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Evan Longoria, David Price have the talent and attitude to be the faces of the franchise

Evan Longoria and David Price share an admiration for each other’s attitude and work ethic, Longoria for Price’s enthusiasm and selflessness, Price for Longoria’s consistent high effort.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Evan Longoria and David Price share an admiration for each other’s attitude and work ethic, Longoria for Price’s enthusiasm and selflessness, Price for Longoria’s consistent high effort.

The lightning in David Price's left arm certainly gets your attention. As does the thunder in Evan Longoria's bat, as well as the quickness of his glove and accuracy of his throws from third base.

But as the Rays move into a new era — their era — those are not the most significant attributes.

More important, as they become the faces of the franchise following the offseason departure of Carl Crawford and nearly a dozen others, are less athletic assets.

The dedication in their hearts.

The clearness in their minds.

And the smiles on their faces.

"You couldn't ask for more." Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "Or even that much."

They're each just 25, but they're already established among the game's elite players and biggest names and should be around for a while, at least through 2015, after which Price would hit free agency.

Longoria has been an All-Star in each of his three seasons, having won two Gold Gloves and finished sixth in last year's AL MVP voting, highest ever by a Ray. Price won 19 games in his first full season in the majors and was a solid second in the 2010 AL Cy Young balloting, also a franchise first.

"Cornerstones, perennial All-Stars, you can probably attach any accolades to their abilities," said new Blue Jays manager, and former Red Sox pitching coach, John Farrell. "They're two pillars for an organization."

But — in the baseball vernacular —it's how they go about it that sets them apart.

"Their competitive makeup is off the charts," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "They are two great guys to have with bringing up young players behind them and then educating the young guys on what's expected.

"I had conversations with both of them this offseason about how a lot of people are going to talk about and write about how we're rebuilding, and the way they think about it, the way they approach it, their desire to win, the type of teammates they are, it's all off the charts. So to have that coupled with their ability is extremely unique."

Teammates, even new ones, say it's obvious.

"Any team would want them to be the cornerstones for their franchise," Johnny Damon said. "We've got some pretty good building blocks here."

Opponents, too.

"They seem like quality people first and foremost that really care about more than just themselves, and that's always a great start if you are extremely talented because you can really have an impact on a lot of other people," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who had both on last year's All-Star team. "And they seem to have a lot of fun when they play the game. They really enjoy it, and you see that, too."

• • •

Longoria on Price:

"I see a guy who is genuinely a kid at heart and loves playing baseball, loves the game, loves being part of a team. And even when he's not on the mound, he loves being in the dugout, cheering on his teammates. …

"I can't say enough good things about him. I lived with him this spring, have been teammates with him for a couple years, he's an awesome guy. The kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. Never selfish. I think of all the good words to describe a teammate, and I would use them to describe David. …

"It's pretty evident he's the kind of guy that you want to build something around. He's a very special talent."

• • •

Price is the more revealing of the two, baring his emotions and his ambition, crossing one of those archaic baseball lines by publicly declaring that he wants, simply, to be the best pitcher in baseball. Period.

"I want to be the best in everything I do," he said. "I have that sense of pride. I don't come out here to be average. I can go sit at a desk if I want to do that. I want to have a competition."

"He's so driven to be that guy," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's important to him. And to admit it and say it matters: some guys might feel that but not say it aloud; he's not afraid to say it out loud. I like that. I think that matters."

Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Price's roommate at Vanderbilt and a close friend, said that's nothing new, nor surprising.

"The only thing he's bad at is not being good at something," Alvarez said. "He's ultra-competitive, and that's what makes him so good. He wants to be the best, and not taking anything away from anyone else, he's just worried about himself being the best, and he works to get there. And he achieves most things he puts his mind to."

• • •

Price on Longoria:

"He's somebody that busts his tail every day for this team. He's in here and he has a good time, but he brings that same aura to the field every day.

"That's tough for somebody to do at 25 years old, to kind of be put in a position to have the world on his shoulders, not only our organization but you see Major League Baseball doing the same thing as well. They want him to be the face of baseball, and I feel like he's perfect for it.

