Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Last original Ray retires

PORT CHARLOTTE

The three-paragraph, 184-word press release was plenty for the news that utility INF Miguel Cairo was retiring at 38 and joining the Reds front office as a special assistant.

But from the Rays', or more accurately, Devil Rays' perspective, the announcement marked the end of an era:

Cairo was the last active player from their original 1998 team.

"It's unbelievable," said current Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, who also played on that team. "We'd always joke that he'd say, 'This is my last year,' and five years later he's still playing."

Cairo, an expansion draft pick from the Cubs, ended up playing 17 seasons in the majors for nine teams, including two stints each with the Cubs, Cardinals and Yankees. He spent the last three with the Reds, and his last appearance (a groundout as a pinch-hitter) came in Game 4 of the NL Division Series.

A Safety Harbor resident, Cairo worked out throughout the winter planning to keep playing. But when he didn't get any big-league deals, he and Martinez had one of their frequent conversations, and Cairo approached Reds GM Walt Jocketty about a new gig.

"His big thing was that he had such a good career, he didn't want it to end in the minor leagues," Martinez said.

(Two of the other 42 players who appeared for those '98 Rays were still active to some degree in 2012, as raysindex.com found: Esteban Yan, at age 37, pitching in Mexico, and Julio Santana at 40 in the independent Can-Am League.)

On a related note, Elliot Johnson, traded last week to Kansas City, was the last player remaining from the 2008 opening day roster; Evan Longoria was in the minors and Ben Zobrist on the DL.

BOOK CLUB: In his just-out (and already criticized) book Long Shot, Mike Piazza has an interesting take on the failed early '90s attempt to buy and relocate the Giants to Tampa Bay, saying his father, Vince, "put the deal together pretty much on his own," including finding minority partners and negotiating the lease. That must be news to Vince Naimoli, who actually orchestrated the deal. … There are unedited excerpts of Dirk Hayhurst's in-the-works book on the Rays on dirkhayhurst.com.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Per Baseball America, the Rays' impressive haul of international free agent signings will cost them as they exceeded the $2.9 million bonus limit and will have to pay a penalty tax and be limited this year. … Interesting to hear former Ray Carl Crawford finally say now what many who knew him at the time felt, that he made a mistake signing with Boston: "You realize, once you get there, it's a little tougher than you expected." … Two Rays clubhouse staffers were chosen to work the World Baseball Classic, Jose Fernandez for Puerto Rico and Brandon "Tank" Richesin for Australia (in Taiwan). … The Royals, after photo-shopping an action photo they got from the Rays, already have James Shields up on a Kansas City billboard. … Johnson will have a pretty good shot to make the Royals roster, but he will have to show he can handle the outfield.

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