My wife and I made the mistake of going shopping this past Saturday. After meandering past all the discount Halloween candy, we ran smack dab into Christmas. On November 4th. So apparently, ‘tis the season to start holiday shopping lists!
If you are like me, you have some older Rays gear. I still wear my J.P. Howell jersey regularly. My wife — like most Tampa Bay folks — has a Longoria. Do you know what we don’t have? Any gear from a player currently on the club. Probably because the last time the Rays made the playoffs, the only current Ray on the roster was Kevin Kiermaier, who made a cameo for the 2013 club as a defensive replacement. Heck, turn the calendar back just two years to 2016, and you still only find KK on the Opening Day roster, with Blake Snell and Matt Duffy making their Ray debuts (Ray-buts?) during the season.
So no matter how big a fan you are, with all new faces, you could probably use some new swag. And with how fun this current 90-win crop is, you’ve got a lot to choose from. It can be overwhelming! Where to start??? Lucky for you, we here at DRB have some suggestions. And there’s even a quiz at the end!
Top of the rotation
At the start of 2018, Chris Archer was still the nominal ace of the staff and probably featured prominently in many Rays’ fans closets. But even before Archer’s trade to Pittsburgh, Blake Snell had supplanted the Fluoride Phantom as the best pitcher on the staff.
In fact, Snell was well on his way to establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in the whole dang game, putting together a Cy Young-worthy season. As such, he is definitely worth holding down a place in your shirsy collection.
Face of the Franchise
By the time the Rays traded Evan Longoria, it arguably left a bigger marketing hole than it did a production hole for the team to fill. But it was still a real hole since no player has meant more to the franchise than #3.
Luckily, the Rays have been grooming their fleet footed defensive whiz, centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier, to be the next FOF for a while.
Unfortunately, he didn’t exactly have a great 2018. Captain Platinum Glove still played his usual great defense, but he struggled with the stick and suffered another injury that required a lengthy DL stint. So there is some risk here. But maybe it’s time to buy low on KK gear?
Time was, nobody who wasn’t a total doofus (like me) got swag for a reliever unless that player was somebody who racked up saves. Could the Rays, with their innovative approach to handing pitchers as well as their assortment of charismatic firemen with fun and funky pitches, not to mention glorious hair, change all that?
Stanek’s hair is gloriously lucious pic.twitter.com/9f0Z2nm1qy— World Sleevies MVPearce (@Lesley_NOPE) June 12, 2018
So if you’re the kind of person who colors outside the lines, maybe a Bullpen Day shirt is for you?
YOU: "You can't wear jerseys for dudes who pitch 2 innings in a bullpen day!"— DFlaysBay (@draysbay) May 21, 2018
ME, AN INTELLECTUAL: pic.twitter.com/zL6Ojdm1MQ
Hey, remember when people said the Tampa Bay farm system couldn’t produce bats? And for good reason, since the last good one to come up through the ranks was Desmond Jennings.
And before Jennings, you probably have to go back to Chuck LaMar administration. It was a valid critique.
But no more. With the bromance/buddy comedy of Willy Adames-Jake Bauers leading the way, Tampa Bay is loaded with young guns. And sure, lots of them got here via trade, some like Austin Meadows very recently. But Brandon Lowe is homegrown. So is Nick Ciuffo. Adames and Bauers were teenagers when they were acquired and did most of their growing in the Rays org. And a huge chunk of the loaded farm, from Jesus Sanchez to Wander Franco and all the Lowes in between, were drafted by Tampa Bay.
DRB Magic 8Ball says that you should look good in a Willy Adames #1 for a very long time.
The shopping guide would not be complete without the incomparable Joseph Patrick Wendle. It’s hard to remember a time when the King of Grit was not in our lives, but the truth is, it hasn’t even been a full calendar year since he was
acquired stolen from the A’s for Jonah Heim. He has been hustling his way deeper into our hearts ever since.
You simply cannot go wrong with an #18 Wendle.
But wait! There’s more!
We could go on and on, because there just so many fun players on this club. So we should probably just go right to the quiz, or we’ll be here all day.