Tampa Bay Rays

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Tampa Bay Rays
2014 Tampa Bay Rays season
Established 1998
Tampa Bay Rays.svg ALE-TB-Insignia.png
Team logo Cap insignia
Major league affiliations
Current uniform
ALE-Uniform-TB.PNG
Retired numbers 12 · 42
Colors
  • Navy, Columbia blue, white, gold

                   

Name
  • Tampa Bay Rays (2008–present)
Other nicknames
  • D-Rays
Ballpark
Major league titles
World Series titles (0)
AL Pennants (1) 2008
East Division titles (2) 2010 · 2008
Wild card berths (2) 2013 · 2011
Front office
Owner(s) Stuart Sternberg
Manager Joe Maddon
General Manager Andrew Friedman
President of Baseball Operations Matthew Silverman

The Tampa Bay Rays are an American professional baseball team based in St. Petersburg, Florida, that competes in Major League Baseball (MLB). They are currently a member of the East Division of the American League. Since their inception, their home venue has been Tropicana Field. Their current manager is Joe Maddon.

Following nearly three decades of unsuccessfully trying to gain an expansion franchise or enticing existing teams to relocate to the Tampa Bay area, an ownership group led by Vince Naimoli was approved in 1995. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays began play in the 1998 Major League Baseball season.

Their first decade of play, however, was marked by futility; they finished in last place in the American League East in all but the 2004 season, when they finished in fourth place (second to last).[1] Following the 2007 season, Stuart Sternberg, who had purchased controlling interest in the team from Vince Naimoli two years earlier,[2] changed the team's name to "Rays" to represent the team as "...a beacon that radiates throughout Tampa Bay and across the entire state of Florida".[3] The team's largely disliked original rainbow color scheme was changed to Navy blue, Columbia blue, and gold; a new serifed logo with a stylized asymmetrical sunburst was also adopted. Save for "Turn Back the Clock" games, in which "throwback" uniforms are worn, the same logo appears on all regular and alternate home and road jerseys. A variation of the old manta ray logo was retained as a sleeve logo. Amid persistent rumors that the team may be contracted at some future date,[4] the 2008 season saw the Tampa Bay Rays have their first winning season with a 97–65 record and win their first AL East championship. They defeated the rival Boston Red Sox to win the American League Championship, but lost to the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in that year's World Series. Since then, the Rays won their second AL East championship in 2010 and have qualified for the postseason as a wild card team in 2011 and 2013.

The Tampa Bay Rays' chief rivals are the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Regarding the former, there have been several notable on-field incidents.[5] The Rays also have an intrastate rivalry with the National League's Miami Marlins (originally the Florida Marlins), whom they play in the "Citrus Series". The Rays lead the series 46-43.[6]

Professional baseball in Tampa Bay[edit]

The name "Tampa Bay" is often used to describe a geographic metropolitan area which encompasses the cities around the body of water known as Tampa Bay, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Bradenton. Unlike in the case of Green Bay, Wisconsin, there is no municipality known as "Tampa Bay". The "Tampa Bay" in the names of local professional sports franchises (Rays, Rowdies, Buccaneers, Lightning, etc.) denotes that they represent the entire region, not just Tampa or St. Petersburg.

Former civic leader and St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) publisher, Jack Lake, first suggested St. Petersburg pursue a Major League baseball team in the 1960s. The notable influences Lake held in the sport are what led to the serious discussions that changed St. Petersburg from a spring training location to a major league city. He spoke to anyone who would listen about his desire to see the city of St. Petersburg have a Major league baseball team. His colorful direction dominated the mindset in both sports and business circles dating back to 1966. He was said to have the foresight and prominence to make it happen.

Local leaders made many unsuccessful attempts to acquire a major league baseball team in the 1980s and 1990s. The Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, and Seattle Mariners all considered moving to either Tampa or St. Petersburg before deciding to remain in their current locations. The Florida Suncoast Dome (now named Tropicana Field) was built in St. Petersburg in 1990 with the purpose of luring a major league team. That same year two separate groups, one in Tampa and another in Sarasota, were seeking to get an expansion team. The Tampa one even registered the name "Florida Panthers", after a local feline -[7] a trademark which ended up being purchased by entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga one year later,[8] and used by him to baptize an NHL team.[9]

When MLB announced that it would add two expansion teams for the 1993 season, it was widely assumed that one of the teams would be placed in the Dome. However, in addition to the application from St. Petersburg, a competing group applied to field a team in Tampa, prompting much conflict over the bid. The two National League teams were awarded to Denver (Colorado Rockies) and Miami (Florida Marlins) instead.

In 1992, San Francisco Giants owner Bob Lurie agreed in principle to sell his team to a Tampa Bay based group of investors led by Vince Naimoli, who would then move the team to St. Petersburg. However, at the 11th hour, MLB owners nixed the move under pressure from San Francisco officials and the Giants were sold to a group that kept them in San Francisco.[10]

Finally, on March 9, 1995, new expansion franchises were awarded to Naimoli's Tampa Bay group and a group from Phoenix (the Arizona Diamondbacks). The new franchises were scheduled to begin play in 1998.

The Tampa Bay area finally had a team, but the stadium in St. Petersburg was already in need of an upgrade. In 1993, the stadium was renamed the Thunderdome and became the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and the Tampa Bay Storm Arena Football League team. After the birth of the Rays, the naming rights were sold to Tropicana Products and $70 million was spent on renovations.

History[edit]

Before 1998: Getting a team[edit]

The Devil Rays began to build their organization shortly after the franchise was awarded in 1995 by naming former Atlanta Braves assistant general manager Chuck LaMar the senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager. The franchise's first minor league games took place in the 1996 season. On November 7, 1997, Larry Rothschild was named the team's first manager. The team acquired 35 players in the Expansion Draft on November 18, 1997. Tony Saunders from the Florida Marlins was the first player drafted by the Devil Rays. The team also drafted future star Bobby Abreu but traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kevin Stocker, who had very little success for the Rays. Before the 1998 season, veteran stars Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff, and Wilson Alvarez were acquired.

