The Tampa Bay Rays are a young franchise. Founded in 1998, the team has now played exactly 3400 games resulting in a disappointing .468 winning percentage. The team’s peak in success was in the years between 2008 and 2013 when the team had 6 of their 7 total winning seasons, 4 playoff appearances, 2 AL East division titles, and a World Series appearance.
Despite the 21 years of discontent, there have been a fair share of great players to play in St. Petersburg. Being the face of a franchise is not just being the best player on the team. It’s about being a favorite player to both the fans and your teammates.
The second-round pick by the Rays in the 1999 Draft, Carl Crawford was the face of the franchise and stellar player for the Rays over the course of nine seasons from 2002 to 2010, totaling 1235 games.
Over those nine seasons, Crawford accumulated 35.6 bWAR, average 3.9 WAR/season, including 6 seasons of 4 bWAR or higher. In addition, Crawford had 4 All-Star appearances and a Gold Glove award to go along with a .296 AVG and 409 stolen bases in his time in Tampa Bay.
As the organizations first home-grown star player, Crawford was the face of the franchise from 2004 until his departure in 2010.
The Rays’ first pick in the 2006 Draft (3rd Overall) was highly touted prospect Evan Longoria, who made his debut two years later in 2008.
Longoria played ten seasons in a Rays uniform for 1435 games, more than any other player in team history. Over those 10 seasons, Longoria was a consistent star for the Rays putting up 50 bWAR, 261 home runs, and a slash line of .270/.341/.483. He also stacked up numerous award including 2008 RoY, three Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, All-Star appearances in each of his first three seasons, and was a recipient of MVP votes in six different seasons.
After smashing onto the scene as a rookie, Longoria joined Crawford as a team Superstar and helped lead the team to their six consecutive seasons of huge success until 2013. Even once the team began going downhill, Longoria remained the lone bright spot in a deteriorating lineup that kept fans coming to the park.
In The Running
Zobrist played the first eight seasons of his career in Tampa Bay, being the third and final player to play over 1000 games in the uniform. Over those eight years, he racked up a .264/.354/.429 slash line and 35.9 bWAR. After three partial seasons from 2006-2008, Zobrist came and crushed the ball for 27 HR, 17 SB, and 8.6 bWAR.
Shields spent the first seven seasons of his career in Tampa Bay. He pitched 1454 and two-thirds innings for the team. He struggled mightily for the first two seasons until 2011 when he finished third in the Cy Young voting after posting a 2.82 ERA with 225 strikeouts, with 11 complete games and 4 shutouts. Over the eight seasons, he totaled 19.9 bWAR and a 3.89 ERA.
Price played just six and a half seasons for the Rays, but quickly became one of the league’s best pitchers in the confines of Tropicana Field. In 1143 and two-thirds innings, Price posted a 3.18 ERA, 1065 strikeouts, 122 ERA+ and 21.3 bWAR. In Tampa Bay, Price recorded 4 All-Star appearances, and a Cy Young award. In his Cy Young season in 2012, Price recorded 20 wins, a 2.56 ERA, 205 strikeouts, and 6.6 bWAR.
Ben Zobrist and David Price
While neither one of them spent much time with the Rays (if any) after their arbitration years, they both became league-wide stars and anchors in the team’s roster.
While neither one of these players will be remembered as members of the Rays, they will be remembered as two of the organizations best players for the time being. The organization is still young, and building their history. In 10 years, this list could potentially be very different considering the extremely young and promising core of the current roster. Only time will tell!