Rays Notes: Miguel Cairo Retirement Signals End of Era, Juan Sandoval Looks to Continue Remarkable Story

By Robbie Knopf

What a glorious day it was- the start of baseball in Tampa Bay. The Devil Rays took the field and the enthusiasm in the building was something to behold. It was one of those events that we are so lucky in our lives to receive through sports. But after that Opening Day, everything went downhill as the Devil Rays stumbled to a 99-loss season and an ownership expecting too much soon made a series of precipitate moves that made the initial struggle last a decade. Nevertheless, without that 1998 Devil Rays teams and the teams the followed, there would not be baseball in Tampa Bay, and every Rays fans appreciated that. With that in mind, an era ended over the last few days as the final 1998 D-Rays player in the major leagues, Miguel Cairo, retired to become a special assistant to the Cincinnati Reds front office. Cairo retires after an 18-year career carved out as a utility player that peaked from 1998 to 2000 when he was the Devil Rays’ starting second baseman and he hit .275 with 69 stolen bases and strong defense in what would prove to be the basically the only time he would be a starting player in the major leagues. It’s definitely little sad to see Cairo retire and the 1998 Devil Rays team officially disappearing from baseball, but at the same time we can realize that the struggles of the Devil Rays years are officially in the distant past and the only thing the Rays have to worry about is continue the success that has permeated their franchise the last six years.

Earlier this offseason, we heard news of the Rays signing Juan Sandoval and of his amazing story of overcoming a gunshot that removed vision from in his right eye to sign a minor league free agent contract with the Rays. Over the past couple of days, we’ve gotten the holes in the Rays part of the story filled-in. How exactly did the signing happen? Marc Topkin reported that it was actually Joel Peralta who recommended Sandoval to Andrew Friedman.

"“I told him this could be pretty good,” Peralta said. “But I told him this is the catch: He’s only got one eye.”"

Peralta talked to Friedman about Sandoval and emailed a video, and suddenly the Rays agreed to sign Sandoval to a contract. Pretty amazing and hopefully the best is yet to come between Sandoval and the Rays. It’s amazing everything he has overcome, and if he were to make the Rays’ bullpen at some point this season, that would be an unbelievable moment.