1998–2003: Early years as the Devil Rays[edit]

Original logo of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, used from 1998–2000.

The Devil Rays played their first game on March 31, 1998 against the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field before a crowd of 45,369. Wilson Alvarez threw the first pitch and Wade Boggs hit the first home run in team history that day. Despite losing their opening game 11–6, the team actually got off to a respectable start and were 11–8 after 19 before losing six straight and falling below .500. They would go on to lose 99 games that year. One of the first memorable moments in franchise history occurred on August 7, 1999 when Wade Boggs tallied his 3000th career hit, the first player to do so with a home run.[11] Boggs retired after the season and is the only Ray with his number retired. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.

The Devil Rays acquired sluggers Vinny Castilla, Jose Canseco and Greg Vaughn; along with incumbent Fred McGriff, this quartet was dubbed the "Hit Show." However, all of these players were past their prime and unable to sustain their previous successes. The Devil Rays continued to struggle in 1999 and 2000. Prior to the 2001 season, they modified their team colors and uniforms and also acquired highly touted outfielder Ben Grieve from Oakland. Early in the 2001 season, Larry Rothschild was fired as manager and was replaced by Hal McRae, and McGriff was dealt to the Chicago Cubs. By the 2002 season, the Devil Rays decided to rebuild with younger players and drastically reduced the team payroll. Randy Winn, Aubrey Huff, Toby Hall, and Carl Crawford began to emerge as key players. However, the 2002 season would prove to be the worst in franchise history to date. McRae was moved to a front office position after the season.

Before the 2003 season, the team traded Randy Winn to the Seattle Mariners for the right to negotiate with manager Lou Piniella, a Tampa native, who managed winning teams at every stop in his managerial career, including the New York Yankees, the Cincinnati Reds (whom he led to a World Series Trophy in 1990), and the Mariners. Piniella was attracted to the Tampa Bay job because of the proximity to his family and the chance to build a losing franchise into a winner as he had done in Seattle. Piniella's first team still came in last place, but finished seven games better than the 2002 team. A highlight of the 2003 season was the emergence of Rocco Baldelli, a native of Rhode Island, as one of the top rookies in the major leagues.

2004–2007: Continued struggles, a New Manager[edit]

Tampa Bay Devil Rays logo, used from 2001–2007.

Entering the 2004 season expectations for the Devil Rays were low, but the team won 70 games for the first time and finished in 4th place in the American League East, out of last place for the first time. Entering May, the team was 10–28 before going on to win 30 of 40 games, including a team-record 12-game winning streak. The Devil Rays peaked at 42–41 but the team was unable to sustain that success and finished 21 games below .500.

Following a 28–61 record at the All-Star Break in 2005, the Devil Rays went 39–34 for a final record of 67–95. Carl Crawford and newcomers Jorge Cantu and Jonny Gomes led a productive offense that finished third in the American League in team batting average. However, the pitching staff had the second worst ERA in the American League. Despite the promising finish, Lou Piniella became frustrated with what he perceived as an insufficient commitment to winning by the ownership group, and he reached a settlement with the team to release him from the last year of his contract and Angels coach Joe Maddon was named manager, the fourth in team history.

Shortly after the season ended, new owner Stuart Sternberg, immediately fired Chuck LaMar along with most of the front office. Matthew Silverman was named the team president, and Andrew Friedman took the role of Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations. Sternberg decided not to have a de jure General Manager, calling the position "outdated."[12]

With the change of ownership and the strong finish to the 2005 season, Tampa Bay fans were optimistic about the 2006 season, the official attendance for the Devil Rays' home opener was 40,199, the highest turnout since the 1998 inaugural season home opener.[13] At the All-Star break, Tampa Bay was only eleven games under the .500 mark (39–50). However, the front office became convinced that the Devil Rays would not contend in 2006 and they traded several veteran players and the Devil Rays struggled in the second half particularly on the road, and finished with a league worst 61–101 record.

The Devil Rays were involved in two unusual triple plays in 2006; one they hit into, the other they executed themselves. On June 11 against Kansas City, they hit into the third triple play in major league history, and first since 1937, that involved an appeal. Russell Branyan flied out to center, Rocco Baldelli tried to advance to second base and was thrown out, and then Aubrey Huff was called out when the umpires ruled that he left third base early when he tagged up. Then, on September 2 against Seattle, the Devil Rays executed a 2–6–2 triple play where the ball never touched the bat, something that had never been done before. The triple play involved a strikeout and two baserunners caught off base. Tampa Bay pitcher J. P. Howell struck out Raúl Ibañez. Catcher Dioner Navarro fired the ball to shortstop Ben Zobrist, who tagged out Adrián Beltré trying to steal second base. During that throw, José López tried to go home from third, but Zobrist returned the ball to Navarro in time to put Lopez out at the plate, completing the first 2–6–2 triple play in MLB history.[14] The Devil Rays finished with a winning record at home (41–40) for the first time ever and home attendance increased by 20% from 2005.[14]

In the 2006–07 off-season, the Devil Rays won the rights to Japanese infielder Akinori Iwamura.[15] and signed him to a three-year contract.

In an effort to court the Orlando, Florida, market, the Devil Rays played a series at The Ballpark (now called Champion Stadium) at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in the 2007 season. The series selected was the May 15–17 series versus the Texas Rangers. The Devil Rays swept the Rangers in that series.[16]

In 2007, the Devil Rays had the youngest starting line-up since the 1983 Minnesota Twins. The Rays had several bright spots on the year as they were led by pitchers James Shields and Scott Kazmir but with a poor bullpen the Rays compiled the worst record in baseball (66–96), finishing last in the American League East for the ninth time in their 10-season existence.

