On December 13th, 1999 the Tampa Bay Devil Rays made a seemingly giant move by acquiring two of the 90's best sluggers. Those two sluggers were Greg Vaughn and Vinny Castilla, who'd be joining a lineup that featured Jose Canseco who was on possibly a record setting pace before going down with an injury and the always consistent, Fred McGriff.
After two initial disapointing seasons, Devil Rays general manger, Chuck LaMar, decided that he needed to go out and get some big names that would potentially draw fans to the stadium and also produce victories. They wouldn't...
Vinny Castilla opened the 2000 season on the DL with a strained oblique. He then missed three weeks in June and also the month of August with a lower back inflammation. The time he wasn't on the DL, he struggled at the plate.
Castilla spent a season and a half with Tampa Bay and only was able to club 8 HR during that time. One of those homeruns, however, will forever be known as the first one to have landed in the TBT Party Deck at Tropicana Field, and also the furthest HR in team history at 478 ft.
After a disappointing start in his 2nd season, Castilla was released in May. The reason that Vinny Castilla's name brings hatred to many Rays fans is because after he was released, Castilla saw a career resurgence as he immediately rebounded in Houston, then in Atlanta.
In 2013, a decade after the Hit Show's last member was released from the team, the Colorado Rockies, whom Castilla spent the majority of his career with, decided to schedule a Vinny Castilla bobble head promotion (possibly a coincidence) on the day that Tampa Bay would be playing a game at Coors Field. Castilla is also currently serving in the Rockies front office.
Rays Stat Line - Hit .219/.253/.316 with 8 HR, 51 RBI, and -0.6 WAR in 109 games
MLB Stat Line - Hit .276/.321/.476 with 320 HR, 1,105 RBI and 19.3 WAR in 1,854 games
The Devil Rays signed Jose Canseco during the '98-'99 offseason with the hopes that he would provide some right-hander power to compliment McGriff's left-handed bat. It did, but only for half that season.
He arrived with a bang as hit homered in his first game and had 10 in April. When the All-Star break came around, he already had 31, which ranked among the league leaders and he also joined Roberto Hernandez as the Devil Rays' All-Stars. Unfortunately, he'd go down with injury that would hamper his final years.
When the 'Hit Show' team formed, Canseco had an injury plagued season and was the first casualty of the foursome as was placed on waivers in August and eventually claimed by the Yankees.
A few years later, when Canseco's 'Tell-All' book came out, he called out several teammates from his days in St. Petersburg, claiming that they had used steroids, forever tarnishing those players.
Rays Stat Line - Hit .272/.373/.525 with 43 HR, 125 RBI, and 3.6 WAR in 174 games
MLB Stat Line - Hit .266/.353/.515 with 462 HR, 1,407 RBI and 45.3 WAR in 1,887 games
Fred McGriff is an impossible player to hate. The Devil Rays signed the Tampa native prior to their inaugural season in 1998. Once the season started, McGriff was one of the only players worth watching, despite having an off year.
McGriff was obviously past his prime and his production was bound to slip, but it did so slowly as he had a solid year in 1999 in which had 30+ homeruns. In 2000, he was able to play in 158 games which was the most on the team and he had possibly the best offensive year on the team.
In 2001, after the Devil rays front office had known that the 'Hit Show' experiment had been a catastrophe, they decided to blow the team up and trade away their veterans for younger cheaper players. Around the trade deadline, Tampa Bay sent McGriff to the Cubs for Jason Smith and Manny Aybar, both players wouldn't do much with the Rays but McGriff would have two decent years with Chicago, before injuries finally ended his career.
Rays Stat Line - Hit .291/.380/.484 with 99 HR, 359 RBI, and 9.0 WAR in 577 games
MLB Stat Line - Hit .284/.377/.509 with 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, and 52.4 WAR in 2,460 games
The Devil Rays signed Vaughn just a few hours after acquiring Castilla. Vaughn had a agreed to a 4 year deal worth around $32 million, which is still one of the largest contracts that the team has given out. During the length of the contact, Vaughn was probably the most productive of any of the 'Hit Show' members, but unfortunately the bar wasn't set very high.
In 2000, Vaughn narrowly beat out Fred McGriff for the team lead in homeruns, with 28, and played in thirty less games. But, his production had fallen off as had consecutive 40+ HR seasons in '98 and '99.
In 2001, Vaughn's production fell off just a little bit more but he was named the team's lone allstar on a team that probably didn't deserve one.
When 2002 came around, Vaughn was all that remained of the 'Hit Show' as the other members had been put out to pasture. Perhaps, an exclamation point on how terrible the moves were, the 2002 season for Tampa Bay was among the worst in history and Vaughn was a big part of it. He only played in 69 games, but slashed .163/.286/.315 with 8 HR and 29 RBI.
The Devil Rays mercifully decided to end Vaughn's time with the team as spring training was coming to a close in 2003. Vaughn would try to have a similar resurgence like Castilla did with Colorado, but his attempt was less fruitful and he retired at the end of the year.
Rays Stat Line - Hit .226/.335/.434 with 60 HR, 185 RBI, and 5.3 WAR in 332 games
MLB Stat Line - Hit .242/.337/.470 with 355 HR, 1,072 RBI and 30.7 WAR in 1,731 games
At the end of the day, the Hit Show may not remembered for the offensive prowess it was expected to be, but at least we will always have that catchy jingle.