Is Longoria an All-Star once more for the Rays?

by Gary Shelton on June 8, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Evan Longoria might make another all-star team./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Evan Longoria might make another all-star team./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Wednesday, 6 a.m.

If you want to split hairs, he is not quite Mike Schmidt. He doesn't have that kind of raw power. He's better than he has been, but outfielders can still play on this side of the fence.

If you want to nit pick, he is not quite Brooks Robinson. He's good, but he doesn't Hoover every ground ball in sight. He does not use his chest as a backboard.

If you want to be fair, he is not Wade Boggs. He doesn't just drive teams batty by lining balls off the monster. He does not attack his career fueled on chicken and beer.

If you want to be honest, he is not Eddie Matthews or Pie Traynor or George Brett.

He is Evan Longoria.

And that should be good enough.

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Longoria is third in home runs among third basemen.TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Longoria is third in home runs among third basemen.TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

He is an excellent player, the best one this franchise has seen for a while. You could get a fine debate going over whether he has overtaken Carl Crawford as far as value to Tampa Bay. I'd go this far: When a baseball fan around the country thinks of the Rays, they think of Longoria.

With Longoria, it never really seems to satisfy a lot of fans. He has not been good enough recently enough. He has had great moments, the home run in Game 163, the two home runs against the White Sox. But there has been something lacking about Longoria, something that makes his fans want more. He has been excellent, but for some reason, that doesn't seem as if it is enough.

We want more power. We want more leadership. We want more All-Star games. He is the face of this franchise, and yes, we want more.

Is that fair? Longoria has been an excellent player for his nine seasons here (the 10th  anniversary of his signing was Tuesday). But we want him to be the star fans envisioned him to be. We want him to be among the top handful of players in the league.

Lately, he has looked it. Longoria has hit .447 in his last nine games with five homers and 14 RBI. For the Rays, he has been in the middle of everything. He's on pace for 41 homers and 98 RBI.Not bad for a guy ESPN had ranked as the 11th best third baseman in the game coming into the season.

But is Longoria an all-star player again yet?

And if not, why not?

Perhaps he is. Manny Machado has one more home run than he does, but Josh Donaldson is hitting .248. Daniel Murphy is hitting a ton, and Kris Bryant has 41 RBI, and Nolan Arenedo has 18 homers, but they both all play in the National League. Longoria's numbers are better than, or comparable, to almost anyone else in the game. Consider his glove, and you could argue that he belongs without fear of embarrassment.

Consider this, too. Even today, Longoria is in the top handful of players as far as what he means to his team. That has to factor into the vote, doesn't it?

Personally, I'm a Longoria guy. I like the perspective he speaks with. I like the way he carries himself. I like that he always seems like he got only 45 minutes in his hour, and therefore, he has to move with a purpose. I like that he remains the guy you want up with the score tied at 4-4 in the ninth.

But it has been a long time since Longoria has been an all-star (he made his third straight team in 2010).

That's part of the problem, I think. Like his team, Longoria hasn't been good enough lately. It is common to hear talk of how he has slipped as his team has, as if there is a link between the two. It isn't always fair, but it comes with the big check.

Here's the thing, however. Longoria is still just 30. He isn't ready for the Old-Timer's Game yet. Put it this way: Picture the Rays lineup without him. Now ask yourself: Is that a good thing or a bad one?

This year seems to prove it. The Rays finally have some hitters to go around Longo, and once again, Longoria seems to matter.

Probably, he always has.

Fans put high expectations on Longoria./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Fans put high expectations on Longoria./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

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