2008-present: Finally a Contender[edit]

2008: New name, uniforms, outlook, and results[edit]

Prior to the 2008 season the team unveiled new uniforms along with a name change. After considering other options such as the "Aces," "Bandits," "Cannons," "Dukes," "Stripes," and Stuart Sternberg's personal favorite, the "Nine,"[17] the team's new name was officially announced to be the "Tampa Bay Rays." The new team colors were "navy, Columbia blue and a touch of gold"[18] and a new team logo featured a bright yellow sunburst symbolizing the Sunshine State of Florida. Following a front office promise to increase the team's payroll, it was raised to $43 million[18]

Rays and Red Sox fighting at Fenway Park on June 5, 2008

The Rays lineup remained largely intact from 2007, several key trades and free agent signings improved the team, additions included Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and veteran relief pitcher and closer Troy Percival. Top third-base prospect Evan Longoria was expected to be the starter at the hot corner while the Rays also signed the #1 pick from the previous year's draft, pitcher David Price, who was widely recognized as one of the top players in college baseball.[19]

The Rays finished spring training with a club record 18 wins and tied for highest winning percentage in the Grapefruit League. They began the season with a win in Baltimore and snapped a 7-game losing streak in road openers.

As they did during the 2007 season, the Rays played a regular season home series at Champion Stadium in Walt Disney World for the April 22–24 series against the Toronto Blue Jays.[20] As in the Orlando series in the previous season, the Rays won all three games and followed with their first-ever sweep of the Boston Red Sox in Tropicana Field.

The Rays became the first team in modern Major League history (since 1900) to hold the best record in the league through Memorial Day, after having the worst record in the league the year before.[21] This marked the best start in franchise history and the first time ever that the team was 11 games over .500. In June, incidents over the course of two consecutive games led to a bench clearing brawl against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, in which Coco Crisp charged the mound after being hit by a pitch by James Shields.

Within the first week of July the Rays stretched their division lead to 5½ games, but then lost seven consecutive games heading into the All-Star Break. Trailing the Red Sox for the division lead by ½ game, they still led the Wild Card. Scott Kazmir and Dioner Navarro were selected to play in the All-Star Game. Evan Longoria was voted into the roster by the fans in the Final Vote giving the Rays a team record for All-Stars. In another franchise first, Longoria participated in the Home Run Derby.

Tampa Bay Rays secondary logo, used from 2008–present.

Despite injuries to several key players in early August including Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, and Troy Percival, the Rays finished August on a 5-game winning streak, compiling a record of 21–7 for the month, the best single month in franchise history. With an 84–51 overall record, the best in the league, their lead in the division grew to 5½ games going into the final month of the season.

On September 20, the Rays, with the best home record in Major League Baseball, clinched their first-ever postseason berth in franchise history and clinched the AL East Pennant shortly thereafter.[22]

In the American League Division Series the Rays defeated the Chicago White Sox in 4 games, clinching their first playoff series victory and advanced to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) where they defeated the Boston Red Sox in 7 games to go to the World Series for the first time. Despite having home-field advantage in the series, the Rays lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, four games to one, in the World Series.

The Rays' turnaround was mostly credited to much improved defense and pitching. The Rays also stole 142 bases, more than any other team in the AL. They also had five pitchers throw over 150 innings, more than any other team in baseball: Shields, Kazmir, Garza, Andy Sonnanstine, and Edwin Jackson.[23] While the 2007 bullpen and defense were historically bad, stats for 2008 were among the best in the majors, and the best in franchise history.

2009: Defending the American League Crown[edit]

Evan Longoria in 2009

With the Rays' new payroll total above $60 million principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced that unlike previous seasons the Rays had no more flexibility to make additions during the upcoming season. In the 2008 season, despite the Rays being contenders the entire season, attendance was still among the lowest in the league. Sternberg also stated the only team that did not have an average attendance higher than the league average in the season following a World Series appearance was the Florida Marlins, who did so twice after each of their championship seasons. He accepted that the Rays might become the third occurrence, saying about the 2008 season, "it wasn't the best year to win," because of the current state of the economy.[24]

Following a lackluster start the Rays finished May with an overall record of 25–28 and just half a game out of last place but pulled within 4 games of the AL East and 1½ back in the wild card toward the All-Star break. Carl Crawford, Jason Bartlett, Ben Zobrist, and Evan Longoria were named as All-Stars for the American League in the All-Star Game with Longoria earning the start at third base but was unable to play due to injury. Carlos Peña was added as an injury replacement and participated in the 2009 Home Run Derby. In the All-Star Game Carl Crawford won MVP honors by making a leaping catch at the wall to take away Brad Hawpe's home run.

In August Iwamura returned from injuries sustained in May and the Rays traded Scott Kazmir to the Angels for two minor league prospects and a player to be named later. Kazmir left the team as the all-time leader in wins and strikeouts.[25]

The Rays stumbled in September, losing 11 games in a row at one point, and lost Carlos Peña for the remainder of the season to a broken finger from a hit by pitch. At the time Peña was leading the American League in home runs. The Rays clinched a winning season but the team did not make the post-season finishing with an 84–78 record, good enough for 3rd place. On October 2 B.J. Upton became the first Tampa Bay player to hit for the cycle.[26]

After the 2009 season second baseman Akinori Iwamura was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for relief pitcher Jesse Chavez who was then traded to the Atlanta Braves for closer Rafael Soriano.[27]

2010: Return to Division Champions[edit]

Matt Garza during his tenure with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 spring training.

In spring training the Rays finished with the best record in the Grapefruit League and set a franchise record for wins in spring training. Second baseman Sean Rodriguez, who had been acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade with the Angels, was considered a breakout player during the spring, on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.[28]

Although the Rays had the league best record at the time, Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics threw a perfect game against the Rays in May. It was the league's second perfect game in a row thrown against Tampa Bay, the last being in 2009 by Mark Buehrle, and at the time was the shortest amount of time between perfect games in Major League Baseball. The Rays were once again victims of a no-hitter on June 25 at Tropicana Field, thrown by former Ray, Edwin Jackson of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jackson threw 149 pitches against his old team, and although 10 batters reached base, none were the result of a base hit.

