Thursday, May 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Opposites Chris Archer, Wil Myers could be Rays' next stars

PORT CHARLOTTE — The vast differences in personality between Chris Archer and Wil Myers make not only for easy observation in the Rays clubhouse but some occasionally humorous conversations.

Archer, a 25-year-old top starting pitcher, is the gregarious and engaging one, openly thirsting for knowledge and waxing eloquently in paragraphs on myriad matters. Myers, a 23-year-old slugging outfielder, is more taciturn and less social, acting like he's pretty much set on what he needs to know, happy to give pleasant one-sentence, or even one-word, answers.

Manager Joe Maddon speaks to how Archer is a proactive thinker, always analyzing and seeking better ways to do things, while Myers is simply reactive, comparing him often to cartoonish movie characters, such as Will Ferrell's Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights.

Pitcher Alex Cobb breaks them down as polar opposites conversationally, going to Archer "to get real intellectual and really have a deep convo" and Myers "to just relax and have some good laughs and be" — well, less intellectual.

Ace David Price lauds both for being comfortable and successful in who they are, but he offers what might be the best take.

"Talking to Arch is like talking to Einstein," Price said. "While talking to Wil is like talking to my nephew" — who happens to be 10.

While the Rays are often entertained by the differences, laughing at one or with the other, they are wildly excited by the similarities, as Archer and Myers have the ability to be massive stars.

"Both guys are obviously extremely talented," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "And one of the things that excites us the most about their future is that they both have a burning desire to be great."

That future is so bright that it's not hard to see this dynamic duo one day supplanting Price and Evan Longoria as the faces of the franchise.

"The foundation is laid for them, and they've laid it for themselves," Longoria said. "They've proven they can play at this level and handle those pressures, and really now it's just up to them as far as what they want to get out of their careers.

"I know both of them are very hard workers and can be the next foundation, the next cornerstone players for this organization."

"A natural progression for both of them," Maddon said.

What Archer and Myers actually have in common is more coincidental than anything.

Both were born, grew up and live in North Carolina, though being a couple of hours, and years, apart, they didn't know each other until becoming Rays.

Both were acquired as top prospects in big deals: Archer from the Cubs in the January 2011 Matt Garza trade, Myers from the Royals in the December 2012 James Shields swap.

And both established themselves with breakout performances after promotions to the majors last June. Archer went 9-7, 3.22 and finished third in the American League rookie of the year voting. Myers hit .293 with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and a .911 on-base plus slugging percentage while winning the AL honor.

From that base, they have formed a common bond and close friendship despite the obvious differences in personalities and background — Archer being biracial and raised by his maternal grandparents, Myers white and from a traditional family.

They first met after Myers was traded when Archer saw on Twitter they would both be at the same Carolina Hurricanes hockey game and arranged a meet-up. They had talk in spring training and teamed up at Triple-A Durham but really started to bond when they hung out after joining the Rays, sitting in a hotel room after games talking about baseball and life, sharing thoughts and philosophies.

For example, both want to use their platform as big-leaguers to spread good, Archer through community work, Myers — who has been mentored by Ben Zobrist — through Christianity.

Archer clearly cares about his public image, enjoying being cast as the deep thinker, willingly offering up what books he is reading (typically self-help, currently Mindset: The New Psychology of Success), dropping big words into interviews, going into detail about things such as his elaborate night-before-a-start rituals, where he visualizes each pitch.

Myers doesn't really care about his public image, playing along with the "young and dumb" stereotype that's out there, saying he hasn't read a book since middle school, keeping his thoughts shallow and his answers politely short, giving off the vibe that he wakes up — obviously doesn't comb his hair — and grabs a bat on the way to the plate.

He's aware that that approach leads to incorrect perceptions, that he doesn't have a plan at the plate or that he's happy-go-lucky or a country music-loving "redneck," but he rolls with it. "There's things where it just doesn't really bother me," Myers said. "I know the person I am, and I'm happy with the person that I am."

The respect they have for each other is obviously mutual.

"Archer's a great dude. I love that guy. He's different in a good way," Myers said. "He just has a different perspective on things, and that's what I like about him."

Archer raves similarly about Myers and about how he has seen a side the public has not: that Myers is humble, self-aware and has more going on — in terms of how he approaches the game — than he lets on.

"I think we're different in the way we go about it, but I think the overall goal is the same," Archer said. "He doesn't verbalize it the same way that I do, but I think he wants to be as good as he can possibly be, too."

For the Rays, that's good enough.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]bay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

     
           
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