Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Ex-Rays show more misses than hits

As miracles go, even Lazarus had to be impressed. It wasn't loaves-and-fishes stuff, and it wasn't walking across the water. All in all, however, it probably beat the locusts.

Dioner Navarro hit a home run.

And another.

And a third.

For a night, he was Thor. He was Babe. He was the hammer. After a career spent plinking and plopping, Navarro was unleashed.

I know what you are thinking. A lot of players have hit three home runs in a game. Heck, 16 players have hit four. But this is Navvy we're talking about. Navvy hitting three home runs in a game is like Reggie Jackson hitting nine, or Johnny Mize hitting 13.

Let those guys try hitting three home runs in a game with Navvy's talent. Navvy did, which makes this one of the most impressive stats of our time.

Remember, we're talking about a guy who hit two home runs all of last year. We're talking about a guy who in his final season with the Rays hit one. So on a day in late May, Navvy equalled two seasons' worth.

And for a second, just for a second, did you want Navarro back?

And if not Navvy, then who?

The thing is, the pickings are slim out there for ex-Rays. Most seasons, there is a guy who still makes you twist inside that he isn't here anymore. (Actually, most seasons, it is Josh Hamilton, but that seems to have passed, too.)

B.J. Upton? Do you want him, and that salary of his, back again?

Two days ago, in fact, the Braves were hinting that they might send Upton back to the minors. That sort of woke Upton up, who had a winning single Saturday and a home run Sunday.

Even that, however, only lifted Upton's season average to .155, with 65 strikeouts. When you consider the $15 million per season, it doesn't quite seem right.

Jeff Keppinger? Do you want him back?

Over the offseason, there was a lot of support to bring Keppinger back. After all, he hit .325 on a punchless Rays team in 2012. This year? Keppinger is hitting .231.

Carlos Peña? Everyone loved Carlos … just not in a Rays uniform.

This year, Peña is hitting .249, which is an amazing improvement over last year's .193. Still, he has only five home runs. That's not enough to leave a candle in the window.

Hamilton? What happened to Josh on his way to riches?

Hamilton's average is down to .216, and so far he has only 18 RBIs (after having 148 last year). If you are the Angels, how do you feel about that $123 million contract now?

Edwin Jackson? No, thanks.

Remember all of the noise when the Rays traded Jackson for Matt Joyce? You don't hear so much these days. Jackson is on his sixth team since he left, and this year, he's 1-8 with an ERA above 6.00.

And so it goes. Some years, you miss the guy who left so badly it hurts, and some years, they're just a bunch of guys who used to wear your uniform. This year, they are Wade Davis and his 6.16 ERA, and Matt Garza, who has only one decision on the season, and Casey Kotchman, who has been hurt and has a batting average of .000.

It would be nice to know that the Rays are just so darn smart that they saw all of this coming. I don't think that's true. The Rays expected Upton to be better than this; they just couldn't afford him. It's doubtful they thought that Hamilton would fall off the edge of the earth this year. Still, passing on Keppinger was a nice idea. Give them credit for that.

If there is a player Rays fans would love to have back, of course, it is James Shields. I know, I know. Shields has lost four straight games and hasn't won since he beat the Rays back in April.

Shields, on the other hand, has pitched his rear off. He has lost 2-1, 3-2, 2-1 and 3-1 over that stretch. In other words, the lack of run support is nothing new. He has a 2.31 ERA. Yeah, he'd figure in perfectly when you consider the struggles of David Price this year.

Then there is Carl Crawford, who is quietly having a resurgent season on a bad Dodgers team. He's at .301. Granted, that isn't enough to make you forget his $20 million-a-year salary, but it is enough to make you forget about the lousy time he spent in Boston.

For the most part, however, the Rays have been doing just fine when it comes to the guys who got away. James Loney has been better than Peña. Kelly Johnson has been better that Keppinger. Desmond Jennings has been better than Upton.

Navarro?

For one night, he was a star. It won't last.

On the other hand, it's better than anyone ever expected.

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