David Price, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, and Rafael Soriano were named to the American League team in the 2010 All-Star game. Price was named the starting pitcher for the AL.

On July 26, 2010, Matt Garza threw a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers, becoming the fifth pitcher to throw a no-hitter that season. It was the first no-hitter ever thrown by a Tampa Bay pitcher in the franchise's history.[29]

On the last day of the regular season, the Rays won their second AL East championship in three years, and finished the 2010 season with the American League's best record (96–66), and behind only the Philadelphia Phillies by one game for the Majors' best record. The Rays' ace pitcher David Price finished with 19 wins, finishing second in the American League Cy Young Award voting, and closer Rafael Soriano converted 45 saves, both setting new franchise records in those respective categories.

In the postseason, the Rays were eliminated in the ALDS, losing to the Texas Rangers in five games.

2011: "Game 162" and Wild Card berth[edit]

During the offseason, several key players from the Rays were either traded away or lost to free agency. They received five minor league prospects from the Chicago Cubs in a trade that included starting pitcher Matt Garza,[30] while shortstop Jason Bartlett was sent to the San Diego Padres for four minor league prospects.[31] Seven relief pitchers would not return to the team in 2011. First baseman Carlos Peña, the franchise's all-time leader in home runs, signed with the Chicago Cubs.[32] Perhaps the biggest loss for the Rays was left fielder Carl Crawford, who signed a lucrative deal with the Boston Red Sox.[33]

Among their acquisitions were veterans and former Red Sox teammates Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, who each signed one-year contracts with the Rays.[34] Although on April 8, Ramirez chose to retire due to testing positive for a banned substance in spring training.[35]

The Rays started the season 0–6, their worst start in franchise history, but finished the month of April with a record of 15–12, 1½ games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East. The Rays became the first team in league history to start the season 0–6 and finish April with a winning record.[36]

The Rays entered the final day of the regular season tied with the Boston Red Sox for the American League Wild Card. The Rays won the AL Wild Card spot after beating the New York Yankees 8–7 in the 12th inning. The Rays battled back from a 7–0 deficit in the eighth with six runs. Down to their final strike in the ninth inning, they tied the game in the bottom of the ninth following pinch-hitter Dan Johnson's solo home run. Evan Longoria's walk-off home run won the game in the 12th inning. Longoria's home run came three minutes following the conclusion of the Baltimore Orioles rallying past the Red Sox. Boston went down in history as suffering the biggest collapse during the final month of the season in MLB history by giving up a 9 game lead in the American League Wild Card race at the beginning of September. Game 162 is commemorated in two ways in Tropicana Field. There is 162 Landing a designation in the left field corner where Longoria's playoff-clinching home run landed. The area is located off Left Field Street where Evan Longoria's 12th-inning walk-off homer landed Sep 28 to beat the Yankees and propel Tampa Bay to the postseason. The entrance to 162 Landing is open to the public and includes a recap of the events here and at Camden Yards from that night, video highlights and interviews, photos and displays. There also is a white seat in the right field corner commemorating where Dan Johnson's two-out, two-strike game-tying homer landed in the bottom of the ninth. Section 140, Seat 10, Row T.

Tampa Bay was eliminated in the ALDS by the Texas Rangers, three games to one. After the elimination, owner Stuart Sternberg expressed concern about the team's viability in Florida after the team's last playoff game failed to sell out.[37]

2012: Injuries, Emergence of Fernando Rodney and departures of Shields and Upton[edit]

The Rays failed to make the postseason for the first time since 2009 after posting a 90–72 record. Some of the highlights of the season included closer Fernando Rodney setting a new single-season franchise record with 48 saves, and also finished with a 0.60 earned run average for the season, which is the lowest by a relief pitcher in major league history, as of today.[38] Rodney was also named AL Comeback Player of the Year. David Price became the first pitcher in the history of the team to win 20 games, as well as the first Rays player to be given the Cy Young Award.

Season results[edit]

The records of the Rays' last five seasons in Major League Baseball.

American League Champions Division Champions Wild Card Berth
MLB
season
Team
season
League[39] Division[39] Regular season Post-season Awards
Finish[a] Wins[b] Losses Win% GB[c]
2008 2008 AL East 1st 97 65 .598 Lost WS vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 4–1
2009 2009 AL East 3rd 84 78 .519 19
2010 2010 AL East 1st 96 66 .593 Lost ALDS vs. Texas Rangers, 3–2
2011 2011 AL East 2nd 91 71 .562 6 Lost ALDS vs. Texas Rangers, 3–1 Joe Maddon (MOY)[h][40]
Jeremy Hellickson (ROY)[j][41]
2012 2012 AL East 3rd 90 72 .556 5 Fernando Rodney (CPOY)[f][42]
David Price (CYA)[g][43][44]
2013 2013 AL East 2nd 92 71 .564 Won Wild Card Game vs. Cleveland Indians, 4-0
Lost ALDS vs. Boston Red Sox, 3–1
Wil Myers (ROY)[j][45]

These statistics are current through the 2013 MLB season. Bold denotes a playoff season, pennant or championship; italics denotes the active season.

