I am back on MLBlogs for my first offseason update regarding the Rays. As the title of the post states, while the Rays failed to acquire Matt Holliday, they captured a mantle full of hardware.
Carlos Pena’s defense was given its due recognition as he won his first Gold Glove Award at first base. Seeing as he lead the American League with a .998 fielding percentage at his position, worked in sync with his infielders by catching throws at all different angles and served as a motivational leader to them and his pitchers, he really earned this distinction. He takes pride in defense, which is often undervalued at first base. I can’t recall how many times I saw him reach low to the ground to grab throws from across the diamond and save runs. Congratulations, Carlos hopefully this is the beginning of a streak.
Evan Longoria won the award he only had one chance to capture, and did so unanimously. He became the first unanimous Rookie of the Year since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997, one year before Tampa Bay’s team first played. Hitting .272 with 27 home runs despite spending two weeks in AAA and over a month out injured, he banked on his opportunity in every possible way. He was a defensive wizard with an explosive bat who earned a longterm contract after only two months, and an All Star Game appearance after three months. Without his contributions, there was no way the Rays would have won their division. By the way, Alexei Ramirez finished in second place and Jacoby Ellsbury third, albeit distantly.
Finally, Joe Maddon was given the Manager of the Year Award by the biggest landslide ever seen in that award’s voting. Had one voter not cast a first place vote for easy runner up Ron Gardenhire, it would have been unanimous. Maddon, who recently got married, also won the Chuck Tanner MLB Manager of the Year Award in its second year of existence. This was an obvious choice on so many levels. Maddon is a teacher of the game who excels with young players. He can even find ways to teach lessons the hard way (just ask B.J. Upton). He is also a methodical philosopher of a manager, motivating his team through innovative catchphrases and positive attitude. Joe finally did prove once and for all that, given the right team, his style works. It brought a perennial doormat in the Tampa Bay Rays all the way to the World Series. And to think, I predicted the team would fire this guy in 2007. There’s something I’m thankful to have called incorrectly.
I’ll be back with more insight and analysis when more offseason moves have been made. Right now, the only news is about the declining of Cliff Floyd and Trever Miller’s options for 2009. Miller may or may not return pending the search for a replacement, and Floyd may very well retire. He should go into coaching. Until next time, go American League Champion Rays.