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Life Without Longoria...For Now

May 20, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) in the dugout against the Atlanta Braves at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
May 20, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) in the dugout against the Atlanta Braves at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

By now you've surely heard the news: Evan Longoria's rehab assignment in Durham is "suspended indefinitely" after Longoria deliberately removed himself from the game last night. He felt something in his injured hamstring and wanted to make sure he didn't play over it and make anything worse, so he will meet the Rays in D.C. and take things from there. There's no exact word on when Longoria will begin rehabbing again, or when he'll be able to rejoin the Rays. He'll need to get re-evaluated before any sort of conclusions can be drawn.

I don't think I've ever hated a muscle before, but this might be the closest I've come. I used to have a vendetta against the iliotibial band, as I injured that during a high school soccer game and missed out an entire season (my one shot at Varsity, *sigh*), but I've since redirected my anger from the muscle itself to the trainer*. But what sort of name is "hamstring"? If a muscle is going to insist on handicapping our best player, couldn't it have a slightly less goofy name? Where exactly does it think it gets off?

*Seriously, do high school trainers know any sort of treatment besides "ice and stretch"? They misdiagnosed me all season long, making me think I was some sort of wimp for not playing, and only later do I find out what I had actually hurt. But no, I'm not bitter. Serenity now.

This is the part of the post where I'm supposed to assuage fears, dampen the freak-out, and generally remind everyone that the sky isn't falling. Longoria isn't dead; he's just going to miss a few more weeks than expected. Considering he removed himself from the game, it seems likely that he'll be reevaluated and will be able to return in a relatively short period of time -- certainly quicker than another 4-6 weeks (I hope I hope I hope). This is a bump in the road, and a rather disappointing one considering how careful the Rays had been with Longoria -- but it's not the end of the world or of the Rays' season. Remember, there are two Wild Card teams this season, and mid-July is still a heck of a long time from the end of the season.

But for a brief second, I want to give us permission to think horrible thoughts. What would happen if this was it? What if Longo's career spiraled down into an Eric-Chavez-like plot? Or what if -- worst of the worst of the worst -- Longoria came down with a case of the Miami Zombie syndrome and his career was over? What then?

Know what? The Rays would be okay.

First of all, let me stress that I am not trying to make light of Longoria's contributions to the Rays. He's an absolutely essential player for them, both offensively and defensively, and there's a reason the Rays have gone 22-21 since he was injured. It'd be a huge loss to any team to lose a +7 win player, nonetheless a team like the Rays that relies so much on quality defense, struggles to acquire offensive thump, and has to work within a constrained budget. Simply put, the Rays would not be a perennial top talent in the AL East if not for Evan Longoria.

But if the Rays are around a 92-win team with Longoria -- and I think you can make the argument they are at least that -- then they're still an 86-88 win team without him. And if you thought the Rays were more like an 88-90 win team, we'd still expect them to be better than .500 without Longoria. Neither of those scenarios may sound all that exciting, but it's worth remembering that there's another Wild Card slot in play going forward. An 88 win team may not be enough to win the AL East, but it's certainly good enough to make a run at the playoffs -- and with a bit of luck like last season, sneak on in.

What I'm trying to show is that even without Evan Longoria, the Rays have a roster that's good enough to be a competitive team and be in the playoff race on a yearly basis. They won't be elite without Evan, and even attempting to reach that level would be difficult, but how many small-market teams get to put together rosters as competitive as the Rays do on a yearly basis? Relatively speaking, we're spoiled.

And all this is without even considering the Rays minor league system. While lacking in big time, sure fire prospects, their system is incredibly deep at the moment and they have lots of pitching to use as trade chips. Chris Archer is finding his groove, Alex Cobb is proving all the doubters wrong, and the Rays still haven't dealt with the Jeff Niemann / Wade Davis thing. If this club ends up needing offense going forward, they're in a good position to acquire it.

Evan Longoria is amazing and wonderful and gorgeous and the source of umpteen man-crushes, but he does not carry the fate of this entire franchise on his shoulders. His contract is such that it won't hinder the front office or prevent them from being flexible, and although you simply can't replace his talent, the Rays still have a strong squad and a bitchin' front office. There are worse positions to be in.

So take a deep breath. Relax a bit. Things are going to be okay. We'll hopefully find out soon exactly how long Longoria will be out, and in the meantime, say it with me: Serenity now. Serenity now. Serenity now.