Team salaries[edit]

Opening Day payrolls for 25-man roster (since 2000):[46][47][48]

  • 2013 : $57,505,272
  • 2012 : $63,627,200
  • 2011 : $41,053,571
  • 2010 : $72,847,133
  • 2009 : $63,313,034
  • 2008 : $43,745,597
  • 2007 : $24,123,500
  • 2006 : $35,417,967
  • 2005 : $29,679,067
  • 2004 : $29,556,667
  • 2003 : $19,630,000
  • 2002 : $34,380,000
  • 2001 : $56,980,000
  • 2000 : $64,400,000

Rivals[edit]

AL East[edit]

Tampa Bay's primary rivals are the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.[49][50] The Red Sox/Rays rivalry dates back to the 2000 season, when Devil Ray Gerald Williams took exception to being hit by a pitch thrown by Boston pitcher Pedro Martínez and charged the mound, resulting in a game full of retaliations and ejections on both sides.[51] There have been several other incidents between the teams during the ensuing years, including one in 2005 which resulted in two bench-clearing fights during the game and a war of words between then-Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella and then-Boston pitcher Curt Schilling through the media in the following days.[52] The rivalry reached its highest level to date during the 2008 season, which included a brawl during a June meeting in Fenway Park [53] and a 7-game American League Championship Series between the teams that ended in the Rays' first ever pennant win.

As a fellow member of the AL East Division, the Yankees and Rays play many times each season. There has always been some feeling of a rivalry between the teams because the Yankees make Tampa their spring training home and fan loyalty in the Tampa Bay area has historically been divided, especially among transplants from the northeastern US.[54][55] The rivalry became more heated in spring training of 2008, when a home plate collision between Rays outfielder Elliot Johnson and Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli was followed the next day by spikes-high slide by Yankees outfielder Shelley Duncan into Rays' second baseman Akinori Iwamura, prompting Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes to charge in from his position in right field and knock Duncan to the ground.[50]

Citrus Series[edit]

Main article: Citrus Series

The Rays also have a geographical rivalry with the Miami Marlins.

Ballparks[edit]

Tropicana Field[edit]

Main article: Tropicana Field

The Rays have played at Tropicana Field since their inception in 1998. The facility, which was originally called the "Florida Suncoast Dome", was built in the late 1980s to attract an MLB team through either relocation or expansion. After St. Petersburg was awarded an expansion franchise in 1995, the dome underwent extensive renovations and naming rights were sold to Tropicana Products, which was based in nearby Bradenton, Florida.

Tropicana Field underwent further renovations in 2006 and 2007 after Stu Sternberg gained controlling ownership of the team. Most of the changes sought to improve fans' game-day experience. For the players, the biggest change was the installation of a new Field Turf surface in 2007, which was replaced in turn with a new version of AstroTurf for the 2011 season.

New ballpark[edit]

Main article: Rays Ballpark

The Rays' current ownership has long hinted that Tropicana Field does not generate enough revenue and that it is too far from the Tampa Bay Area's population center.[56] In 2007, the team announced a plan to build a covered ballpark at the current site of Al Lang Field on the St. Petersburg waterfront, and a local referendum was scheduled to decide on public financing.[57] However, in the face of vocal opposition, the Rays withdrew the proposal in 2009 and stated they had abandoned all plans for a ballpark in downtown St. Petersburg waterfront, preferring a location nearer the center of Pinellas County or across the bay in Tampa.[58]

Since 2009, local officials, media, and business leaders have explored possibilities for a new stadium for the Rays somewhere in the Tampa Bay area.[59] However, St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster has repeatedly insisted that the Rays honor their lease agreement with the city, which runs through 2027 and prohibits the team from entering into talks with other communities, resulting in a protracted stalemate.[60]

Uniforms[edit]

Rays' current road uniform, Alex Torres pitching

Current uniforms[edit]

The current Rays primary uniform has been used with little change since the team officially shortened its name from "Devil Rays" for the 2008 season. The home jersey is a traditional white with the name "Rays" in dark blue across the chest and a yellow "sunburst" on the letter "R". The Rays' road uniform is gray, also with a sunburst and the team name across the chest. Both feature dark blue piping and caps featuring a white "TB" logo.[61]

The Rays' first alternate jersey also features the name "Rays" and a yellow sunburst on chest, but is a dark blue material with Columbia blue piping, white characters for the player name, and player numbers that are simply a white outline. This alternate jersey is worn both at home and on the road with either white or gray pants. The Rays' second alternate jersey is similar, but is a light Columbia blue. This second alternate is usually worn only for Sunday home games with white pants.

Front of inaugural home jersey, 1998

Past uniforms[edit]

2005-07 road uniform, Rocco Baldelli running

During their first three seasons, the Devil Rays wore traditional white home and gray road uniforms with the text "Devil Rays" (home) and "Tampa Bay" (road) in stretched in an unconventional multicolor "rainbow" across the chest. The inaugural caps were also unusual: black with a purple brim at home and all black on the road, with both versions featuring a devil ray graphic and no letters at all.[62] The caps changed in 1999 to feature a smaller ray and the letters "TB" and were all-black for both home and road games. During the 1999 and 2000 seasons, the Devil Rays added an alternate black jersey featuring the same rainbow text as the white and gray uniforms.

In 2001, the Devil Rays dropped the multicolor text and de-emphasized purple in favor of more green. They also changed the font on their jersey tops and shortened the name on the home whites to read simply "Rays" while keeping "Tampa Bay" on the road grays.[63]

In 2005, the home uniforms were again tweaked to include still more green. The primary home whites became a sleeveless-look jersey with green sleeves, and the primary home caps were changed from black to green. In addition, a small ray with a long tail was added under the name "Rays" on the chest of the home jerseys.[64]

"Turn Back the Clock" Nights[edit]

The Rays staged a "Turn Back the Clock" promotion with a retro theme and throwback uniforms several times early in their existence, and it has become an annual tradition since 2006.[65] Because the franchise does not yet have a long history from which to choose uniforms, they have usually worn the uniforms of other historical local teams.

