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Who among the young franchise's players deserve this special honor?
MLB Mt. Rushmores
by Charlie Miller
We believe that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Tampa Bay Rays Mt. Rushmore
The Devil Rays spent nine of their first 10 years of existence languishing in last place, with seemingly no hope of competing with the heavyweights in New York and Boston. Then came a minor name change from Devil Rays to just Rays, and a major cultural change under manager Joe Maddon. The team wore shirts that said 9+9=8. Their motivation was that nine guys playing hard for nine innings equals one of eight teams playing in the postseason. Certainly a key to their success was that during the years spent in last place, the team was spending more than the big market teams on draft picks and player development. That strategy paid off, and the Rays are now going head-to-head with wealthier teams in the AL East.
There can absolutely be no argument here. The only category among the franchise’s all-time list that I could find without Crawford’s name at the top was home runs, and he is fourth in team history with 104. The team’s first real star, Crawford made four All-Star teams and stole 409 bases. From 2003 (the year he became a full-time starter) to 2010, he averaged .299 with 13 homers, 70 RBIs, 50 stolen bases, 93 runs and 12 triples. The fans’ warm reception upon his return to Tropicana Field in 2011 in a Red Sox uniform spoke volumes to his popularity.
The popular third baseman is fourth on the team’s all-time list in runs and fifth in hits, and second in total bases, home runs and RBIs. With two homers and 49 RBIs, he will become the franchise leader in both categories. He is currently the face of the franchise and under contract through 2022 with a team option for 2023. He has seven postseason home runs in 21 games.
The innovative manager is responsible for all the good seasons in team history. In his eight seasons at the helm, he’s guided the Rays to their only six winning seasons, two division titles, two wild cards and an AL Pennant. He has managed 50 percent of the team's games and 57 percent of the team's victories.
In 2005, at the age of 28, Friedman was promoted from his position in player development to general manager. Under his leadership, the franchise saw its first success in 2008.
James Shields' 87 wins, eight shutouts and 19 complete games are tops on the team’s all-time lists.
The former No. 2 overall draft pick, B.J. Upton, was a fixture in center field from 2007-12 and was a key player in the Rays’ AL Championship in 2008.
Lefty David Price has the best ERA in team history (min. 500 IP) and is second in wins with 71. And he was that 23-year-old on the mound when the Rays clinched the AL pennant in 2008.
Aubrey Huff is second or third on most of the franchise’s all-time lists.
Best Current Player
With Longoria already one of the four, Price shouldn't be too far behind, except for the fact that he may not be a member of the Rays much longer. If the Rays can sign him long-term, then Price will rocket onto the shrine before the ink is dry on the contract.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: