After Rays’ trade, Longo is long gone

by Gary Shelton on December 21, 2017 · 3 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Longoria's fingerprings were all over Rays' successes./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Longoria's fingerprings were all over Rays' successes./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

And so it is time for goodbye once again. This time, it is Evan Longoria who switches off the light, who closes the door, who walks away to be part of someone else's future. This time, it is Evan Longoria, the Ray who mattered the most, packing up his bat and his glove and memories. He is someone else's now. There is a hole at third base... and in the hearts of his fans.

Farewell, Evan.

And, man, does this stink.

You don't need to be reminded, do you? Following sports is a series of goodbyes, and they never get easier. It can tear a hole

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Longoria was moved to the Giants Wednesday./CARMEN MANDATO

Longoria was moved to the Giants Wednesday./CARMEN MANDATO

in your faith, and it can present a challenge to your loyalty. In this town, less successful at games than many, we have already said our farewells to Lee Roy Selmon and to Derrick Brooks, to Warren Sapp and Tony Dungy, to John Lynch and Ronde Barber. We have shed a tear for Dave Andreychuk and Martin St. Louis, for Vinny LeCavalier and Brad Richards, for Brad Bishop and John Tortorella. We have waved from the platform as Carl Crawford left, and James Shields, and David Price. We have watched as Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff and Joe Madden walked away. Every few months, it seems that a bit of greatness leaves us.

And now it is Longoria's final scene.

And, damn, is this hard.

Longoria grew up as a Tampa Bay Ray./CARMEN MANDATO

Longoria grew up as a Tampa Bay Ray./CARMEN MANDATO

He was ours, from the day the Rays gave him his first hat to the days he wore it in a World Series. He won silver bats and gold gloves and a platinum bond with the fans. He made All-Star games. He was Rookie of the Year.

With the Rays, however, there are no golden years, and darned few silver ones.

Look, it is as eventual as time. No one plays forever. I get that. There always was going to come a time when Longoria was not at third for the Rays. But as it happens, it reminds us all of our age, and of his. No one wants to say farewell, especially when a great deal of the reason, it seems, is because the Rays would prefer to spend the money at other positions than for a 32-year-old third baseman.

But now? At 32? For a prospect, an extra outfielder and two minor leaguers? Oh, and the honor of not paying him.

That's the hard part of following the Rays, isn't it? Eventually, players price themselves out of a franchise that surfs on a dime. If this was a team trading a popular player for a rising one, well, that's sports. But if Longoria wasn't due $86 million, this trade doesn't happen. Not for a journeyman outfielder and a prospect who hit .192 in his brief time in the bigs and two minor league pitchers who might as well be named Starskey and Hutch (actually, it's Woods and Krook, but you get the idea). Aren't you weary of trades that are basically about saving money?

“I wished maybe they would decide to commit to adding to the roster and trying to contend year in and year out," Longoria said. "I guess I understand that that’s not the way the organization has done it historically. There’s a part of me that is let down by that, but it’s been the way that it’s been as long as I’ve been here, so I guess that’s not too much of a surprise.”

He grew up here. He met his wife, and had his kids. He remembers his first day taking batting practice, and how he got "two balls out of the infield." He jokes that the Rays must have wondered what they got with the No. 3 pick in the draft.

Here's a hint: The national headlines were calling this the “Longoria trade.” No one called it the “Denard Span trade.”

Longoria was one of the more likable Rays. He was a grinder, always on his way from one drill to another. He was big in the big moments, like game 162, when he had the 12th-inning home run to get the Rays into the post-season. He spoke with the maturity of Andreychuk or Barber or Steven Stamkos. And to his last at-bat, he was the Ray you most wanted to see come to the plate with a runner in scoring position. He had a capable bat and a dependable glove and admirable leadership skills. And the fans trusted him.

There is a reason that this trade will be unpopular:  Bluntly put, the fans trust Longoria more than they trust the team's front office. We've seen too many misjudgments and blown draft picks over the years. We saw too many wonderful moments by Longo.

Now he is gone.

Longoria admitted Wednesday that a part of him “was let down” to be traded. That tells you something right there. A lot of players would be tossing confetti over being sprung from the bottom of the AL East. Not Longoria.