On these special occasions, Rays have worn the uniforms of the Tampa Tarpons of the Florida State League (in 1999, 2006, and 2010), the St. Petersburg Pelicans of the Senior Professional Baseball Association (in 2008), the St. Petersburg Saints (in 2007) and Tampa Smokers (in 2011) of the Florida International League, and the University of Tampa Spartans (in 2000). The Rays have worn their own uniforms for Turn Back the Clock night only once: in 2009, when they wore Devil Rays "rainbow" uniforms from their 1998 inaugural season.[66]

For Turn Back the Clock night during the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons, the Rays took the field wearing specially designed 1979 Tampa Bay Rays "faux-back" uniforms that represented what the team might have worn had the franchise existed during the 1970s. These uniforms are patterned after the San Diego Padres' uniforms from the late 1970s, only in Rays' team colors.[67][68][69]

The Rays' opponent on Turn Back the Clock night also wears throwbacks from the same era as the Rays' retro uniforms. For example, the Houston Astros wore their 1980s "Rainbow Guts" uniforms, the New York Mets wore the road uniforms of their 1969 championship team,[70] the Chicago White Sox wore their red and white home uniforms from the 1970s, and the Baltimore Orioles wore their rare all-orange uniforms from the early 1970s.[71] Perhaps the most memorable such game was on June 23, 2007, when the Devil Rays wore St. Pete Saints uniforms from the early 1950s and the Los Angeles Dodgers wore the gray road uniforms of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers to honor Don Zimmer, who played on that Dodger team and was a senior adviser for the Rays prior to his death. The team also gave away a bobblehead at the game featuring a young Zimmer in a Dodgers uniform and an older Zimmer in a Devil Rays uniform.[72]

Team media[edit]

Radio[edit]

620 WDAE-AM has been the flagship station of the Rays radio network since 2009. The play-by-play announcers are Dave Wills and Andy Freed with Neil Solondz serving as the pregame and postgame host. Rich Herrera served as the host during pre- and post-game shows for the Tampa Rays Baseball Radio Network from 2005-2011.[73] The (Devil) Rays original radio team consisted of Paul Olden and Charlie Slowes, who broadcast games from 1998 to 2005. Slowes went to the Washington Nationals, where he is now lead announcer, while Olden pursued a photography career before replacing Bob Sheppard as the public address announcer at Yankee Stadium in 2008.[74] Rays games have been aired on WFLA 970 AM (1998–2004) and WHNZ 1250 AM (2005–2008) in the past.
In 2013, the Rays became the second team to enter into a contract to have games broadcast nationally by Compass Media Networks in a Game of the Week format. The broadcast team utilized during the 2013 season was TJ Rives calling play-by-play and a rotating circuit of analysts in Rob Dibble, Jeff Nelson, and Steve Phillips. 22 Rays games were produced nationally by Compass Media for the 2013 season.

Television[edit]

Sun Sports broadcasts the Rays' games on television. Through the 2008 season, many games also aired on Ion Television affiliate broadcast stations throughout the state of Florida, with WXPX in Tampa as the flagship. However, after the 2008 season, Sun Sports signed an agreement to become the exclusive local broadcaster of the Rays, and will air 155 games per year through 2016.[75] Fox Sports Florida began broadcasting a portion of the schedule in HD beginning in 2007 after Tropicana Field's broadcast equipment was upgraded for in-house HD production. Most Rays home games are now broadcast in HD.

Dewayne Staats (play-by-play) and Brian Anderson (color commentary) are the TV voices of the Rays, with Todd Kalas, the son of Philadelphia announcing legend Harry Kalas, serving as the pregame and postgame host as well as a field reporter during games. Todd also hosts magazine shows and specials on Sun Sports throughout the season. For the first 11 seasons of the franchise, Staats teamed with Joe Magrane on the Rays' TV broadcasts. Magrane left after the 2008 season to take a position at the MLB Network.[76] Kevin Kennedy served as the primary color commentator in 2009 and 2010, with Brian Anderson filling in on some road trips. Anderson took over as the everyday commentator for 2011.

Early on, as Staats' first wife was battling cancer, Paul Olden would occasionally fill in for Staats. As a result, Paul Olden ended up calling Wade Boggs' 3,000th hit.

Awards[edit]

Staats, Magrane, Kalas, Wills, Olden and Slowes have all been nominated for the Ford C. Frick Award, the broadcasters' path to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Promotions[edit]

Bobbleheads 2013 This year the Rays released several bobbleheads. The first was released on April 22 and featured David Price's dog "Astro". On April 24 the Rays released the famous "Joe Gnome" bobblehead. May 24–26 saw the release of the Fernando Rodney bobblehead in his famous shooting-the-arrow position. On July 6 the team released the Evan Longoria retro bobblehead.[77]

Bobbleheads 2012 The first bobblehead released was Kyle Farnsworth on May 24. June 3 saw the release of a Desmond Jennings Bobblehead. Coach Joe Madden saw his bobblehead released on June 15. On June 29 the Rays released the whimsical Zim Bear. Although this was not a bobblehead, the likeness of long-time coach Don Zimmer proved to be a fan favorite. July saw the release of two bobbleheads with James Shields on July 1 and Matt Moore on July 22. The last bobblehead was Matt Joyce on September 23.[78]

The Rookie[edit]

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays were featured in the movie, The Rookie, a 2002 drama directed by John Lee Hancock. It is based on the true story of Jim Morris, who had a brief but famous Major League Baseball career with the team.

Morris was 35 year-old high school baseball coach who could repeatedly throw a baseball 98 miles per hour (158 km/h), an ability that only a few major leaguers can equal. He was persuaded to try out for professional ballclubs and signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization. Morris was initially assigned to the minor league Class AA Orlando Rays (now the Montgomery Biscuits), but quickly moved up to the AAA Durham Bulls and was called up to the "Bigs" during the September roster expansions.

Jim Morris spent parts of two seasons with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as a relief pitcher. He pitched 15 innings in 21 games, with an earned run average of 4.80.

Rays fandom[edit]

Although widespread support has been slow to build with the lack of success in its first ten seasons, it has taken some cues from the powerhouses of the American League East. Whereas Red Sox fans are referred to as Red Sox Nation, and Yankee fans are referred to as Yankees Universe (and the team itself being called the "Evil Empire"), the Rays have adopted the term Rays Republic for their fan base. The team has also had its fair share of notable fans and outrageous fan traditions over the years.

