Who are these guys?
All Major League references aside, it is a valid question when you are looking over the Rays 40-man roster.
I remember my first two decades of being a baseball fan and it was easy to root for teams because they had players that I legitimately liked to follow. The Royals had George Brett and Dan Quisenberry. The Cubs had Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson. The Astros had Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. The Braves had that amazing starting rotation.
These players would be there year after year. In the same uniform. You were guaranteed to see their names in the box score every morning. It was easy to become attached to their teams in some way because of that stability. It was comforting.
Despite their relatively short history as a franchise, the Rays used to have those guys that were legitimate faces of the franchise. The Carl Crawfords and James Shields and Fred McGriffs were those guys. The ones people would check the box scores in the morning just to see how they did. They haven’t really had that since Evan Longoria left.
So who is that face right now?
Sure Kevin Kiermaier looks the part but let’s be honest, if it weren’t for that occasional highlight reel defensive play, would any of the fans remember he was on the team? He literally missed large chunks of time because of injuries the past few seasons and nobody noticed.
Another even more important question is who could actually be the face for four or five seasons down the road?
Because the Rays method of doing business is that everyone becomes expendable. Look at Tommy Pham. Or Jake Bauers. Even Chris Archer. Ji-Man Choi is a fan favorite right now but I guarantee the Rays’ brass wouldn’t hesitate to flip him to a team in desperate need of a lefthanded power bat at the trade deadline.
While these trades usually end up working in the Rays favor from a baseball standpoint, they don’t exactly inspire loyalty among fans, especially for a franchise making constant threats to take the team to Montreal. After all, there’s no point in buying a replica jersey for a player when there is a good chance that it’ll be on the clearance rack at Ross in a few months because he got traded. It’s tough to develop any personal connections to a team that has a roster with that much turnover.
So the casual fans, the ones the Rays really need to fill the Trop on a regular basis, spend their spring looking at the new faces in the program, wondering who are these f’ing guys?
And at some point, those fans stop caring to learn.
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