The first two choices for the Rays' Mount Rushmore are easy. They are the greatest players in 20 ½ seasons of Devil Rays/Rays franchise history. They got there, though, in different ways.
Longoria was a can't-miss prospect as the No. 3 pick in the 2006 June draft, arrived in the majors by early April 2008 and immediately became a lineup cornerstone, earning an AL Rookie of the Year award, three All-Star selections, six top-20 AL MVP finishes, three Gold Gloves.
Crawford was a 1999 second round pick who was a tremendous athlete but had to work really hard at becoming a great baseball player, which he did, earning four All-Star selections and a Gold Glove plus the label as the Rays most exciting player, at least this side of Kevin Kiermaier. From there, under our rules for selection (meaning no Joe Maddon), this gets a little trickier.
Fast-tracked for stardom as the top pick of the 2007 draft, Price started delivering by September 2008. During parts of seven seasons he made four All-Star teams, won the biggest individual award of any Ray with the 2012 AL Cy Young (and still is their only 20-game winner) and got arguably the biggest out in franchise history in the 2008 ALCS clincher.
By the numbers, especially WAR, the final spot should go to INF/OF Ben Zobrist, who played so well for parts of nine seasons, earning two All-Star selections and three top-20 AL MVP finishes, and created the now baseball-wide model for being a super utility player at a high level.
But Shields, who has lesser statistics but a larger footprint in the organization's success, deserves the honor. He not only pitched very well during his seven seasons (with more wins than Price, 87-82), but he created the template from which so much of the Rays great pitched has been developed, based on hard work, relentless drive and the simple slogan passed down from his father and then passed on: "If you don't like it, pitch better.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays
Editor's Note: News of Lightning great Marty St. Louis' impending induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame got those of us in the Times sports department thinking: If Tampa Bay had a Mount Rushmore of sports, who would be on it? You can read columnist Tom Jones' answer to that here, but we didn't want to stop there. We also picked Mount Rushmores for each major league franchise in our market, a bay-area colleges Mount and one for individual sports.
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