We call him The Dirtbag because of how he plays and because he played college ball at Long Beach State whose baseball team has the coolest mascot in sports…The Dirtbags.
The biggest question mark for the Tampa Bay Rays in Spring Training is whether or not Evan Longoria will be named the opening day third baseman. Manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly stated that the decision will be based less on his stats, and more on how the 22-year old handles himself on a day-to-day basis and how well The Dirtbag adjusts to everyday life as a major leaguer. From now until the Rays announce a decision on Longoria’s fate, we will track The Dirtbag’s progress through his numbers, our own observations and quotes from Maddon and Andrew Friedman…
Yesterday at the plate: Evan Longoria started at third going 0-2 with an intentional walk…In the second inning, he struck out looking with one out and a man on first. In the 4th he flew out to center to end the frame. In the 6th inning with runners on second and third with only one out, Longoria was intentionally walked by Jamie Moyer. He would later score the Rays third run. He was removed after 6 innings. In the field, he handled his only fielding chance, a pop up.
“I don’t know, man, that’s just a sensitive topic right now,” Carl Crawford said. “So I don’t really know the reaction that guys are going to have [if Longoria doesn’t make the team] just yet….I know every day, every game he plays, we want him as a team, for sure. As the days go by, and every day we get to see him more, we want him on this team more and more.” [Tampa Bay Rays]
Carlos Pena conceded that “it’s obvious how talented Longoria is” and “we all want him here, every single one of us…But we also understand that there is a process to his development, what is planned for him… There also might be some business advantages that would go perfectly for him and his process. We understand that there are other things that are out of our control and Longoria’s control….It doesn’t necessarily mean we should take it as a negative…We know he’s going to be in the Major Leagues very soon. And he’s going to help out. We think he could be here right now. Every single one of us wants him here. But yes, we are mature and professional enough to understand.” [Tampa Bay Rays]
“I’m not necessarily worried about it,” Maddon said. “It just comes down to doing what you think is the right thing. Because many times you have to make a decision that people in the clubhouse do not particularly get at this particular time. And that’s OK.” [Tampa Bay Rays]
“Because we’ve been doing so well,” Crawford said, “you wouldn’t want to think that one player could deflate the whole thing. I hope that we can still have this little swagger we’ve got. But we’ll just have to wait and see...We’d rather have Longoria, but we feel like we can still win. We can hold it down until he comes. We know we’ll get him at some point. If he doesn’t start out with us, we can do what we need to do.” [Tampa Bay Rays]
Summary: With Willy Aybar nursing a sore hamstring, The Dirtbag started his fourth straight game. Longoria continues to play like a seasoned pro in the spring. The intentional walk yesterday was his tenth free pass of the spring. Only four players have more. He has a .477 OBP and a .719 SLG…But none of this is going to be good enough. After reading the quotes above we are now resigned to the idea that The Dirtbag is probably starting the year in Durham. With a decision pending today or tomorrow, Crawford sounds like he is bracing himself and the rest of the team. Maddon sounds like the decision has already been made even if he is just conjecturing. Pena sounds like a realist and understands what is about to happen…It sucks. We just hope the Rays don’t finish a couple of games short of the playoffs, because Longoria is worth a couple of wins over two months compared to Aybar or Guzman or Hinske.