The Happy Heckler[edit]

"The Happy Heckler" is a nickname for avid fan Robert Szasz, a Clearwater real estate developer. He had season tickets near home plate from where he boisterously heckled one or two players on the opposing team, yelling so loudly that he was clearly audible on both TV and radio broadcasts. He was known as an "ethical" heckler, choosing his targets after research and always heckling their play, never throwing personal insults or using foul language[79]

The reaction from opposing ballplayers was mixed. Most tried to ignore him, some laughed, and José Guillén offered to give Szasz an autographed bat if he agreed to "get off his back".[79] On one occasion, Bret Boone struck out while being heckled and then threw down his batting helmet and yelled angrily back at Szarz.[80] In 2008, Szasz released a book entitled The Happy Heckler.

In 2009, banks filed several lawsuits against him for defaulting on more than $9 million in loans that he personally signed for, and Wachovia Bank foreclosed on his 7,000-square-foot (650 m2) waterfront home on Snell Isle.[81] Szasz did not renew his Rays season tickets for 2009 and was not heard heckling in Tropicana Field again until April 2012, when he resumed his activities during selected games.[82]

More Cowbell[edit]

The Rays' Cowbell was originally a promotional idea thought up by principal owner Stuart Sternberg, who got the idea from the Saturday Night Live sketch. Since then, it has become a standard feature of home games, something akin to the Sacramento Kings of the NBA and the bells their fans ring during games. Road teams have often considered the cowbell a nuisance. Once a year the Rays hold an annual "cowbell night" and give away free cowbells. Cowbells are available for purchase throughout the year as well. The cowbells are rung most prominently when the opposing batter has two strikes, when the opposing fans try to chant, and when the Rays make a good play.[83]

DJ Kitty[edit]

Whenever the game situation calls for a rally, the 'DJ Kitty' appears on the large video screen in Tropicana Field. A large anthropomorphic cat, wearing a Rays jersey, appears on the screen wielding a turntable similar to those used by rap DJs. Loud music is played over the PA system while the arrival of the DJ Kitty is proclaimed on display boards throughout the ballpark. The character was created in 2010 by Rays entertainment director Lou Costanza in an attempt to rally the Rays players and the fans at Tropicana Field.[84]

Professional wrestlers[edit]

Rays games are frequently visited by professional wrestlers, as there are a large number of wrestlers living in the Tampa Bay Area. The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags), Brutus Beefcake, and Hulk Hogan all appear on a semi-regular basis at Rays games. John Cena appears on occasion.

The Rays held a "Legends of Wrestling Night" on May 18, 2007, featuring several wrestling matches after the game, an 8–4 loss to the Florida Marlins. Outfielder and wrestling fan Jonny Gomes ran interference for the Nasty Boys during the main event.[85]

A second "Wrestling Night" was held on April 19, 2008, after a 5–0 win over the Chicago White Sox. Gomes participated again, this time making a post-match save for the Nasty Boys.[86]

Team slogans[edit]

2008[edit]

The mantra 9=8 (spoken as "nine equals eight") was used by the Rays during the 2008 season. The phrase was originally created by manager Joe Maddon while riding his bike after the 2007 season. The meaning of the phrase was that if nine players play nine innings of hard baseball everyday, that team would become one of the eight teams who qualify for the post-season. Prior to 2008 season, the Rays had never had a winning season in franchise history, much less a post-season appearance.

After a slow start to the 2008 season, the Rays began to pick up speed and found themselves among the best teams in the league that year. Maddon had blue t-shirts made with the phrase on the back in yellow, representing the team's new colors, and gave them to the players during the season. His idea to put the slogan on the back of the shirt, rather than the front, was that a person who was walking behind someone wearing the shirt would see it.

Rays right fielder Gabe Gross, who was acquired by the team through a trade early into the 2008 campaign, said that as much as it was 9=8, it was more along the lines that 13=8, because the Rays had many players contributing to the team's success that season.[87]

The Rays played well enough throughout the year that they surpassed their previous team record for wins in a single season by more than 20 wins and ultimately clinched a spot in the 2008 MLB post-season for their first postseason appearance in franchise history. As the phrase 9=8 had come to fruition, Maddon stated that the phrase also meant that theory and reality had come together.[88]

With each level the Rays reached, the equation was changed. After they clinched their post-season spot, it became 9=4, to represent the teams advancing to the LCS. When they won the ALDS, it became 9=2, for the teams advancing to the World Series. When they won the ALCS, it became 9=1, representing the possible World Series Championship. In the end, they did not win the World Series, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies four games to one.

2009[edit]

A week before Spring Training for the 2009 season, Maddon introduced a new slogan, '09 > '08. The meaning of his new idea was that he doesn't like to use the words "great" or "greater," but would rather the phrase be spoken as "better than." His only problem was that there is no symbol for "better than." Originally thinking about creating a new symbol to mean "better than," he admitted that he didn't want to get "too nuts," so the symbol for greater than would have to do. Re-emphasizing that 9 would always equal 8 in the Rays' math, the upcoming season would be greater than the previous. He wanted the players to understand that "in order to build this new road we have to be better than we were last year."[89] Unfortunately for the Rays, 2009 was not better than 2008. Though they finished the season in 3rd place with an 84–78 record, making it the second best season in franchise history, they failed to reach the post-season.