"I don't blame them," he  said. "I feel they felt they are in a position they need to make some drastic changes. … I think they felt this was the best time for them to rebuild from the ground up."

But do you do that by shuffling off your best-known player? Does this feel like the Rays are getting more essential … or less?

At the moment, it feels like a team has traded its face, its legacy, its trust. For the moment, if feels as if the Rays are in reverse. They're falling, and there are rocks below.

Look, you move on. The Yankees said goodbye to Jeter and the Padres to Gyinn and the Red Sox to Ortiz. But this feels all wrong. It feels too soon. It feels there should have been more memories to come.

Goodbye, Evan.

While you were here, you did good.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Shelton December 22, 2017 at 9:51 pm

This letter below that Scott Myers wrote to Stu Sternberg over 4 years ago, becomes more prescient with every passing year. Scott’s response disappeared, so here goes:

==================================================
August 11, 2014

Subject: Baltimore Orioles celebrate their 60th anniversary

Mr. Stuart Sternberg

Hi Stu,

I am writing this letter to you to urge you to watch this video, if you have not already done so.
It is entitled “Baltimore Orioles celebrate their 60th anniversary” and is available at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsbaKa1gq9c&feature=em-share_video_user

The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles after the 1953 season (54 wins/100 losses) and duplicated that record in their 1st season in Baltimore – essentially starting out in Baltimore at the same quality level as a modern day expansion team.

As the years rolled by, and six Hall of Famers spent significant parts or all of their careers with the Orioles (Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken), they enjoyed more than their ‘fair share’ of success winning 6 AL pennants and 3 World Series. And, of course there were many other very good players to complement these stars, such as Boog Powell, Paul Blair, Don Buford, Al Bumbry, Ken Singleton, Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan, Rick Dempsey, …

The organization was run strategically, not tactically. Contrast that to the Rays – once a very good or great player gets ‘too expensive’, he is gone – Carl Crawford, James Shields, BJ Upton, David Price, etc… The Rays are completing their 17th season in the major leagues this year and have one World Series appearance to show for it, with little apparent hope of getting to another anytime soon. By the end of the Orioles 17th season (1970) they had 3 World Series appearances and 2 World Series Wins, with a very bright near term future.

It’s hard to tell if you have cash flow problems since you are less than transparent regarding all of your team’s revenues (local TV, network TV, revenue sharing, etc.). If you do have a cash flow problem, then you should sell the team for a HUGE profit – there are still 450 US billionaires that do NOT own a major league sports franchise (only about 41 or 42 currently do). If you find just one interested in buying the Rays, you will make an enormous amount of money; if you find 2 or more, you will makes an obscene amount of money because of the bidding process. And you can be greatly heartened by the near future probable sales of the LA Clippers for about $2 billion and the Buffalo Bills (have not been to postseason since 1999 – longest playoff drought in the NFL) for about $1.3 billion.

For the Rays to be successful under any owner, as long as they are in Tampa Bay, they need to win and there has to be a strong economy. Without both of those conditions, the Rays will never draw well no matter where the stadium is. Hopefully the economy will cooperate going forward.

You and your organization have proved that you can do quite a bit with less, but you will never build a strong franchise here in Tampa Bay without doing more, and without giving up your tactical approach to expenditures.

If you can’t become strategic with your ownership of the Rays, it is time to take your considerable profit and move on.

Thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

Scott Myers

Reply

Larry Beller December 21, 2017 at 7:06 pm

The Rays actually did Longoria a favor by trading him to a team that is committed to wining. He went from the lowest fan base and worst stadium to a place where they sell out every game and have a great stadium. Good for him.

As for the Rays it’s business as usual. Eventually we will be saying goodbye not to just individual players but to the entire team when they move on. This is not working and can’t continue much longer. Fans have a right to be upset. It’s just not one player who gets moved. It’s every player who makes over the $3+ million mark. MLB is becoming a sham. It’s built for the big market teams. Fans who live in smaller markets are played for suckers. I’m done with it.

Reply

Gary Shelton December 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm

I understand your frustration. Honestly, I do.

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