Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 7- Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Well, tonight’s post will certainly be interesting on account of the fact that the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s uniform database currently isn’t working. Or, in lieu of my post from last night, perhaps their upset with me for mentioning the fact that some of their listing are incorrect and I’m only receiving an error message on my end. If this is the case, this would indeed be a disturbance. But really, what are the odds of that?

I picked this cap up back in the summer of 2010 off of the Lids Web site as really more of an impulse buy. I ran into a similar problem with a nearly identical Tampa Bay Devil Rays cap which I wrote about on January 8th. By this I mean I bought the cap because it looks cool, more important I thought it was a cap the Devil Rays wore within the first few years they were playing ball circa 1998. Well, I was wrong, just like the post from January. I of course haven’t let it get me down, I still dig it. This cap is actually a hybrid of the 2000 and the 2001 caps. How do I know?

From 1998 through the end of the 2000 season all of the Devil Rays caps had black panels and only in two cases, 1998 and 1999-2000, was the bill of the anything but black. The bills for these other caps were purple and only used for their road caps. In 1998 it featured only the Devil Ray as shown here in post from February 28th, and for the road cap used from 1999-2000 featuring the logo shown on this cap. The Devil Rays didn’t start using all green caps until the 2001 season, which I’ll get to some time down the road.

Because this is a custom cap there unfortunately isn’t much of a history behind it. However, a cap like this gives me free reign to talk about a few unsung heroes of the first few years of Devil Rays baseball. While a lot of names and faces certainly came and went over the first few years, it still gave a couple of guys more than enough time to make a noticeable impact in the league which aided in them getting picked up by other franchises. Or, as in one of the cases below, Tampa gave him a place to go out on a high note.

#2- In the third round of the 1995 amateur draft the Florida Marlins selected Randy Winn out of Santa Clara University and immediately sent him to the minors to play for the Elmira Pioneers, and intermediate-A squad in the New York-Pennsylvania League. For the next two seasons Winn bounced around between advanced-A with the Brevard County Manatees and the Kane County Cougars before moving on to AA with the Portland Sea Dogs through the end of the 1997 season. With two expansion teams ready to roll for the upcoming 1998 season all that was left for them to do was draft a team. Winn was one of the few players in the Marlins system to find his name on the expansion draft eligibility list. With the 58h overall pick the Devil Rays picked up Winn to fill in one of their outfield spots.

On May 11, 1998 Winn made his major League debut with the Devil Rays as a pinch runner for Paul Sorrento in the Devil Rays’ 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians. That season Winn played in 109 games, batting .278 with one home run, 17 RBI and 26 stolen bases. In 1999 and 2000 Winn spent only half of his time at the Major League level, while the other half was spent in AAA with the Durham Bulls. Winn had so-so years with the Devil Rays those two years, but did incredibly well during his run with the Bulls. While he was in Durham he never hit below .330, not to mention he hit for 10 home runs and 70 RBI in the 125 games combined over those two seasons. Despite being in such a crummy situation of coming and going Winn proved that all the effort he put into stepping up his game paid off. In 2001 he played in 128 games and boasted a .273 average with six home runs and 50 RBI. In 2002 Winn took off. That year he made his one and only All-Star Game appearance for his 13-year career by hitting .298 with 181 hits, 17 home runs, 75 RBI and 27 stolen bases. Despite all the good he did for the club that season h was traded away to the Seattle Mariners at season’s end.

#3- If there was ever a name that deserved to be on the list of the greatest baseball names of all-time Quinton McCracken certainly needs to be in the Top-10. McCracken was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 25th round of the 1992 amateur draft out of Duke University. Not a bad year to be enrolled at Duke either, especially considering they had just won their second and arguably best National Championship in basketball.

McCracken played in the outfield for three seasons in Colorado, averaging .291, three home runs and 38 RBI per season in the 274 total games he played. But, despite his services with the Rockies, McCracken’s name ended up on the same list as Winn’s for the expansion draft as he was selected with the fourth overall pick behind Jeff Suppan.

Playing in a career-high 155 games, McCracken had his best-ever season, batting .292 with 7 home runs, 59 RBI, and was named the Devil Rays first-ever most valuable player. After playing only 40 games in 1999, because of a torn ACL he suffered after getting his foot caught in the padding on the wall during an attempted catch at Tropicana Field, he spent most of 2000 in the minors with AAA Durham. The Devil Rays released him on November 27, 2000, and he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals on December 22, he was released in spring training. On April 13, 2001, McCracken signed with the Minnesota Twins. He again spent most of the year in Triple-A, where he batted .338 for Edmonton.

#33- The number is pretty obvious, but the how he got there and the results of him leaving are merely small chapters in the Major League Baseball career of Jose Canseco. Despite a great 1998 campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays where he hit 46 home runs and stole 29 bases, the most since the 40 he stole in 1988, he was signed by the Devil Rays right before the 1999 season. That year he hit .279 with 34 home runs and 95 RBI in only 114 games. He made his sixth and final All-Star Game appearance that year, but had his seasoned shortened due to intense back pain he was suffering. Nonetheless, he still had one hell of a “quiet” year.

In 2000 Canseco got off to a poor start. He was batting .257 with two home runs which led the Devil Rays to waiving him after 61 games that year. He was claimed off waivers by the New York Yankees in August 2000, which caught many, including Yankee manager Joe Torre off guard, as the Yankees had four other players who fulfilled a similar role to Canseco. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman made the claim to prevent the Blue Jays, who were in a close race with the Yankees, from acquiring Canseco. He made one appearance in the 2000 World Series against the New York Mets and earned his second World Series ring when they defeated the Mets in five games. Despite this achievement Canseco later called his Yankees tenure "the worst time of [his] life" due to receiving limited playing time.

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