Today, in honor of spring being just around the corner, I decided to catch some rays .... Tampa Bay Rays that is ... for this installment of "Around the Horn". This will also be short compared to the others as I don't have that many Rays cards to share.
The then Devil Rays first started play in 1998 as the first American League expansion team since 1977 when Seattle and Toronto were added to the league. The 1998 team wasn't anything to write home about, going 63-99 under manager Larry Rothschild. That first roster had a unique make-up of older veterans, like Fred McGriff, Jerome Walton, and Dave Martinez plus younger players like Miguel Cairo, Randy Winn, and Esteban Yan.
Perhaps one of the biggest coups that the Rays pulled off before their debut season was signing Wade Boggs as a free agent in December of 1997. Boggs would spend the final two years of his career with the Devil Rays primarily playing third base and doing DH duties. He also got his 3,000th career hit in a Devil Rays uniform. Most of these cards came from repacks and other miscellaneous stuff. Cards of Boggs as a Devil Ray never get old.
After the first two seasons being nothing to write home about, the Devil Rays went out and acquired some heavy sluggers like Jose Canseso in 1999 (where it was his last all-star season) and Greg Vaughn and Vinny Castilla in 2000 to compliment Fred McGriff, who was part of the original 1998 team.
By 2005, the Devil Rays went through three managers (Larry Rothschild, Hal McRae, and Lou Piniella) and never finished higher than 4th. In 2006, they took a gamble and hired Joe Maddon as the manager. In 2008, they rebranded themselves as just the Tampa Bay Rays and with a team that included Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, and Carl Crawford plus pitching from James Shields, Edwin Jackson, and Matt Garza, they Rays shocked everyone and made it to the World Series, losing to the Phillies in 5 games.
Despite the Rays never existing in the 70s, you have to admit these are sweet throwback uniforms that they put together.
It's fascinating to look back and see just who passed through Tampa Bay. When digging out cards for this, I honestly forgot Johnny Damon donned a Tampa Bay uniform at one time.
To close things out, here's a few newer cards. The 1960 style cards from Archives a few years ago are just super cool. I really hope Archives has a good return to form this year, I thought it was a bust last year.
And that's all the Rays cards I wanted to feature. See, I said this would be short.
Only six teams left in the American League ... next up in the series is the Boston Red Sox.