There are plenty of reasons to be smiling when you’re standing on a podium as your team lifts a Championship Series trophy, but as the NLCS-winning Arizona Diamondbacks took that stage on Tuesday night, I couldn’t help but notice who might have had the biggest smile of all.
Prior to this season, Evan Longoria had been considering retirement, finding opportunities to start as a third baseman few and far between in the majors. He was already 37, and when the Red Sox won the bidding war for former Dodger Justin Turner, the Diamondbacks seemed like Longoria’s last shot at an MLB starting lineup.
His 16th season in the majors did not turn out to be everything he had surely hoped.
Coming off seasons with a wRC+ of 123 and 116 for the Giants, Longoria put up a scant 92 wRC+ with not much of a split for Arizona. His team won 84 games, and as the playoffs began the calendar turned over to reveal his 38th birthday. In the postseason Longoria found himself still in the batting order — splitting time between 3B and DH, and hitting every day — but batting seventh or eighth.
Longoria was in the lineup for every game of the NLCS, garnering 22 plate appearances with 3 walks, 2 hits (1 double), and 1 RBI. His only other game with runners batted in this postseason was during Arizona’s Game 1 shellacking of the Dodgers in the NLDS, which they won 11-2. Longo had two RBIs.
It’s reasonable to think this season may be the final curtain for an all-time Rays great, who has flirted with a borderline Hall of Fame career, and who has already been immortalized with a bronze statue outside Tropicana Field before he even retired. He was and remains the greatest Tampa Bay Rays player in the franchise’s 25-year history.
Evan Longoria may not make it to Cooperstown — JAWS, which is essentially a best-seven-WAR-seasons metric to gauge HOF contention, expects a score of 55, and that’s Longo’s career total — but he’ll forever live in our hearts.
If this is his victory lap, may he go all the way.
Longo out here living his best life pic.twitter.com/oLEKZJLqPx— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) October 25, 2023