Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Longoria comments cause Rays unease

There were two general thoughts around the Rays regarding Evan Longoria's comments that longtime teammates James Shields and B.J. Upton remained scarred by their Devil Rays past and that the current squad was in "a better mental state" without them.

One thought was Longoria was not necessarily wrong in what he said.

The other was he was absolutely wrong for saying it how he did.

Shields and Upton were key players in the team's ascension to the successful, well-respected, positive-thinking group of today, and manager Joe Maddon is on record saying both aided the evolution of becoming the Rays.

Shields absolutely showed the way for the young pitchers in terms of his work ethic and preparation, and helped lead them into becoming the league's best staff. Upton, despite some past issues, definitely set an example in how hard he took losses, how fearless he was in big moments and how his performance improved as stakes rose.

But there were times, when things weren't going well, when they would reflect on those Devil Rays days, when the team was abysmal on the field and there was still negativity pervading the clubhouse, and that would come out in a snarky comment or reaction.

What Longoria seemed to be saying was that without those links to the past (save for the always genial Ben Zobrist), the players in the room now are able to fully embrace, and be fully invested in, the current program, and totally immersed in clubhouse culture.

But what came across was Longoria was calling out Shields and Upton — after the fact — for not going along with the program or, worse, for causing problems. Also, he raised questions if there were issues between him and them.

A number of people around the Rays —as well as Shields and Upton — were surprised by the comments, wondering what the heck (though they didn't say heck) Longoria was saying and why he was saying it.

With a $100 million contract extension that could keep him a Ray for life, Longoria might feel the need to exert leadership in the clubhouse. But, for a number of reasons, it didn't sound quite right.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

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