Just before gametime on Friday night, the Rays announced that they had traded Denard Span, Alex Colome, and cash for (checks notes) uh, some guys I’ve never heard of. And like a lot of you, you could have just about knocked me over with a feather.
There has never been a player I was more primed to hate than Denard Span. I mean, this was our introduction to him:
Source: Giants get Evan Longoria for Christian Arroyo, Denard Span, Matt Krook and Stephen Woods.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 20, 2017
The Face of the Franchise for ... I’m sorry, Denard Span??? Are you kidding me???
This caused quite the existential crisis for our little blog. And, no, that wasn’t fair to Span. Not one little bit. But it was real. Denard Span, a Tampa guy who put up over 25 WAR during a solid 10 year career, deserved a homecoming in the local kid does good tradition. Instead, for a lot of us, he was the guy who replaced The Guy.
That ain’t right, man.
But I was still prepared to hate him, regardless of whether it was fair or not, because those are the rules of sports. There is no logic between the lines.
But then Opening Day happened.
You remember Opening Day, right? All the tenuous good will built up over spring training was dashed when we found out Nathan Eovaldi was going on the disabled list with “loose bodies.” This after prized prospect Brent Honeywell had Tommy John surgery earlier in the spring. And now all of a sudden, the Rays are talking some crazy three man rotation nonsense, and the club was “a disgrace.” For the happiest day of the year, it was a real bummer!
And then, right out of the gate with the Red Sox in town, Span and Kevin Kiermaier nearly collide and give up an inside the park homer. It’s just embarrassing.
Eduardo Nunez gets #OpeningDay rolling for the #RedSox with an Inside The Park Home Run! pic.twitter.com/UzEqGnZLL1— NESN (@NESN) March 29, 2018
So the Rays entered the bottom of the eighth on Opening Day down 4-0, and it looks like they might never score. Not just in this game, but, like, ever. Yet somehow, thanks to wildness and ineffectiveness from the Sox pen, they somehow pulled to within two. That brought arch-villain Denard Span to the plate:
What a first hit as a Ray!! Denard Span spanks a 3-run triple in the bottom of the eighth to give the @RaysBaseball their first lead on #OpeningDay. Watch all of the action live now on FOX Sports Sun! #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/QT2MbKqMlJ— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) March 29, 2018
Hometown kid makes good indeed. Oh, did I mention this was the first time his son got to see him play?
And if that wasn’t enough, this is him taliking about it after the game. “If I could have cried, I would have cried. But I was running.”
Dammit, Denard. Man. You had me at the triple, dude.
There were other great Span moments. So many that it’s hard to believe he’s only been here a couple months.
There were great catches:
Denard Span had a big game for @RaysBaseball, including this catch up against the Green Monster in the loss to the Red Sox. #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/qC6Fhw8ynM— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 29, 2018
and great almost catches.
What are you doing @RaysRaymond?!? pic.twitter.com/Aasc441zY6— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 25, 2018
There were clutch hits:
Denard Span rips one down the right-field line, bringing in two runs and tying things up in the sixth inning! Watch the @RaysBaseball take on the Yankees live on FOX Sports Sun or FOX Sports Go! #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/hQphjuRHyW— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 3, 2018
The @RaysBaseball wanted some offense, so Denard Span led off today's game with his first HR with the team! Watch the series finale against the Phillies live now on FOX Sports Sun and FOX Sports Go! #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/a6Wmh07N7s— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 15, 2018
Don't stop running!— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 28, 2018
Denard Span with an inside-the-park HR at Fenway! (via @MLB) pic.twitter.com/5kTyuXLy1Q
And oh so much joy.
When you've got that winning feeling!!!! #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/xLPxrcjAvS— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 21, 2018
So what I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry, Denard. I’m sorry for all the nasty things I said about you under my breath and even out loud when you first were announced. You were a fun player, and a real class act.
More importantly, you reminded me that there is always room in even the hardest of hearts for good, fun ball players. Thank you for that. Good luck in Seattle, and everywhere you go after that. You deserve it.
Take good care of him, Lookout Landing. He’s a keeper.