Kevin Kiermaier, The Moonlight Graham of the Rays’ Postseason Run

By Robbie Knopf

Everyone who has seen Field of Dreams and plenty of baseball fans who haven’t know the story of Moonlight Graham. A 27 year old minor league veteran, Graham was called up by the Giants on June 29, 1905 and appeared as a defensive replacement for the final two innings of the contest. Graham was sent down following the game, never to play a major league game again. Kevin Kiermaier is only 23 years old and significantly more talented than Graham ever was. But at least until nextt season, Kiermaier will be remembered as the Moonlight Graham of the Rays’ run to the playoffs.

Graham hit .288 in the 1905 season to earn his callup to the Giants. 108 years later, Kiermaier’s batting average was a few points better at .295. Overall, Kiermaier hit to a .295/.362/.431 line with 21 doubles, 15 triples, 6 homers, 41 RBI, and 21 stolen bases in 136 games and 571 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. It was an outstanding season, and Kiermaier has a chance to be an outfield starter for the Rays someday. However, nobody thought he would make it to the big leagues at the end of 2013. But that’s exactly what happened. Knowing that Jesse Crain would not be able to pitch, the Rays placed him back on the 60-day disabled list and added Kiermaier to their 40-man roster for Monday’s tiebreaker game against the Rangers. The Rays’ reasoning was twofold. The first reason was that Kiermaier was about to be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, so they needed to add him to the 40-man roster soon anyway. But the second rationale was how much Kiermaier could help the Rays even for just one game thanks to his outstanding centerfield defense. Not only was Kiermaier added to the roster, but Joe Maddon put him in the 9th for defense in his Graham-esque cameo.

Kevin Kiermaier has a chance to have a lengthy career ahead of him. In Monday’s tiebreaker, though, Kiermaier was happy just to be there, even for only one inning. For now, Kiermaier will be a trivia question, an afterthought on a Rays team that had gone so far without him. However, the fact that the Rays even brought him up for even that one inning tells you that they like him a whole lot more than the Giants liked Graham. And by the way, here’s another trivia question: what even happened to those 1905 Giants that brought up Graham? They won the World Series.