Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 28- Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Today I find myself whisked away back to 1998. Times were certainly crazy; Hugo Chavez became the President of Venezuela, Google was founded, Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski plead guilty to his crimes and pop sensation Falco, the man behind “Rock Me Amadeus,” passed away unnoticed as some guy named Frank Sinatra also passed away and ate up the headlines. In baseball, expansion brought forth two new teams: the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

It’s kind of weird to think that this hat, the Devil Rays road cap, was only used for their inaugural year. I mean, that’s hardly enough time for fans to praise or eviscerate it on message boards and various other social media sites… which didn’t really exist because it was 1998. Seriously!? The times have certainly changed indeed! Anyway, on account of their start-up, the Devil Rays weren’t expected to do much other than pull a few gems in the amateur draft and possible sign a few aging veterans. For once the analysts nailed their prediction.

Similar to the 1992 expansion draft, both expansion teams selected 35 players. The draft was divided into three rounds. Each team would select 14 players in round 1, 14 players in round 2, and 7 players in round 3. Tampa Bay general manager Chuck LaMar and Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola, Jr. oversaw their teams' selections.
The Devil Rays and Diamondbacks could pick any player not on the protected lists of the 28 other teams, although no team could lose more than one player in a given round. The protected list for each team consisted of:
  • For the first round, 15 players from the rosters of their entire organization—both their 40-man roster, plus all minor league affiliates.
  • Each team could add three more players to its protected list after each round.
  • In addition to the above, players chosen in the 1996 and 1997 amateur drafts were automatically protected, plus players who were 18 or younger when signed in 1995.
  • Players who were free agents after the end of the 1997 season need not be protected.
As with the 1992 expansion draft, the order was determined by a coin toss. The winner of the toss could choose either: (a) The first overall pick in the expansion draft or (b) allow the other team to pick first and receive both the second and third overall expansion draft picks and the right to pick first in the subsequent rounds of the expansion draft. Tampa Bay won the toss and chose to select first. Easy stuff, really.

A few notables from the draft for the Devil Rays include: Randy Winn, Miguel Cairo, Dmitri Young, Bubba Trammell, Quinton McCracken (amazing baseball name), Esteban Yan and Bobby Abreu who ended up getting traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for shortstop Kevin Stocker. Who!?!? Exactly.
Now, as I mentioned above, the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks were also allowed to sign free agents. The Dbacks elected to sign Jay Bell to a five-year $34 million contract, while the Devil Rays rolled the dice on the two guys who I decided to mark my hat with.

#12- As a baseball fan, this move always made me feel a bit weird inside. Wade Boggs started his career (1982-1992) out with the Boston Red Sox and dominated the league as an offensive threat at third base. Boggs then moved on to the New York Yankees (1993-1997) where he won his one and only World Series ring in 1996, the first the Yankees had won in 18 years. So, when Boggs signed with the Devil Rays in the twilight of his career it gave me an uncomfortable feeling; like Boggs was meant to go out with one of the two most historic teams in MLB history, not some starter project. But, upon doing some research, it turns out that Boggs graduated high school in the Tampa area and wanted to go home to retire. Boy, did I feel like a selfish ass. But you know you did too! Boggs made his debut with the Devil Rays on March 31 and hit the first home run in the franchise’s history in the sixth inning of their inaugural game. The other significant moment in Boggs’s history with the Devil Rays came on August 7, 1999. While I realize this moment came while he was wearing a different hat, I decided made a slight exclusion. To get the full effect I have to go back to Day 1 of the MLB Fan Cave Top 30 audition in Arizona last year.

After our elevator pitch to the executives it was time to play some Baseball IQ. Earlier in the day we had met up with Matt Vasgersian and Eric Byrnes outside one of the executive board rooms at Chase Field. I was beyond stoked to reconnect with Eric Byrnes after a 12-year gap, while Vasgersian gave me the, “what the hell is up with this guy?” look. Throughout Cave Dweller applicant introductions in the morning I was hit up by 10 of the others as they were trying to recruit me for their trivia team. I was polite and said yes to everyone, even though I knew in advance that were going to be assigned to teams. To make a long story short; my team, which consisted of Toronto Blue Jays fan Dave Barclay and Minnesota Twins fan Lindsay Guentzel, were sitting in the peanut gallery waiting for our turn to dominate. Every time a team missed a question I writhed around, wanting to blurt out the answers. Vasgersian, toying with me, finally asked me the right answer to a question miss by the two teams competing. The question was, “Derek Jeter became only the second person in MLB history to record their 3000th hit off of a home run. Who was the first?” After both teams missed, Vasgersian looked at me and said, “Unabomber! What’s the answer?” After everyone stopped laughing, including myself, I blurted out Wade Boggs’s name. For the rest of the trivia showdown Vasgersian and I bounced jokes and answers off of one another. And yes, our team, aptly named the “Una-lovers,” took home the gold.

Boggs was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005. His accolades include 12 All-Star Game appearances, two Gold Gloves, eight Silver Slugger awards and five batting titles, all of which came with the Red Sox. Oh, and he got knocked out by Barney Gumble in Moe’s Tavern. Right around this area…

Which is really funny because this bar, Max’s Tavern, is the real life Moe’s Tavern from the Simpsons. In which you should always remember; Pitt the Elder is not Norway’s greatest Prime Minister.

#29- Another native of Tampa, Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff was purchased from the Atlanta Braves at the end of the 1997 season. Unfortunately for McGriff, his last moment as a Brave was the horrendous strikeout call by home plate umpire Eric Gregg against the Florida Marlins in the National League Championship Series. Here you are…

From 1998-2001 and then again in 2004 McGriff donned the Devil Ray black and grey, black and purple and grey, green and white, green and white and grey… you get the idea. They changed their uniforms a lot. What’s rather amusing about McGriff’s time in Tampa is that, like Boggs, it didn’t really seem like the right fit; especially to anyone who grew up watching McGriff on TBS: The Superstation. However, McGriff’s time with the Devil Rays proved to be a great move for his career. In the 577 games he suited up for them he hit .291 with 99 home runs, 359 RBI and 603 total hits. All of those numbers, except the home runs, were better than his first five years in the League when he was with the Blue Jays. McGriff made five All-Star game appearances, none of which came in Tampa; which is just wrong because the second best year of his career came in 1999 when he hit .310/32/104. Sadly, McGriff will more than likely not make the Hall of Fame with his 2490 hits, 493 home runs and one World Series ring with the Braves from 1995, but at least he can help your kids become future Hall of Famers.

He gets results.

No comments:

Post a Comment