"He's one of the best players in baseball in my eyes, and I feel like he does it the right way. I've got much respect for Evan. And I like to see him play."

• • •

Longoria is more reserved in front of the cameras and microphones (and in the dugout, where Price cheers like a teenager on days he's not pitching), but he'll speak up when the clubhouse doors are closed. And there's nothing subtle about his drive.

"He wants to be the best," said Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Longoria's roommate at Long Beach State. "Some guys don't want to be that guy. He wants to be that guy. He always wants to be up in the ninth inning with the game on the line. He wants the attention. Not everybody wants that."

"Longo, he's the man," said new Ray Manny Ramirez. "He's the captain of this team. He's the caballo (horse)."

By any measure, they are special breeds.

"I couldn't ask for anything more with those two guys," Maddon said. "It's impossible."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Free agents

Who's goneToWhat he gotWhat Rays got back

LF Carl CrawfordRed Sox$142M/7 yrsNos. 24, 38 picks

RHP Rafael SorianoYankees$35M/3 yrsNos. 31, 41 picks

RHP Joaquin BenoitTigers$16.5M/3 yrsNo. 52 pick

1B Carlos PeñaCubs$10M/1 yrNo compensation

RHP Grant BalfourA's$8.1M/2 yrs+Nos. 42, 75 picks

1B/OF Brad HawpePadres$3M/1 yr +No. 59 pick

RHP Dan WheelerRed Sox$3M/1 yr +No compensation

RHP Chad QuallsPadres$2.55M/1 yr+No. 60 pick

LHP Randy ChoateMarlins$2.5M/2 yrsNo. 56 pick

C Dioner NavarroDodgers$1M/1 yrNo compensation

RHP Lance CormierDodgersminor-league deal No compensation

OF Gabe KaplerDodgersminor-league dealNo compensation

+ also includes option

Trades

Who's goneToWhat Rays got back

SS Jason Bartlett PadresRHP Adam Russell, LHP Cesar Ramos, minor-league RHP Brandon Gomes, INF Cole Figueroa

RHP Matt Garza, OF Fernando Perez and LHP Zach RosscupCubsOF Sam Fuld, minor-league RHP Chris Archer, C Robinson Chirinos, OF Brandon Guyer, SS Hak-Ju Lee

Others

OF Rocco Baldelli retired, joined front office as special assistant

INF Willy Aybar remains unsigned

Auld acquaintances

Want to see the ex-Rays when they come back to the Trop?

Carl Crawford and Dan Wheeler, with Boston: June 14-16, July 15-17, Sept. 9-11

Rafael Soriano, with New York: May 16-17, July 18-21, Sept. 26-28

Grant Balfour, with Oakland: Aug. 5-7

Joaquin Benoit, with Detroit: Aug. 22-25

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

Dynamic duos

With 25-year-olds 3B Evan Longoria and LHP David Price as their foundation, the Rays feel like they are in good shape for the present and the future. Here's how they stack up against 5 other talented position player/pitcher tandems of a similar (or younger) age, based on All-Star games (ASG) MVPs or Cy Youngs, Rookie of the Year (ROY) and Gold Glove (GG) awards:

Player, age ASG MVP/CY ROY GG
Rays
P David Price, 25 1 2nd 0 0
3B Evan Longoria, 25 3 6th, 11th, 19th 1st 2
Braves
RHP Tommy Hanson, 24 0 0 3rd 0
RF Jason Heyward, 21 1 20th 2nd 0
Rockies
RHP Jhoulys Chacin, 23 0 0 0 0
OF Carlos Gonzalez, 25 0 3rd 0 1
Rangers
RHP Neftali Feliz, 22 1 0 1st 0
SS Elvis Andrus, 22 1 0 2nd 0
A's
RHP Trevor Cahill, 23 1 9th 0 0
1B Daric Barton, 25 0 0 0 0
Giants
LHP Madison Bumgarner, 21 0 0 0 0
C Buster Posey, 24 0 11th 1st 0

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

Evan Longoria, David Price have the talent and attitude to be the faces of the franchise 04/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 11:37am]

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