2010[edit]

For the 2010 season, another slogan was created. Unlike the previous two seasons, this slogan did not involve any sort of math. The slogan was WIN, an acronym that stood for What's Important Now?, with the message being "stay in the moment." In his explanation of the slogan, Maddon credited Ken Ravizza, the performance consultant of the Rays and a sports psychologist, as the creator. Maddon stated, "It's always about staying in the present tense and having a higher state of awareness."[90] GTMI became another notable slogan during the year, standing for Get The Man In (though it is reported a player has used a "more colorful" term to take place of the word "man"), referring to an in-game situation in which the Rays had runners in scoring position. Historically, the team had a habit of stranding runners on third base with less than two outs. In practices during the 2010 season, the Rays would run the "get-the-man-in drill" to improve situational hitting. Derek Shelton, who came into the season as the team's new hitting coach, taught that batters should not look for a pitch they could hit for a home run, but one that they could hit well enough to score runners.[91]

Current Roster[edit]

Tampa Bay Rays roster
Active roster Inactive roster Coaches/Other

Pitchers

Starting rotation

Bullpen

Closer

Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders


Pitchers

Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders


Manager

Coaches

60-day disabled list


25 active, 13 inactive

Injury icon 2.svg 7- or 15-day disabled list
Suspended list
# Personal leave
Roster updated July 28, 2014
TransactionsDepth chart
All MLB rosters

Minor league affiliations[edit]

Level Team League Location Ballpark
AAA Durham Bulls International League Durham, NC Durham Bulls Athletic Park
AA Montgomery Biscuits Southern League Montgomery, AL Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium
Advanced A Charlotte Stone Crabs Florida State League Port Charlotte, FL Charlotte Sports Park
A Bowling Green Hot Rods Midwest League Bowling Green, KY Bowling Green Ballpark
Short Season A Hudson Valley Renegades New York-Penn League Fishkill, NY Dutchess Stadium
Advanced Rookie Princeton Rays Appalachian League Princeton, WV H. P. Hunnicutt Field
Rookie GCL Rays Gulf Coast League Port Charlotte, FL  
VSL Rays Venezuelan Summer League Venezuela  
DSL Rays Dominican Summer League Boca Chica, Santo Domingo, DR  

Awards, league leaders, and individual records[edit]

Baseball Hall of Famers[edit]

Tampa Bay Rays Hall of Famers
Affiliation according to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Wade Boggs

Players listed in bold are depicted on their Hall of Fame plaques wearing a Devil Rays or Rays cap insignia.

Retired numbers[edit]

The Tampa Bay Rays have retired two numbers. These numbers are displayed to the left of the center field scoreboard and "K Counter" on a small wall.

12
Wade
Boggs

3B
Retired April 7, 2000
42
Jackie
Robinson


All MLB
Honored April 15, 1997


Jackie Robinson's number 42 was retired by all of Major League Baseball.

Selected individual franchise single-season records[edit]

  • Highest Batting Average: .325, Jeff Keppinger (2012)
  • Most Games: 162, Aubrey Huff (2003) and Delmon Young (2007)
  • Most Hits: 198, Aubrey Huff (2003)
  • Highest Slugging %: .627, Carlos Peña (2007)
  • Most Doubles: 47, Aubrey Huff (2003)
  • Most Triples: 19, Carl Crawford (2004)
  • Most Home Runs: 46, Carlos Peña (2007)
  • Most RBIs: 121, Carlos Peña (2007)
  • Most Stolen Bases: 60, Carl Crawford (2009)
  • Most Wins: 20, David Price (2012)
  • Lowest ERA: 2.56, David Price (2012)
  • Strikeouts: 239, Scott Kazmir (2005)
  • Complete Games: 11, James Shields (2011)
  • Shutouts: 4, James Shields (2011)
  • Saves: 48, Fernando Rodney (2012)

Footnotes[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tampa Bay Rays Team History & Encyclopedia - Baseball-Reference.com
  2. ^ Devil Rays' ownership transfer approved - MLB - ESPN
  3. ^ "Time to shine:Rays introduce new name, new icon, new team colors and new uniforms". MLB.com. November 8, 2007. Retrieved October 7, 2008. 
  4. ^ Devil Rays were contraction targets, MLB official testifies - Tampa Bay Business Journal
  5. ^ Rays-Red Sox: Bad Blood
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ HOW ABOUT PANTHERS?, Orlando Sentinel
  8. ^ Local Fans Give Huizenga 113,000 Votes Of Confidence, Sun-Sentinel
  9. ^ Panthers Unveil Uniforms, Logo, Sun-Sentinel
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  13. ^ Shelton, Gary (April 11, 2006). "Something old is new again". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved June 27, 2007. 
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  16. ^ "Series will be first regular-season games in Orlando". Associated Press. December 14, 2006. Retrieved June 18, 2007. 
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  50. ^ a b Call It Down And Dirty | TBO.com
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  54. ^ Rays: Fans as scarce as wins
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  73. ^ "Rich Herrera" 98.7 The Fan http://tampa.cbslocal.com/2012/08/02/rich-herrera-the-fan-cbs/
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  75. ^ Long Rays Forecast: FSN Florida Signs 8-Year Extension with Tampa Bay
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  81. ^ Bank gives Tampa Bay Rays' high-profile heckler a Bronx cheer - St. Petersburg Times
  82. ^ Cork Gaines (April 30, 2012). "The Happy Heckler Is Back!". Rays Index. Retrieved April 30, 2012. 
  83. ^ Needs more cow bell
  84. ^ Virginia Johnson (October 7, 2010). "DJ Kitty is the Tampa Bay Rays best kept secret". Bay News 9. Retrieved October 7, 2010. 
  85. ^ The Official Site of The Tampa Bay Rays: News: Notes: Gomes enjoys Wrestling Night
  86. ^ The Official Site of The Tampa Bay Rays: News: 'Wrestling Night' returns to The Trop
  87. ^ Maddon uses 9=8 slogan to motivate
  88. ^ Rays clinch club's first playoff spot
  89. ^ New slogan: '09 > '08
  90. ^ Marc Topkin (February 26, 2010). "Season slogan: WIN". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  91. ^ John Romano (May 7, 2010). "Rays' mantra: GTMI". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved June 22, 2010. 

External links[edit]