Rays should embrace memories, too

by Gary Shelton on August 29, 2023

in general

Longoria has top Rays' memory./CARMEN MANDATO

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

First, let's make this plain. I have no problem with the initial class of the Rays Hall of Fame.

It was nice to see Carl Crawford go in on Sunday. He was this team’s first star, and even today, I'd rank him as the second-best player the Rays have ever had (behind Evan Longoria).

And I had some memories, too, when the team inducted Wade Boggs. I went to Cooperstown to see his induction, and somewhere, I still have a photo.

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Then there was Don Zimmer. Like everyone on the planet, I got a kick out of Sim. It didn't matter to me that his playing days were somewhere else. He was a good place to start.

The thing is, the Rays -- at this point -- aren't about careers. They're about memories. And the Rays shouldn't let that get lost along the way, either.

Let's face it. Most of the great Rays' players are either still playing or are just finished. Oh, the team will get around to Carlos Pena and Fred McGriff and Davie Price before long.

But if the Rays are going to honor the past, they need to keep those slices of greatness that came from players whose careers may or may not have approached golden. Mike Brousseau. Brett Phillips. Dan Johnson. Those guys.

So forget about the grand accomplishments for a moment.

Here are one man's 10 moments worth remembering from the Rays.

10. Dan Johnson, 2011. It was in the essential Rays' game, Game 162 in which Evan Longoria went deep to beat the Yankees. But three innings earlier, Dan Johnson homered to tie the game.

9. Blake Snell, 2018: Snell has never blossomed into the dominating pitcher some thought, but for one season, he was spectacular. He went 21-5 to win the Cy Young.

7. David Price, 2012: Price was at his best, winning 20 games to lead the Rays.

6. Randy Arozarena, 2020: Seldom has a player broken in with a louder bang than Randy Arozarena, who won the ACLS MVP with four homers and a .321 average.

5. Dan Johnson, 2008: Johnson arrived to the ballpark late, but he pinch-hit and tied the game with a ninth-inning homer. The Rays would go on to win.

4. Wade Boggs, 1999: Most of the work Boggs did to get to the Hall f Fame was done in Boston. But his final great moment came when he homered to get his 3000th hit.

3. Brett Phillips, 2021: Few players have ever enjoyed playing for the Rays more than Phillips, an outfielder who didn't hit much but he hit meaningfully. In Game Four of the World Series, he invented the Airplane Celebration when he knocked in the winning run. Randy Arozareana score the winning run on the play.

2. Mike Btousseau, 2020: Talk about laughing last. Brousseau was knocked down by Aroldis Chapman on a 101 mile-per-hour pitch. Brousseau came back to homer and lead the Rays to a playoff victory.

  1. Evan Longoria, 2011: He hit a homer in the 12th inning as the Rays overcame a seven-run deficit to win.

There are other moments. The day Stu Sternberg took over. The first-ever Opening Day. Big home runs by Pena. Big games by James Shields. The 2020 playoffs by Arozarena. The 2009 catch in the all-star game by Carl Crawford. The fight that started when Elliot Johnson smashed into Francisco Cervelli.

That's what winning is about in the big leagues. If the Rays are going to push through in the stretch run of this season, it will take moments like those.

Stay tuned.

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