Amid all the arguments and the controversy that surrounded this year’s Hall of Fame voting, one amazing storyline persisted. Three pivotal members of the Atlanta Braves‘ incredible run of 13 NL East titles in 14 years, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Bobby Cox, will enter the Hall together in the class of 2014. The Tampa Bay Rays see the potential for the same type of success and the same type of all-time talents at manager at starting pitcher–but they know they have a long way to go before that becomes a reality.
The closest thing the Rays have had to a Maddux and Glavine has been David Price and James Shields. Shields is already gone and Price has at most two years left. Joe Maddon is going nowhere and has the chance to be a Hall of Fame manager in his own right. Evan Longoria, the Rays’ own Chipper Jones, has been the one player that the Rays have made to secure for life. But what about everyone else? The Rays have featured so many great rotations, but are they ever going to have a pitcher on their team for 17 years like Glavine or even 11 like Maddux? The extension that Matt Moore signed prior to his rookie year gives him a chance to be a Rays starter for eight full seasons, and then he will be a free agent at 31 years of age. Shields and Price are both at seven full years, with Price having a chance to reach nine if the Rays do not trade him. Rays fans have and will get to see these pitchers for several years. But how can it sit well with us that even the Rays’ ace-caliber pitchers are almost inevitably going to leave? It is good enough to experience the success but lack that component of a consistent core that an entire team and an entire city identifies with forever? No, but this is the reality. This is the best Rays fans will get. Better to be a contender each year with changing names than a team that has its three token stars but struggles to stay afloat.
Maybe Moore re-signs after the 2018 season. Maybe Alex Cobb or Chris Archer or some future pitcher decides that Tampa Bay is his home, and he’ll do whatever it takes to stay here his entire career. But let’s not worry about the Hall of Fame right now. We can dream of the day coming for so many of the great Rays, but that’s far in the future. Right now, all we want is a consistent contender, and the Rays have given us just that. Baseball is changing and players don’t stay on the same team forever anymore. Someday at a Hall of Fame induction, there doesn’t have to be two star players and a manager that spent most of their career leading a Rays dynasty. All we want is two players about whom we can say “they were in Tampa Bay and they were elsewhere, but I can never forget what they did to lead the Rays to those championships.”