When the Rays traded Evan Longoria in late December, had far-reaching implications for the club. For the team, it suggested the launch of a rebuilding phase. For Longoria, it meant the first time he’d be playing professional baseball for any team other than the Rays.
For the fans, it meant the loss of our long-time “Face of the Franchise” and the search for the face that would replace him.
What, some of you might be asking, is a “Face of the Franchise?” It’s a term which is almost is indefinable as any you’ll find in baseball. It’s one of those “you’ll know it when you see it” type phrases that leaves plenty of room for interpretation and debate.
And debate we will! Even within our DRB staff we differ on the who gets to be the next “face.” Let’s follow along as Darby Robinson and Jim Turvey fight it out.
Jim Turvey: With Longoria out of the picture in Tampa Bay :( the role of Face of the Franchise is ripe for the picking. Now I am not trying to imply that every franchise needs a “face”. Looking around the league right now, there are numerous franchises without a FotF. When determining a FotF, we don’t want to look desperate, say, calling Wil Myers the FotF in San Diego, and thus diluting the meaning of this honor.
That being said, I think the Rays have two excellent in-house candidates for Rays FotF on their roster right now: Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier.
Interestingly enough, their cases for FotF are rather different.
In my mind, there are seven criteria that a FotF needs to check off before he (or she in other sports) can grab the title:
- Top-three player on the roster, or a peak of best player on this same franchise within his career.
- Charismatic both on and off the field. Good sense of humor, charitable personality, etc.
- Tie to the city in which the franchise is located. Can either come from the player being raised in or near the city (or being a fan of the team as a kid), or by embracing his role within the city with gusto upon his arrival.
- Being handsome.
- Playing an important position on the diamond.
- Being a natural leader. This ties in with charismatic, but it is its own category, because of its added importance.
- Being really handsome (Yes I know. Don’t hate me for being superficial. It’s the Face of the Franchise, after all.)
Let’s see which of these Archer checks off.
Is he a top-three Ray? Archer has been among the top three Rays in fWAR each of the past three seasons, including leading the team in 2017 - easy checkmark.
Is Archer charismatic? Oh, I don’t know, let’s check with Orbit, the Astros mascot:
Easy check mark.
Is Archer tied to the city? This one is a bit murkier. He wasn’t born in Florida, and he actually wasn’t even drafted by the Rays. Now, he has set up the Archway Foundation, an excellent charity which DRaysBay has covered in the past, but it focuses more in the North Carolina region where he grew up. Admirable, but not necessarily a Tampa-specific tie-in. No check mark. [Ed. note: DRB staff living in the Tampa Bay area maintain that Archer is pretty engaged here, for example his recent participation in Seminole Heights Halloween events:]
Mayor Buckhorn, Titus O'neil, Chris Archer and J.T. Brown handed put candy at Giddens Park in Seminole Heights. pic.twitter.com/3DP7zpPR7z— Jonathan Capriel (@JonathanCapriel) October 31, 2017
Is he handsome? I think so. But I also don’t think he is really handsome. We’re veering quickly into an extremely judgy realm, so let’s just note that we’ll give him the first check mark while noting that he misses out on the “Being really handsome” check mark. Sorry, Chris!
Playing an important position on the diamond? Check.
Being a natural leader? This is an easy check mark as well. Archer is one of those guys who isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind and will have his teammates back no matter what. He’s an incredibly smart and relatable teammate, and the aforementioned charity work certainly plays into this category here. Definitive check mark.
So that gives Archer five out of seven checks. Let’s go over to Kiermaier.
Is he a top three player on his team? KK was in the top four in WAR each of the past four seasons, including top three in all but last season. He’s easily a top three Ray right now.
Is he charismatic? This, again, is a rather touchy answer, but I’m not sure from my outside-the-locker-room perspective that I know that he is. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but to the average fan, it’s just not seen. (That’s totally fine, some players are just more private.) That being said, the FotF is the type of player who is indeed outgoing with their charisma. Like Archer is. I think this is not a check mark for KK just yet.
Connection to the city? This is another category where I think KK could potentially blossom with Longoria leaving a void in the Rays organization, but I just haven’t seen many Tampa-specific stories surrounding KK as of now. No check mark.
Is he handsome/really handsome? Yes. Oh god, yes. Easily two check marks for KK right there.
Does he play an important position on the diamond? He does indeed! Another check mark right there.
