Major League Baseball's All Star game will be played next Tuesday in Pheonix, Arizona, and the Tampa Bay Rays will be well represented. Pitchers James Shields, David Price, and Outfielder Matt Joyce will all be making the trip out west to participate in the midsummer classic, marking the fourth straight season in which Tampa Bay has sent three or more players to the exhibition with possibly more to come as roster spots open up (Ben Zobrist, anyone?).
But for fans of this young, developing franchise, the All Star game hasn't always been this enjoyable. In fact, prior to 2008 the then Devil Rays had sent more than one player to the game only once, in 1999 when Jose Canseco joined Roberto Hernandez on the roster. Nine other seasons Tampa Bay was represented by one lonely Ray. (Full List)
Considering that we are now in the golden age of Rays talent, I thought it would be fun to look back and try to see which of the Rays All Stars could claim to be the best of this modest, but growing population.
10. Greg Vaughn, 1 selection (2001 1.1 WAR) - Hit Show star, Greg Vaugn slugged his way onto the All-Star team in 2001 as he belted 24 homeruns and drove in 82 while only hitting .233/.333/.433 on an atrocious Devil Rays team that really didn't deserve to have anyone make the roster as none of the starters that year OPSed over .800. Yikes.
9. Roberto Hernandez, 1 selection (1999 2.3 WAR) - The Devil Rays first real closer would save 43 games in 1999, and finding his way onto his second All Star team. Hernandez would hold the Rays franchise saves record until broken in 2010 by Rafael Soriano.
8. Rolondo Arojo, 1 selection (1998 3.7 WAR) - The very first Devil Ray All Star, elected in their inaugural season mainly because they had to pick somebody and Arojo was the best pitcher on a terrible team. Arojo managed a 3.56 ERA (4.23 FIP) in 1998, while going 14-12 on a team that won only 63 games, so that's something.
7. Randy Winn, 1 selection (2002 4.8 WAR) - Later traded for manager Lou Pinella, centerfielder Randy Winn would some-how beat out DH Aubrey Huff as the lone Devil Ray All-Star in 2002. Winn posted a respectable, but barely All-Star worthy slashline of .298/.360/.461 with 14 HR. Playing center field certainly helped his value but one would argue Huff deserved the nod in 2002.
6. Fred McGriff, 1 selection (2000 0.2 WAR) - What I find most remarkable about this list that hall of fame nominee Fred McGriff only made one All-Star team as a Devil Ray, and did so in the wrong year. In 2000, the Crimedog was the Devil Rays lone representative after slugging 27 homers, driving in 106 and posting a .277/.373/.452 line. These numbers were actually down from his 1999 season when McGriff was arguably snubbed. In 1998 and 1999 McGriff missed the All-Star game while posting 3.4 and 3.7 WAR seasons yet made the team in 2000, when he posted a career low 0.2 WAR thanks in most part to a startling -17(!) fielding contribution.
5. Scott Kazmir, 2 selections (2006 3.9 WAR, 2008 2.0 WAR) - While the mere mention of his name to Rays fans today may make them cringe, Kazmir was once the shining light of the Tampa Bay Franchise. In 2006, Kazmir exploded to the dismay of Mets fans posting a 3.24 ERA (3.36 FIP) and striking out 163 in 10 wins for another horrendous Devil Rays team. Kazmir quickly became a fan favorite and his jersey became the go-to gift for all young Tampa Bay baseball fans/stoners. In 2008, Kazmir again made the All-Star team and was called upon to pitch in extra innings despite Joe Maddon's request that he not be used in the game due to arm fatigue. Kazmir would earn the win after pitching one inning as the AL walked off in the bottom of the 15th.
4. Jose Canseco, 1 selection (1999 2.5 WAR) - In 1999, Jose Canseco posted the best single season for a Devil Rays DH in franchise history, a mark that has still yet to be challenged. Canseco put up monster numbers posting a .921 OPS and launching 34 homeruns into the empty Tropicana Field seats. Canseco was voted into the All Star game as a starter, the first and only Devil Rays player to do so until Evan Longoria in 2009. Like Longoria, Canseco skipped the game due to Injury.
3. David Price, 2 selections (2010 4.3 WAR, 2011 3.4* WAR) - David Price was selected again this year to represent the Rays in the midsummer classic, but it will be 2010 that will always be remembered for Price as he became the first Rays pitcher to start an All Star game. The honor came as he was in the midst of a Cy Young Caliber season posting a 19-6 record with a 2.72 ERA and 188 punchouts. Price pitched two scoreless innings in the game, allowing 1 hit and striking out one before being replaced by Yankee Andy Pettite. Price is capable of starting a few more All Star games in his future and this promises to be just the start of a long All Star resume for the young lefty.
2. Evan Longoria, 3 selections (2008 5.5 WAR, 2009 7.5 WAR, 2010 7.5 WAR) - In 2008, Rays superstar third baseman Evan Longoria began his assault on the baseball world as he became the first Ray to be named to the All Star team in his rookie year. Longoria would go on to play in the next two All Star games, being named as a starter in both 2009 and 2010. In 2010, he (along with teammates Carl Crawford and David Price) became the first Ray to start an All-Star game. Longoria is in the midst of a down season after missing the first month with an injury so it is no surprise that he has been left of the AL roster in 2011, but the future is bright and expect to see Longo topping the thirdbase voting for many years to come.
1. Carl Crawford, 4 selections (2004 5.1 WAR, 2007 3.3 WAR, 2009 5.8 WAR, 2010 7.5 WAR) - At number one, who else but Carl Crawford. The man is the best player to ever put on a Rays uniform and will be for some time. Crawford suffered through the losing seasons and being the lone Devil Ray on the All-Star team twice, before finally getting some company in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, Crawford won the MVP of the All-Star game primarily for his defensive play. With the game on the line and the score tied at 3 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon served up a would be home run to Rockies 1B Brad Hawpe but Crawford would make a leaping grab at the wall, catching the ball over the fence robbing Hawpe of the go-ahead shot. The American League would later score in the next half inning and go on to win 4-3.
Crawford may be no longer a member of the Tampa Bay Rays but there is no doubt that he is the Rays shining light in All Star game history. His four appearances, his MVP, and his ten years of success will most likely keep him the top spot for years to come, but Longoria and Price are hot on his heels.
With the new golden age of Rays baseball it sure is refreshing to have more than just one lonely face at the All Star game each season.