The Tampa Bay Rays Mount Rushmore is the second in a series revealing the top four players for each franchise as selected by writers and fans.
The nature of the Tampa Bay Rays sabermetrics heavy, Moneyball on steroids (pardon the reference) means that most players have relatively short tenures on the big league roster. That said, the Rays have won two pennants in their 23 American League seasons. Combine these successes with nine minor league pennants won by their Saint Petersburg predecessors, and Tampa Bay has enough characters to commission at least a temporary Mount Rushmore.
What defines a franchise?
Saint Petersburg has been home to professional baseball for more than a century. The Saints were the first to call St. Pete home, and the Cardinals, Devil Rays, and Rays followed suit. Most historians and fans count these as distinct entities rather than one club telling a common Tampa Bay baseball story.
For the purposes of this series, OTH is embracing the latter idea. These teams represented Saint Petersburg in professional baseball. They played with St. Pete or Tampa Bay proudly written on their uniforms. They share a common fanbase.
This series of articles serves, in part, as an attempt to recapture the legacy of those earlier teams. OTH recognizes that while an owner may move the corporate structure, the legacy belongs to the fans and the city for which the team played.
The NBA and NFL have recognized the validity behind this line of thinking. The modern Charlotte Hornets inherited the legacy of the Hornets that moved to New Orleans. The modern Cleveland Browns inherited the legacy of the Browns that moved to Baltimore. Now Rob Manfred and MLB need to do the same.
MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays are best viewed as a continuation of the minor league Devil Rays, Cardinals, and Saints.
1920 in the minors; 1998 in the majors
American League pennants (2)
Florida State League pennants (8)
Florida International League pennants (1)
Tampa Bay Rays Mount Rushmore
After counting votes from OTH writers and baseball fans, here are the top four players in Tampa Bay Rays history.
- TB Years: 2008-2017
- TB Stats: 51.2 WAR, .270/.341/.483, 2,630 TB, 313 HR, 338 2B, 1,471 H
Tampa Bay is renowned for its drafting prowess, and the Rays selected Longoria third overall in 2006. The third baseman proved a wise choice, earning Rookie of the Year honors in his inaugural campaign. Longoria coupled a fine bat with regular web gems and deservedly unbelievable snags.
- TB Years: 2002-2010
- TB Stats: 35.6 WAR, .296/.337/.444, 2,217 TB, 105 3B, 1,480 H, 409 SB
Carl Crawford’s speed guaranteed some excitement at Tropicana Field. The Cool Papa Bell Award winner led the American League in both stolen bases and triples four times. Crawford topped his regular-season success with a critical ALCS in the 2008 pennant run. Crawford notched a .849 OPS, a triple, and three stolen bases.
- TB Years: 2008-2014
- TB Stats: 21.3 WAR, 3.18 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 3.33 FIP
Another product of the Rays excellent draft system, David Price hit his stride in 2010. That season, he sported a 2.56 ERA and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings on his way to second-place in the Cy Young Award voting. After a decent 2011, Price returned to form in 2012 with a league-leading 2.56 ERA to claim the Cy Young.
- TB Years: 2006-2012
- TB Stats: 19.7 WAR, 3.89 ERA, 1.223 WHIP, 3.84 WAR, 1,250 K
Command more than speed defined James Shields. Using a changeup and two types of fastball, Shields often could place his pitches in hitter unfriendly locations. Shields’s best Rays season was likely 2011. The righty threw 11 complete games, four shutouts, and a 1.043 ERA.
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