Is he a natural leader? So, coming into this category, KK is at four checks. Archer had five. And I think this category is the tiebreaker for now. While I truly believe that KK will grow into a leadership role with Longoria in San Francisco, as of now, I think Archer is the more natural Rays leader, and it’s why I think he’s the FotF as of right now. Both are excellent options for any team’s FotF, but I’m going with Chris Archer as the Rays Face of the Franchise right now.
Darby Robinson: The Rays next window is just opening. We are at an exciting time in a franchise, where all the world of possibility and promise lies just beyond the horizon. Sure, we have some talented vets leading the team right now, just like we had going into the 2008 season. Just like that 2008 season, it cannot be about the past, but about the young guys who will be at the forefront of the Rays future.
As Jim noted, there are so many things that could go into something as subjective as “Face of the Franchise.” For me, I need just three factors:
Taking the mantle of face of the Rays, excelling at all three of my very non-scientific factors, I give you.... Willy Adames and Brent Honeywell.
This is the easy one. Willy Adames and Brent Honeywell are two of the most exciting, talented, and heralded prospects in the entire sport. Both have taken up long-term leases on the prospect top 100 lists, with Honeywell sitting at 14th and Adames at 19th on the current Baseball America top 100 prospects list.
Willy Adames has consistently impressed scouts with his glovework, and brings enough lumber to the yard to get those eyebrows raised. Last year, in his first season at the Triple-A level, the 21-year-old Adames more than held his own. Adames slashed .277/.360/.415 with a 119 wRC+, adding 10 HRs and 11 SB. That 119 wRC+ happens to be his lowest so far. This kid can HIT.
Brent Honeywell brought butts into seats to see the mythical screwball, but people stayed to watch the multitude of plus pitches the wild haired Honeywell brings to the mound. Honeywell handled the promotion to Triple-A just nicely, keeping his stellar K rate in the high 20s, and his BB rate below 6%. Honeywell also got his chance to show off in the MLB All Star Futures game, starting the game for the USA side and becoming the first pitcher to win MVP honors.
These are two players who play at premium positions, who are going to have a lot of pressure on their shoulders to be the next Longoria and Price. So, why not throw the FotF pressure on top of that too?
Let’s just face it: we are an image-based culture. We may not be trying to sell jeans, but Face of the Rays can’t be Moe Szyslak levels of pug fugly either. “Face of the Franchise” needs a good face to be that...face.
Adames and Honeywell both have star power, but definitely in different ways. Willy’s clean cut look contrasts with Brent’s untamable shaggy hair. Adames exudes confidence and joy, seemingly with a permanent smile on his face. Honeywell seems at ease both goofing around with teammates one moment, and the next tearing through a hitter with filthy pitches and a Balfour-esque intensity.
Major League Baseball is always looking for stars to market, and new players to feature. With Adames and Honeywell, the Rays will have two budding superstars who could absolutely take that next step into the spotlight.
You can be a damn talented player, and have the jawline to match, but that natural charisma and engaging personality are essential to being what I would consider a true Face of the Rays.
I’ve heard countless stories about Willy Adames. He is always working hard, constantly improving, and despite his youth he has emerged as a natural leader in the locker room. Adames’ Dominican heritage is certainly a helpful factor as well. The Tampa Bay area has a thriving Latino community, and having a bilingual Latino star as your face is a marketing dream.
Adames and his quiet confidence is in stark contrast to the much brasher and outspoken Honeywell.
Brent Honeywell is going to be known by fans across the league. While Adames might be known as another in a growing crop of uber talented and dynamic shortstops, Honeywell seems destined to be the lightning rod, on and off the field.
Brent Honeywell is a big character. He’s a funny, goofy, unique guy (in all the best ways). He’s a must follow on Twitter, especially when he’s collaborating with the CespedesFamilyBBQ boys. He’s going to bring a level of fun off the field that will be enjoyable if you like him, but be insufferable if you don’t. The mantle of MLB’s Joel Embiid seems within grasp for young Brent.
If you thought Red Sox were mad after Archer’s fistbump, just wait until Honeywell K’s Pedroia with a filthy screwball that screws Dustin into the batters box. And then dunks on them on Twitter the next day.
We made our cases, and now it’s your turn to continue this totally subjective debate! So what say you, DraysBay community? Is the face of the franchise currently here, or is his debut just around the corner? Or are we totally off base, and you have the perfect argument for a dark horse candidate?
What is your call for Rays FotF?
This poll is closed
There isn’t one, Longoria left and I hate everything
There isn’t one yet, but I think Honeywell will be
There isn’t one yet, but I think Adames will be
Other (leave in comments)