Who among the young franchise's players deserve this special honor?
MLB Mt. Rushmores
by Charlie Miller
The question was posed earlier this season whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore. That certainly piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. But it isn't as easy as it sounds. Let the arguments begin.
Tampa Bay Rays Mt. Rushmore
The Devil Rays spent nine of their first 10 years of existence languishing in last place, with seemingly no hope of competing with the heavyweights in New York and Boston. Then came a minor name change from Devil Rays to just Rays, and a major cultural change under manager Joe Maddon. The team wore shirts that said 9+9=8. Their motivation was that nine guys playing hard for nine innings equals one of eight teams playing in the postseason. Certainly a key to their success was that during the years spent in last place, the team was spending more than the big market teams on draft picks and player development. That strategy paid off, and the Rays are now going head-to-head with wealthier teams in the AL East.
There can absolutely be no argument here. The only category among the franchise’s all-time list that I could find without Crawford’s name at the top was home runs, and he is fourth in team history with 104. The team’s first real star, Crawford made four All-Star teams and stole 409 bases. From 2003 (the year he became a full-time starter) to 2010, he averaged .299 with 13 homers, 70 RBIs, 50 stolen bases, 93 runs and 12 triples. The fans’ warm reception upon his return to Tropicana Field this season in a Red Sox uniform spoke volumes to his popularity.
The popular third baseman is fifth on the team’s all-time list in runs and hits, and fourth in total bases and RBIs. He is currently the face of the franchise and under contract through 2013 with team options through 2016. I can’t imagine the team not picking those up. He has seven postseason home runs in 21 games.
The innovative manager is responsible for all the good seasons in team history. In his six seasons at the helm, he’s guided the Rays to their only four winning seasons, two division titles and an AL Pennant. He was recently voted the manager players would most like to play for in an SI poll of 291 major leaguers.
In 2005, at the age of 28, Friedman was promoted from his position in player development to general manager. Under his leadership, the franchise saw its first success in 2008.
Close Calls James Shields' 70 wins, six shutouts and 16 complete games are tops on the team’s all-time lists.
The former No. 2 overall draft pick may not be in a Rays’ uniform much longer, but B.J. Upton has been a fixture in centerfield since 2007 and was a key player in the Rays’ AL Championship in 2008.
Lefty David Price has the best ERA in team history (min. 500 IP) and is already third in wins with 41. And he was that 23-year-old on the mound when the Rays clinched the AL pennant in 2008.
Aubrey Huff is second or third on most of the franchise’s all-time lists.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com