Over the next week, we'll be putting together a series of posts about past (Devil) Ray All-Stars. Considering the Rays have such a spotted history of All-Stars, it should hopefully be a somewhat humorous walk down memory lane. And afterward, we'll be introducing our next ticket giveaway!
The rule that requires every team in baseball to be represented in baseball drives fans crazy every year and 2003 was no different when Lance Carter made his way onto the all-star team as Mike Scioscia chose the Devil Rays' closer for the role. Aubrey Huff seemed to be a clear choice as he was hitting .304/.361/.539 in the first half of the season with 17 home runs and 50 runs driven in but Huff lost out to a red hot Melvin Mora as well as Jason Giambi who had nearly identical numbers to Huff when Scioscia had to replace two players due to injury.
The selection of Carter was a curious one given the fact Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Brendan Donnelly, Eddie Guardado, Mike MacDougal, and Keith Foulke were already on the roster as relievers. Scioscia never used Carter in the game so Devil Rays fans that were glued to their television sets that night only got to see Carter tip his cap to some polite applause from the fans at U.S. Cellular Field that evening.
Choosing the closer for a team that was 32-60 in the first half of the season was strange, especially when Carter was far from the best pitcher on the team. He had 15 saves, a 4.05 ERA, and struck out just 30 batters in 47 innings of work. If it was relief that Scioscia was looking for, Travis Harper was having a much better first half with less hits than innings pitched and a 46 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio in 60.2 innings of work. Then again, Scioscia might have been worried about Harper's arm falling off with Harper throwing that many innings, all in relief, in the first half of the season.
Lance Carter got his moment in the sun as he became one of the more unworthiest All-Stars in recent memory who serves as Exhibit A or B for ending the mandatory team participation rule in the sport. Carter had 29 saves in his career and 26 came in that 2003 season in which he ended the season with a 4.33 ERA, seven wins, and allowing 12 home runs in just 79 innings of work. He relinquished the closer role to free agent Danys Baez after that season and those two were paired together in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought the Devil Rays Chuck Tiffany and Edwin Jackson before the start of the 2006 season.