-50 record, saw Zambrano go 9-7 for a miserable 2004 team.

So they thought "Hey! Why not trade our best pitching prospect for a guy who MIGHT be OK during our losing season?"

OK, it was a stupid trade then. It was made worse when he got hurt and missed the rest of the 2004 season... and all of the 2006 season...

But he did OK as a Devil Ray. And after all, this IS a Devil Rays post!

When the 2004 Devil Rays rampaged through Interleague play and made an unlikely push above .500, Hendrickson was one of Tampa Bays best pitchers.

He won three times in June and continued his solid pitching into July.

His ERA which stood at 5.27 on May 29th, dipped to 3.90 after a complete game 10-1 victory over the Royals on July 28th.

It got ugly after that as his ERA shot back to 5.11 in September and he finished with a 10-15 record and a 4.81 ERA... but a for a two month stretch, he was solid.

Lopez was a perennial prospect for the Indians who could never stick on the big league roster and missed out in post season play in Cleveland.

He was an original Devil Ray and actually pitched quite well out of the bullpen in the inaugural season. He went 7-4 with a 2.60 ERA over 79 2/3 innings, all in relief in 1998.

In 2000, he started poorly and with a 2-4 record and a 5.53 ERA, he went into the rotation. He pitched much better, having his ERA dip into the mid 3's at one point and threw back to back complete game victories on August 8 and August 13.

During the 2001 season, the Devil Rays dealt the Arizona native to the Diamondbacks, and he played in the World Series and got that World Series ring.

He has THAT over his former Indians teammates.

I think Roberto Hernandez has finally retired. He pitched in over 1,000 games during his 17 year career and kept popping up with different clubs over the last few years.

And along the way he had about 8 or 9 really nice seasons as a closer.
After leaving the Giants he joined the original Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998. 

In 1999 he represented the Devil Rays in the All Star Game, but it was no Mike Sharperson pick. He somehow saved 43 games for a team that only won 69!

He finished 10th in the Cy Young vote that year... but why didn't the 1999 Devil Rays trade him to a team that needed a solid closer? Like say... The Red Sox?

Someday baseball will catch on in Australia and it might become a fertile ground for new talent.

As of this entry, there have been 24 big leaguers born down under.

Some have had some success (Graeme Lloyd pitched well for two Yankees World Series winners). Some showed promise but never blossomed (Damian Moss anyone?)

And Dave Nilsson made the 1999 All Star team.

But Grant Balfour has the distinction of being the first ever Aussie to close out a post season series when he struck out Ken Griffey Jr. to clinch the 2008 Division Series.

His name, Balfour, is an unfortunate one for a pitcher... not that Australians understand that... yet.
Percival was retired after the 2005 season. But he had a wonderful comeback in 2007 with St. Louis and the Rays (along with his old coach Joe Maddon) took a flier on him for 2008.

He saved 28 games for the Rays but he brought more than that. On a team with no expectations and tons of young talent, he brought a swagger and professionalism to Tampa Bay. The other pitchers seemed to feed off of him.

Besides, he had been there and done that with the Angels!

He was hurt for the playoffs, but it could be argued his suiting up at all for the team made him one of Tampa's MVPs.
Baez was 25 years old and talented at the end of the 2003 season. He saved 25 games for a subpar Indians team and it would seem like he was part of a rebuilding process.

Nope. He was non tendered and found himself in Tampa Bay.

He saved 30 games for the 2004 season and then turned it up a notch in 2005.

He saved 41 of the Devil Rays 67 wins. 7 of those saves were against the Yankees and he got his lone All Star Game selection.

If he blew one of those saves, the Yankees would have had home field advantage over the Angels in the 2005 Division Series. To Yankee haters everywhere, Baez says "you are welcome."

No pitcher has appeared in more games for Tampa Bay than Esteban Yan. He logged in 266 appearances.

And seeing that he was not a member of the 2008 team, those were 266 appearances for bad bad bad teams.

But his first appearance looked promising!

In the third game in Devil Rays history, on April 2, 1998, Yan came out of the bullpen to relieve starter Tony Saunders in the 7th. He got Tigers hitters Damian Easley, Pete Incavliglia and Joe Randa in order. Then the Devil Rays erupted.

They scored six times, giving Yan a 7-1 lead. He pitched a hitless 8th and 9th and got the win.

If only his Devil Rays career ended after that one game!


THE BENCH

RESERVE INFIELDER
JULIO LUGO

In between being cut from the Astros and not exactly winning over the love of Los Angeles or Boston fans, Lugo put together some nice seasons in Tampa Bay obscurity.

He batted .295 with 39 stolen bases in 2005. And on April 22, 2005 he drove in 3 runs against the Red Sox in a 5-4 Tampa Bay win.

Red Sox got a headstart in booing him.

He was batting .308 with an OPS of .871 when the Dodgers dealt for him in the 2006 season.
He hasn't won over the fans since... but has tens of millions of dollars and a World Series ring to console him.


RESERVE INFIELDER
WILLY AYBAR

If any player deserves the "Bleeping" middle name based on the Red Sox 2008 ALCS loss, it would be Aybar. He only started 66 games and his numbers (10 homers, 33 RBI, .253 average, .737 OPS) didn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of mortal men.

But it could be argued that he crushed the Red Sox worst of all.

In Game 4, he homered off of Tim Wakefield, making a managable 3-0 game a dreadful 5-0 deficit. He drove in another run in the 5th and another in the 6th with 5 RBI over all in the game.

