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Wait, these guys were (Devil) Rays?!?

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Between 2010 and 2015, this man was a six-time All Star who led the league in home runs twice and finished in the top ten in MVP voting four times. Yet, when he was busy setting a record for playing for the most major league teams in one season (five), a young Jose Bautista was nearly unrecognizable.

In 2003, Baseball America wrote this about the #7 prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization: “He has a good eye for a young hitter and should develop into a high on-base percentage guy with experience. Bautista is a good defensive third baseman with above-average arm strength and athleticism. To add versatility, he played center field in the Dominican League. Bautista hasn’t been able to translate his bat speed into power yet, though that should come as his body fills out.”

It sure did. And he’s even back playing third base these days, as a 37-year-old Atlanta Brave. The Devil Rays had him for 25 days in the June of 2004, a season in which, get this, he didn’t homer. We’d tell you who else he played for but we might use him for other lists.

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Oh, the (Devil) Rays. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Remember when this team was stacked with young pitching names like David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, and Jeremy Hellickson, and coming off two AL East division wins and a World Series appearance in three years? Can you believe that we’re only talking about 2011? In what would begin a run of three straight seasons of very good but not good enough, ending the Joe Madden era in Tampa, the cheap pocketed Rays made a splash by signing two guys on the end of their storied, controversial careers – the “idiots” Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. Johnny D actually contributed 150 hits to the cause mostly as a 37-year-old DH, while Manny, well…

Isn’t it funny that it’s easier to remember that Manny abruptly quit baseball because of yet ANOTHER positive performance-enhancing drug test, rather than face the suspension, then to remember he was a 39-year-old Tampa Ray at the time? He retired having had one hit in seventeen at bats for that franchise. Manny being Manny, indeed.

Speaking of steroids…

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Another short but sweet stint before fading into retirement, you say, right? Surely, that must be the case because who remembers that Jose Canseco played for the Devil Rays in 1999… AND MADE THE ALL STAR TEAM for the first time in nearly a decade. The 34-year-old revived his plummeting batting average to the tune of .279 for the season, and, well, of course he hit for power, mashing 34 bombs to edge Fred McGriff for team lead. Incredibly, number 30 came as early as July 4, a strong reminder of the steroid era. It was Tampa’s first time in the record book as a franchise, as Canseco hit the 30 mark that day for a record four teams. “Crime Dog” and Wade Boggs might be best remembered as original Rays but Canseco was the splash of Season Two.

And now for a couple of deep cuts, two guys known for making big splashes with their golden arms and then fizzling out over the years with subpar teams… like the Rays…

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Dwight “Doc” Gooden and Hideo Nomo both appeared in the first decade of Rays history, before the youth movement and Joe Madden brought the franchise a reputation of overachieving. In each of their single seasons with Tampa, 2000 and 2005 respectively, the teams won less than 70 games. Gooden was 35 and with his fifth team, Nomo was 36 and with his sixth. Gooden pitched to a 6.63 ERA and Nomo to a 7.24 ERA. Both would go to one more franchise before retiring within a year. Two former Rookies of the Year, two journeymen in Tropicana.

If that’s not the history of the mediocrity of the team in Tampa, I don’t know what is.

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