Wade Boggs is the only former Devil Ray in the Hall of Fame and - unless that big Wilson Alvarez movement happens - there may not be another for a while, with Fred McGriff (eligible in 2010) and manager Lou Piniella the most likely candidates. Until then, the Rays have to share in the annual inductions from afar.
Cal Ripken didn't play much against the Devil Rays - 36 games in four seasons, from when they started in 1998 until he retired in 2001. He had only 30 of his 3,184 hits against the Rays, but when he goes into the Hall today, there are several moments he can thank them for:
- 400th homer: Went deep off Rolando Arrojo Sept. 2, 1999.
- 3,001st hit: Walkoff homer off Jim Mecir April 19, 2000, moving past Roberto Clemente on the all-time hits list.
- 5,000th total base: Single off Albie Lopez April 13, 2001.
Ripken made some strong impressions on members of the Rays' family from the Baltimore area.
Demoted reliever Shawn Camp: "You just had it on TV every night, Home Team Sports, and he was playing. I saw my first big-league game at old Memorial Stadium and he was playing. He is definitely my favorite player of all time."
Radio broadcaster Andy Freed: "Starting when I was in the fourth grade, he was in the lineup every day. And all through middle school, through high school, through college, and through the minor leagues, he was still in there. That's how kids experienced baseball in the old days before free agency."
Rays PR chief Rick Vaughn (who spent 10 seasons around Ripken with the O's): "I think Cal had more fun than any player I have been around. He would make up little games that were always challenging and most of them had something to do with baseball. I first met him during the offseason and he was playing 2-on-2 hockey in the Orioles clubhouse with bats and a ball for sticks and a puck. I'd go into the clubhouse late at night, hours after the game was over, and he'd be playing 'tape ball' with the clubhouse kids. I was looking for him during a rain delay once and he was in a back hallway at Memorial Stadium playing some game with a plastic coffee can lid for a baseball. It helped remind me that in spite all of his honors and accomplishments, he was just a regular guy, a big kid."
When Ripken came through St. Petersburg on his 2001 farewell tour, the Rays gave him a video tribute, a painting, a "Thanks, Cal" card, a $5,000 check for his charity and - presented by Dick Vitale - a year's supply of stone crabs. Among the songs played that night: Forever Man.
The Rays never faced Tony Gwynn, today's other inductee. But he had a slight presence in their clubhouse for several years, as ex-Ray Greg Vaughn, who considered his former Padres teammate his "security blanket," had his cleats marked with the number 5.5 - Gwynn's phrase for where he made his living, hitting the ball between the third baseman and shortstop.
Piling on ...
For those who think the Rays get treated too roughly on these pages (or for those who think they don't get treated tough enough), here's the impression two writers had of the Rays on their last trip:
Bad News Rays
By Roch Kubato, Baltimore Sun
It's official: The Devil Rays are the worst team in existence.
They should wear beenie hats with propellers and make airplane sounds when they run.
Manager Joe Maddon must be fining them whenever they hit the cutoff man. Or cover an unoccupied base.
It's like watching 5-year-olds play soccer, when all the kids chase the ball at the same time and kick it in a scrum.
Don't Let Weekend Against Tampa Bay Blur October Vision
By Joel Sherman, New York Post
Let's start with the bad news for the Yankees: The Red Sox have 15 games left this year vs. the Devil Rays.
The Rays are so atrocious that Tim Donaghy could have big money on their games and be umping, and that wouldn't help. If Bud Selig were alive he would be investigating how a team could get tens of millions in revenue sharing/luxury tax dollars annually, and assemble a team with so little pitching and so much indifference to playing with passion and precision.
I don't know if Barry Bonds should have an asterisk next to his accomplishments, but there should be one attached to every offensive achievement vs. Tampa's staff. The Rays' bullpen looks like they assembled the winners of a reality TV show: Who Wants to Pitch in the Majors?
The Rays last weekend became just the fourth team in the past 50 years to give up 20 or more hits in back-to-back games of a series. The list:
Team Opponent Hits
2007 Rays Yankees 20-25
1994 Braves Reds 20-20
1993 Phillies Giants 20-23
1990 Cubs Mets 21-20
Source: Beyond the Box Score