We had this idea a little while ago that in honor of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 10th Season, we would feature the best players at each position from throughout the long, storied short, awkward existence of the franchise. Hindsight is 20/20 and in the end we had a hard time filling out the roster. When Victor Zambrano has a very real chance of making the starting rotation, that is a clue that the roster is not exactly awe-inspiring.
So with the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays well on their way to their 9th last place finish in 10 seasons, we decided that it makes more sense to honor the worst players to ever don a Devil Rays uniform.
Think of it as similar to the New York Yankees monument park, only the exact opposite and with headstones instead of plaques.
Position players were only considered for a position if they appeared in at least 81 games during the season and started more games at the respective position than any other player on the roster OR high-priced free agents.
Pitchers were considered if they started at least 18 games or made at least 30 appearances as a relief pitcher.
C: John Flaherty/Mike Difelice (1998)
There were several worthy candidates for catcher and in the end we decided to go back to the inaugural season for the inaugural position and selected the 1998 platoon. Flaherty and Difelice combined for .217-6-47 in 552 at bats. On top of that, Difelice committed 13 passed balls in only 84 games while Flaherty had a $1.6 million price tag.
1B: Travis Lee (2006) Travis Lee was an exceptional defensive first baseman, but first base is an offensive position and Lee was offensive, but not in a good way. In 2006, Lee ranked last or next to last in every offensive category for first basemen with at least 300 plate appearances. After hitting .224-11-31 in 114 games with a .676 OPS, the team finally cut him loose.
2B: Brent Abernathy (2002) Who can forget the Brent Abernathy era! He was gone too soon. A .242 average and 2 home runs with 40 RBI can be forgiven for a second baseman. Offensively, all that you really ask is they move runners over and get on base to start rallies. Well, Abernathy picked up only 8 sacrifices in 117 games and got on base at a .288 clip. Ouch. Oh yeah. He also committed 12 errors.
3B: Vinny Castilla (2000) We were very tempted to put BJ Upton here from 2006, considering he only hit .246-1-10 in 50 games and committed an amazing 13 errors, but in the end we just couldn’t get past one of the original members of the Shit Parade. Vinny Castilla hit .254 and managed only 6 home runs and 42 RBI to go with a .562 OPS that made Brent Abernathy look like a slugger. All that and for the low, low price of $6.25 million.
SS: Kevin Stocker (1998) Felix Martinez from 2000 (.214-2-17) was a strong candidate but he actually was a half-way decent glove if you watched him with your eyes covered. But Stocker’s 1998 season (.208-6-25) in 112 games was just as bad and he played defense like he had cement shoes. There was also the issue that the Devil Rays paid Stocker $1.8 million that season or roughly $300K per home run. And did we mention that the Devil Rays traded Bobby Abreu for Stocker? Ooops.
LF: Ben Grieve (2001) Outfield was a little tougher as the Rays have actually had some decent players over the years, especially recently. With Carl Crawford manning left field at the Trop since 2002, we were limited in our options but Ben Grieve is a good one. In 2001 Grieve hit .264-11-72. He did have 30 doubles and got on base at a .372 clip, but 11 home runs and zero range in the outfield with no arm is not what a team wants in a left fielder. Especially one that is making $2.75 million.
CF: Damon Hollins (2005) Center is another position that has seen some decent contributors (Baldelli, Wynn). Hollins was a serviceable player that was a career minor leaguer that finally found regular playing time with the Devil Rays thanks to the fragile nature of Rocco Baldelli. In 120 games, Hollins hit .249-13-46 with a .296 OBP. This was clearly a situation where the Rays had their hands tied expecting Rocco back in 2006.
RF: Jose Cruz, Jr. (2004) Its hard to imagine that a guy that hit 21 home runs would make this list, but the .242 average and .433 slugging percentage help. And so does the $2.5 million price tag that the Rays paid for their key off-season free agent acquisition, in the hopes of sparking an anemic offense. But hey…At Least the Rays were able to trade Cruz to the D-Backs for a promising young left hander named Casey Fossum. Whatever happened to that guy?
DH: Greg Vaughn (2001/2002) Plenty of great candidates at DH. In 1998, Paul Sorrento made $2.5 million and produced a .225 average and 57 RBI. In 2000, Jose Canseco played in only 61 games, hitting 9 home runs while taking home $3.0 million. But both of these pale in comparison to the pile of poo named Greg Vaughn. A player that hit a combined 95 home runs in the two seasons prior to signing with the Devil Rays, Vaughn would hit a grand total of 60 home runs in three years in St. Pete. So which season was worse? Take your pick. In 2001, Vaughn played a full season (136 games) hitting .233 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI, while raking in $8.25 million. In 2002, his salary went up to $8.75 million and his playing time went down to 69 games and a whopping 8 home runs and 29 RBI.
STARTING PITCHERS: Unfortunately we had to leave a lot of deserving players off this list. The talent level has just been too great, and of course by “talent” we mean “puke-inducing”. The biggest indication of the depth is that Tanyon Sturtze, who went 4-18 in 2002 does not make the cut. Also Jae Seo and Casey Fossum were well on their way to making the list this season, but alas, they did not record enough starts.
Edwin Jackson (2007) 1 win in 17 starts. A 7.14 ERA. A WHIP of 1.85. Only Joe Maddon could love a canvas this ugly. It is only the half-way point of the season and Jackson is well on his way to the worst season by any starting pitcher in the history of the franchise (and that is saying a lot).
Ryan Rupe (2001) We try to block the Ryan Rupe-era out of our head. A 6.92 ERA in 18 starts in 2000 apparently earned him a regular gig in 2001. How did he show his appreciation? 5-12 with a 6.59 ERA.
Hideo Nomo (2005) This guy threw a no-hitter? At Coors Field? Huh? Nomo started 19 games for the Rays in 2005 and somehow managed 5 wins despite an ERA of 7.24 and a sparkling strikeout to walk ratio of 59:51.
Joe Kennedy (2003) Ahhh, Joe Kennedy. The lefty that never lived up to the hype. 3-12 with a 6.13 ERA was his line in 32 starts for the 2003 Rays.
Dewon Brazelton (2005) We know we said a minimum of 18 starts. But an exception must be made for Brazel-bum. For starters, he was a third-overall pick in the amateur draft. Second of all, if anybody needed any evidence that Lou Piniella is occasionally INSANE, they need look no further than his decision to make Brazel-terd the opening day starter in 2005. Luckily, Lou came to his senses after 8 starts (1-8, 7.61 ERA) and banished DeLOSS to the bullpen and eventually traded him to the Padres in a classic case of addition-by-subtraction.
CLOSER: Bullpen-by-numbers (2006)
Another tough position to fill as the Rays have employed some decent closers over the years. In fact, in 10 years, the Rays have sent three closers to the all-star game (although Lance Carter was about as deserving as your mom). Still, there have not been any horrendous seasons by a closer that held the position for any length of time. So in this case we are naming the entire 2006 bullpen. Six different players recorded saves in 2006 and they recorded a combined 33 saves and blew 21 save chances. When that list of “closers” includes Shawn Camp, Dan Micelli and Seth McClung…well that is just not very good.
RELIEF PITCHERS: This list will give us a heart condition well before our time so we will just glaze over it and get to the end.
Shawn Camp (2007) 5.80 ERA in 46 appearances and leads the league in number of inherited runners that have scored.
Brian Stokes (2007) We don’t even need to point to his 6.33 ERA. We only need point out the multiple walk-off home runs allowed.
Travis Harper (2005) 6.75 ERA in 52 appearances.
Jorge Sosa (2004) 5.53 ERA. 7 losses. 54 walks in 99.1 innings.
Jesus Colome (2002) 8.27 ERA. How in the world did he get in to 32 games? It must have been his 33 to 33 strikeout to walk ratio.
Esteban Yan (2000) Apparently a 6.21 ERA in 43 appearances with 8 losses earns a player the closer job the following season as Yan became in 2001.
MANAGER: Hal McRae (2002)
113-196 in two seasons including 106 losses in 2002.
So tonight when we crack open our first beer, we will look back at the first 10 years of this sad franchise and raise our glass to the ineptitude of these bums that have caused us so much agida over the years.