With Spring Training underway, fans everywhere are looking ahead to the 2013 season. Despite no playoff appearance for the Rays in 2012, the season was still a monumental milestone, marking the organization’s 15th season. An immense amount of terrific players have taken the field as Devil Rays or Rays players during the past 15 years, and in honor of them, let’s take a look back at the team MVPs elected by the BBWAA. We’ll start with the inaugural team MVP, Quinton McCracken.
1998 was a special year for the Tampa Bay region as years of high hopes for having their own baseball team were finally coming true. Even though the Devil Rays’ inaugural season was not as successful as the organization wanted, Rays fans will always love the players from the 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays squad because they were the first team. Perhaps one of the most beloved names from that first roster, Quinton McCracken, stands out in fans’ minds, not just because he has a great name for a hitter, but also because fans remember his positive spirit and solid defense.
McCracken was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 1992 but selected as the Devil Rays’ 4th pick in the 1997 expansion draft. Prior to the start of the 1998 season, the center fielder already had fans excited as he hit a single to right field in the Devil Rays’ Spring Training exhibition against the Florida State Seminoles on February 26, 1998, marking the first hit in Devil Rays history.
Once the season began, McCracken, a switch-hitter, wasted no time making his presence known at the plate when he ranked in the league’s top ten in batting average, .337, doubles, hits, and even outfield assists by early May.
As the season progressed McCracken remained one of the D-Rays top hitters, finishing the season hitting .292 with 179 hits, 77 runs, 59 RBIs, and .335 OBP. McCracken played in 155 games that season, making him the Devil Ray to play in the most games. McCracken’s defense garnered him much attention, finishing the season with a .992 fielding percentage.
Fred McGriff, another top candidates for team MVP, put up impressive numbers of his own, hitting .284 with 19 home runs and 81 RBI. However, McCracken was chosen as the inaugural season team MVP as one of the most exciting players from the 1998 squad and certainly one of the most memorable. With this in mind, some fans believe McCracken might be inducted into the Rays Hall of Fame one day.
With McCracken being the first on the list of Tampa Bay’s team MVPs, check back for more on our series as we remember some of the greats who played for the Tampa Bay Rays.