Staff writer Tom Jones looks at all things Rays.
The Ultimate Lineup
The Rays haven't had much to brag about in their 11 seasons, but they do have a pretty good lineup if you were to combine the best seasons at each position through the years. Here's a look at the best lineup in team history, and how this year's team matches up.
C — John Flaherty, 1999 (.278, 14 HR, 71 RBIs)
This year: Dioner Navarro.
Breakdown: If Navarro hits all this season like he did the second half of last season, he has chance to top Flash.
1B — Carlos Pena, 2007 (.282, 46 HR, 121 RBIs)
This year: Carlos Pena.
Breakdown: Same player, but hard to imagine Pena would match last season's career numbers.
2B — Jorge Cantu, 2005 (.286, 28 HR, 117 RBIs)
This year: Akinori Iwamura.
Breakdown: Cantu wasn't full-time second baseman that year, and he turned out to have a flash-in-the-pan season. Iwamura will hit for higher average, less power, but provide way better defense. We'd take Aki.
SS — Julio Lugo, 2004 (.275, 7 HR, 75 RBIs)
This year: Jason Bartlett.
Breakdown: Lugo was very underrated as a hitter. Look again: 75 RBIs in 2004. But also made 25 errors at short. Bartlett, despite last season's error problems, is better defensively. But we have to go with Lugo because of offense. For now.
3B — Aubrey Huff, 2004 (.297, 29 HR, 104 RBIs)
This year: Willy Aybar.
Breakdown: Hard to pick because Huff wasn't really an everyday third baseman and Aybar is just keeping the seat warm for Evan Longoria. So, our pick? Longoria. We just have to wait a bit more.
RF — Aubrey Huff, 2003 (.311, 34 HR, 107 RBIs)
This year: Jonny Gomes.
Breakdown: No disrespect to Gomes, but Huff had one of the best seasons in Rays history in 2003. Gomes could approach those power numbers, but it would be a stretch to see him hitting anywhere close to .300. Big edge to Huff.
CF — Rocco Baldelli, 2003 (.289, 11 HR, 78 RBIs)
This year: B.J. Upton.
Breakdown: What's sad is Baldelli's 2003 season was his rookie year and should've just been the start of an All-Star career. Instead injuries cut him down. We also considered Gerald Williams' team MVP season in 2000 when he batted .274 with 21 homers and 89 RBIs. But back to today: Upton could easily surpass the numbers Williams posted in 2000 and Rocco put up in 2003.
LF — Carl Crawford, 2007 (.315, 11 HR, 80 RBIs, 50 SB)
This year: Carl Crawford.
Breakdown: Crawford just keeps getting better every year. So no reason to think he won't be better this season than last.
DH — Jose Canseco, 1999 (.279, 34 HR, 95 RBIs)
This year: Cliff Floyd.
Breakdown: Give Canseco his due. What a year he had in 1999 and the scary part is he played only 113 games. Floyd is a respectable DH, but Jose is our pick.
What's in a name?
So they are no longer the Devil Rays, but just the Rays. Over the years, dozens of baseball teams have changed their names. Some because they switched cities. Some just wanted a new name. We'll skip all those old teams who don't exist anymore. But here's a look at some of the more memorable name changes in baseball history and how they did in their first season with a new name. Notice how few had winning records.
1890: Cincinnati Red Stockings become the Reds. Record: 77-55.
1900: St. Louis Perfectos become the Cardinals. Record: 65-75.
1903: The Chicago Orphans become the Cubs. Record: 82-56.
1908: Boston Americans become the Red Sox. Record: 75-79.
1913: New York Highlanders become the Yankees. Record: 57-94.
1915: Cleveland Naps become the Indians. Record: 57-95.
1932: Brooklyn Robins become the Dodgers. Record: 81-73.
1943: Philadelphia Phillies become the Blue Jays. Record: 64-90.
1945: Philadelphia Blue Jays become the Phillies. Record: 46-108.
1965: Houston Colt 45's become the Astros. Record: 65-97.
By the numbers
0 Postseason games for the Rays, the only current MLB team without a postseason appearance.
2 Triple plays turned by the Rays in their history.
3-0 Rays record in Orlando last season.
40 Home runs hit by Boston's Manny Ramirez against the Rays, the most by any player. Alex Rodriguez is next with 33.
68 Triples hit by Carl Crawford since 2003 — the most in the majors.
111 Games the Rays have lost to the Red Sox in their history.
111 Games the Rays have lost to the Yankees in their history.
216 Appearances by reliever Dan Wheeler over past three seasons, eighth most in the majors.
.583 Winning percentage (127-91) of teams Evan Longoria has been on during his two professional seasons.
707 Number worn on Jonny Gomes' glove in honor of his hometown of Petaluma, Calif. — area code 707.
1,190 Stolen bases by the Rays since their inaugural season of 1998. Only the Angels (1,210) have more in that span.
Three things you don't need to know, but are pretty cool to know
1. Second baseman Akinori Iwamura's glove is made out of alligator skin.
2. Rightfielder Jonny Gomes went to high school with Pixie, above, the shop manager on the TLC show LA Ink.
3. Rays pitching prospect David Price owns more than 50 pairs of shoes.
Tom Jones can be reached at (727) 893-8544 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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