Who among the young franchise's players deserve this special honor?
Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, 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, after winning an American League pennant in 2008, 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 second on the team’s all-time list in runs and third in hits, and second in total bases, first in home runs and RBIs. 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 nine seasons at the helm, he guided the Rays to their only six winning seasons, two division titles, two wild cards and an AL Pennant. After the 2014 season, Maddon had managed 53 percent of the team's games and 59 percent of the team's victories.
The lefty has the best ERA in team history (min. 500 IP) and is second in wins with 82. And he was that 23-year-old on the mound when the Rays clinched the AL pennant in 2008. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Price has the highest WAR among Tampa Bay pitchers.
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.
The versatile Ben Zobrist proved to be a defensive whiz all over the diamond and is among the all-time leaders in multiple categories.
In 2005, at the age of 28, Andrew Friedman was promoted from his position in player development to general manager. Under his leadership, the franchise saw its first success in 2008.
Aubrey Huff is among the top five on most of the franchise’s all-time lists.
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: