If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and what they will do, and why. Unlike most team blogs, we do not very often tell you what the Tampa Bay Rays should do. However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans.
On the third day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, THREE American League all-stars…
In 1999, the Devil Rays sent two representatives (Jose Canseco and Roberto Hernandez) to the fall classic in Boston. In each of the franchise’s other nine seasons, the Rays have been represented by a single player, several of whom were far from deserving (Lance Carter in 2003 comes to mind).
The lack of Devil Rays all-stars is due mostly to the void of deserving players, but is also in part due to the anonymity and the stigma of playing for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, arguably the worst team in baseball over the last 10 years. While Carl Crawford was named to the team in 2004, he was snubbed on at least one occasion, the most notable being 2006, when CC was hitting .319-13-46 with 32 steals entering the all-star break.
Anonymity is no longer an excuse for the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. With all the changes the team has made, including their uniforms and name, the Rays are now on the map and people are starting to notice. Several players are now known commodities in baseball, including Scott Kazmir, Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, with players such as James Shields and BJ Upton not far behind. It should not surprise anybody if any of those five players post all-star worthy numbers. In addition, players like Akinoria Iwamura, Evan Longoria, Matt Garza and Troy Percival could get strong consideration with big first halves.
The most interesting of this latter group is Iwamura. The Japanese import is entering his second season since coming to the States, after a rookie campaign in which he hit .285-7-34. Another Japanese hitter, Hideki Matsui, took a giant step forward in his second full season. After a rookie season that saw him hit .287-16-106, his numbers jumped to .298-31-108 in season two. While he has never approached his Japanese totals, Matsui’s numbers have been much closer since his first season in pinstripes. Nobody expects Iwamura to belt 40 home runs as he did in Japan, however, if he can improve his numbers to something in the range of .300-20-80, he will get strong consideration for all-star status among a weak field of second basemen.
As fans we have been hearing and reading about all the talent being stockpiled by the Tampa Bay Rays. Outside of Kazmir and Crawford, that talent has been sporadic and inconsistent and has yet to manifest into a move up in the standings. There are no more excuses in 2008. It is time to show the rest of major league baseball that there is substance to the hype. If these talented youngsters along with their veteran support staff perform as expected, the Rays will start to win more games. If the Rays start to win more ballgames people will notice. When people start paying attention, the Rays players will get the recognition they deserve. The first place that recognition will be realized is when the AL All-Star squad is announced in July and it includes at least three members of the Tampa Bay Rays for the first time in franchise history.
On the third day of Raysmas, all Rays fans want is THREE American League all-stars, and..
TWO new pitchers in the rotation by the all-star break [Day 2]
ONE Evan Longoria in the opening day lineup [Day 1]