After watching the Rays lose all three games to the World Champion Royals, analyst Brian Anderson spoke for many Rays fans and ripped the team's lack of effort. Anderson said, "It comes down to leadership and I'm quite frankly not sure that the Rays have any."
This prompted a flurry of quotes from manager Kevin Cash and other sources. Cash reminded everyone he's the leader of the team. Evan Longoria came to his manager's defense. Tampa Bay Times beat writer Marc Topkin quoted Longoria calling Kevin Cash a 'tremendous" leader in an article in yesterday's edition.
Longoria also said to Topkin that whatever caused the recent slump, "It's not for lack of leadership. It's not because guys aren't getting on guys or guys aren't pointing out mistakes. Everybody knows what a mistake looks like. Those things don't need to be pointed out. Sometimes I think it does more harm than good, especially when a team is going bad."
That quote exemplifies the type of leadership Longoria provides his team. He's letting everyone know that they're all in this together and to trust the manager and each other.
Since Kevin Kiermaier was lost to an injury on May 21, Longoria has also been providing leadership in the field. Since that injury to the Rays' sparkplug, Longoria has been arguably the team's most productive hitter. Here's Longoria's stats over the 14 games since the injury:
While those are impressive enough, over the last three games, when the leadership controversy erupted, Longoria has gone 5 for 12 with 2 homers and 4 RBI, for a .417 batting average, and a 1.417 OPS.
Longo has acted like a team leader both on and off the field. If the Rays pull out of their slump over the next couple of weeks and get back in the race for the wild card, they may look back on this week and Longoria's leadership as the key to the season.
Tonight, Longoria will bat from the all important two-hole in the line up. Rightfully so.