Last night Evan Longoria tied Carl Crawford with his 1,235th career game played for the Tampa Bay Rays. This afternoon Longoria will break the tie. Among Longoria’s career accomplishments: he is the team leader in doubles (292), homeruns (232), and RBI (780).
On April 12, 2008 the Rays placed Willy Aybar on the disabled list and called up top prospect Evan Longoria, who had entered the 2008 season ranked #2 by Baseball America and #3 by Baseball Prospectus. He made his debut just one full season removed from being the number three overall pick in the 2006 MLB draft.
One player can not change a franchise, but if you could make the case for anybody it would be Evan Longoria. His call-up is associated with the Rays transition from the hapless Devil Rays to an AL East contender. Before 2008 the Rays had never won 70 games and now a season hovering around .500 is a disappointment. He can’t be credited with this entire transformation, but he surely has been a big part of it.
Evan Longoria made an impact from the moment he was added to the roster, as he hit .272/.343/.521 and put up a 128 wRC+ that led to a 5.6 fWAR season over 508 plate appearances. He won the Rookie of the Year award, was named to the all-star team, and was 11th in AL MVP voting.
During his time with the Rays he has been further recognized for his accomplishments. He’s finished in the top ten in AL MVP voting three times (sixth in both 2010 and 2013). He has been named to the all-star team three times (2008-2010), has won two Gold Gloves (2009, 2010), and the 2009 Silver Slugger award.
There are many moments that could be used to define his career to this point, but his walk off homer in Game 162 stands alone in Rays history, especially as it capped off a comeback he started with a three-run homer earlier in the game. I still get goosebumps whenever I see replays of the homer just clearing the Crawford cutout in left field. The moment ended one of the greatest nights in not only Rays history but MLB history.
Longoria has had a rebound season, hitting .292/.343/.549 and putting up a 138 wRC+. If the season ended today his batting average would be his second highest and his slugging percentage would be the highest of his career. His 27 homers with six weeks still to go put his career high of 33 within reach.
Let’s take a moment today to celebrate the career of the best player to play for the Rays franchise. In his nine seasons with the Rays he has batted .273/.343/.492 and put up a 128 wRC+. He’s played gold glove caliber defense. His 47.5 fWAR puts him on the path that, should he age gracefully, could make him first player to enter Cooperstown as a Tampa Bay Ray.