Who’s next for Rays’ Hall of Fame?

by Gary Shelton on July 13, 2023

in general

Longoria is an easy pick.

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

The door is kicked in now. There are enough good days to let you forget about the bad.

Finally, it is a good thing to be a Tampa Bay Ray.

Sure, there are moments to forget -- Pat Burrell and Vinny Castilla and their ilk. But there is also Mike Brosseau, going deep, and Brett Phillips, doing his airplane run, and Evan Longoria, celebrating the win in Game 162.

No, the team has never won a World Series. But it has had moments. Now that it has its very own Hall of Fame, the team has given its approval to your memories.

So who is next?

The Rays have cracked open the door this summer, inducting coach Don Zimmer, third baseman Wade Boggs and, later, outfielder Carl Crawford. All three were among the first memories of this franchise, the first reason the Rays gave to make you pay attention.

The difficulty was this. Most of the Rays' good years, and good players, are recent. It seems kind of silly to induct someone in the Hall of Fame when he's still suiting up. Add in the brevity of some Rays (who get traded as the big contracts come due).

I'd like to see the franchise do this, too. I'd like them to embrace the mementos of this franchise: Longo's homer in Game 162; Matt Garza's no-hitter; Brosseau’s homer, Phillips flight, Dan Johnson's clutch homers, Blake Snell's Cy Young, Crawford's All-Star MVP, the first lineup card, etc.

Still, the question remains. On the list of Rays, who is honored next?

Here is one man's list.

  1. Evan Longoria. Once, at an all-star game, Longoria talked glowingly about how much Crawford had meant to the Rays, calling him the team's best-ever. Longoria has that title now. The winning started when he showed up. The memories, too It's not a Hall of Fame until he's in it.

2. David Price. Price went on to play elsewhere, and he made a fortune. But his best days were here. He was electric on the mound. But his Cy Young wasn't his only claim to fame (unlike Blake Snell). He goes in second.

3. Joe Maddon. Maddon brought winning to town. He reshaped the culture of a terrible clubhouse, and he won two manager of the year awards. He was smart, and he kept things loose.

4. Vince Naimoli. This is going to get some blowback, I know, because Naimoli squeezed nickels so hard (especially after his partners hit the brakes). Still, he brought the ball to town. Others failed, remember. For all his shortcomings, he brought the team.

5. Carlos Pena. As long as we're allowing controversy, let's go with Pena. Yeah, he struck out too much, and the shift beat him up. But he hit 163 homers in his five years here. That's pretty good.

6. Fred McGriff. Yes, most of the damage of his Hall of Fame career was done elsewhere, But can't you say the same thing about Wade Boggs?

7. Andrew Friedman. He was the architect between the bad days and the good. His success with the Dodgers shouldn’t surprise anyone.

8. James Shields. He was a competitive cuss, which is why his teammates referred to him as "Big Game James." He won 87 times as a Ray. He also won the team’s first World Series game.

9. Ben Zobrist. He could play anywhere, and he could hit. In hindsight, he left too early.

10. Kevin Cash: If Cash's career ended today, he'd be in the team's Hall. He's won as many manager of the year awards as Maddon, which is enough to give him the final slot.

Honorable mentions: Stu Sternberg. Lou Piniella, Dwayne Staats. Yandy Diaz. (Wander Franco, Shane McClanahan and Randy Arozarena have too many games ahead of them).

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