But most crushingly, he homered off of Jon Lester in Game 7 to give the Rays a vital insurance run... all the while making us Red Sox fans grind our teeth and give him an unrepeatable middle name.


RESERVE OUTFIELDER
DAVE MARTINEZ

Dave Martinez was never an All Star nor was he ever an elite player. The highest he ever ranked in an MVP vote was 20th in 1991 when he was with the Expos. He played for nine different teams, including the Devil Rays in their first and second seasons.

And he never played in the post season until his final season with the 2001 Braves. (Although he was a coach for last years AL Champion Rays in the World Series.)

But he was a steady reliable left handed hitter. He batted .290 or better four times. He had good stolen base speed and didn’t strike out a lot.

And he got the first ever hit in Devil Rays history.

And a steady player like Martinez deserves some recognition… so take this token of appreciation from the staff at Sully Baseball.


RESERVE OUTFIELDER
JOSE CANSECO

I would put Cliff Floyd here... but he never played a game in the outfield, and Canseco did.

He was named to his final All Star team in 1999 and hit 34 homers and 95 RBI in only 113 games.

All the while I am sure he was stewing in obscurity in Tampa Bay while people still praised Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for their heroics the season before.

I'm sure he thought "Saved the game? My needle punctured ass they saved the game!"

I wonder if the kernel that was his book was formed while he was in a Devil Rays uniform?


RESERVE CATCHER
JOHN FLAHERTY

Flaherty was a Red Sox farm hand... a Yankee who won the epic July 1, 2004 battle... but he spend the most time in his career as a Devil Ray.

He was the team's first ever catcher and put up respectable numbers in 1999 with 14 homers, 71 RBI, .278 average and a .725 OPS.

And on April 4, 2000, he put together a 5 RBI night that included a homer against the Twins. 

Of course the Devil Rays LOST the game, but that is besides the point.


25TH MAN
JIM MORRIS

I know I'm supposed to put Cliff Floyd here. I'm not. 

I know it seems silly to include a guy with zero wins and zero saves. But it's not.

Jim Morris' story not only inspired the underrated movie The Rookie
but is quite simply the coolest baseball story of a generation.

And for a team who literally came from nowhere to win a pennant in 2008, what better symbol for that grit and mettle than a high school teacher turned Major League reliever.

Why is he on the acquired team? My strict rules say if you played for another organization before hand, then you are not home grown. He was a first round pick for the Brewers in 1983... and made his debut in 1999.

That's quite a journey, folks.


WHO WOULD WIN A HEAD TO HEAD SERIES?

Well, which team has more members of the 2008 team? 

The Home Growns have 12 players who cashed checks from the 2008 team.
The Acquireds have 9 players who cashed checks from the 2008 team.

And I can't believe I found 29 Tampa Bay players worth mentioning who DIDN'T play in 2008!!!

VERDICT: THE HOME GROWN TEAM WINS... RISING #1 PICKS TRUMP SCHOOL TEACHERS, NO MATTER HOW INSPIRING THEY ARE!!!

CLICK HERE TO GO BACK TO THE HOME PAGE

One more down!

That's the Rays

And the Phillies
And the Cubs
And the Indians
And the Tigers
And the White Sox.
And the Royals
And the Brewers
And the Reds
And the Dodgers
And the Blue Jays
And the Pirates
And the Diamondbacks
And the Mariners
And the Nationals
And the Angels
And The Padres
And The Twins
And The Orioles
And the A's
And the Astros
And the Giants
And the Rockies
And the Mets
And the Rangers
And the Marlins
And the Yankees
And the Red Sox

2 to go...

NEXT ALL TIME HOME GROWN VS. ACQUIRED TEAM:
THE ATLANTA BRAVES












8 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. fred mcgriff should go to the HOF. at least he gets my vote!

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  3. This list was so absurd that I considered putting Hamilton on it even though he played as many games in a Tampa Bay uniform as Leo Tolstoy.

    But instead of a #1 overall pick that didn't work, I focused on Beckham, a #1 pick that COULD work

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  4. As I read this, Dewon Brazelton leaped out at me as the example of how difficult the home grown team was to put together. He (along with Sandberg, Hamilton, etc.) were to be the great talents of the farm system, but they almost all flamed out. Dewey's career line:

    8-25 6.38 ERA

    Another note on Esteban Yan. Let Tony LaRussa manage him and bat him 8th in place of the DH. Esteban batted twice in his career. He homered in 2000 off Bobby J. Jones of the Mets and had a bunt single in 2003 off Jason Schmidt. I was hoping he'd never get another at bat after 2000 because at that point his OPS was a perfect 5.000, but TLR let him hit and his career OPS plummeted to a mere 3.500. That piece of managing by LaRussa dropped Esteban from 1st to 5th on the All-Time OPS list behind 4 guys tied at 4.000 (Eric Cammack, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chuck Lindstrom and Scott Munninghoff). All of those guys tripled in their only big league at-bats.

    Come to think of it, when Rodriguez was recently eulogized, nobody mentioned his status as the game's greatest slugger.

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  5. Tampa Bay Rays should be always competitive enough to keep pace with the others. I really like them; they’ve always been my favourite teams in MLB. Just read about them here:
    http://www.devilrayshome.com

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  6. This blog has so much excellent information in it that i could spend all week reading it.

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  7. Wow reading all of these old comments is funny. Go Rays (2010)

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