It has been a funny offseason for us here at Rays Colored Glasses. Usually there is enough of a lull in the action that we end up discussing the history of the team, but this time around, trade after trade has left us with plenty to talk about. Nevertheless, it is always nice to reflect back upon how the Tampa Bay Rays got to this point by looking at some notable players in their history and where they have ended up. We’ll start today with John Flaherty.
Flaherty first made the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox in 1992, when he was 24 years old, but he hit just .197 in 71 plate appearances. The following season marked his best offensive performance at Triple-A as he managed a .271/.327/.381 line in 400 PA’s, but he was traded by the Red Sox in April of 1994 after another poor big league stint.
Flaherty signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1994, but it wasn’t until 1995, when he hit 11 homers and drove in 40, did he establish himself as a major leaguer. Flaherty got off to a great start with the Tigers in 1996, but was traded midway through to the San Diego Padres where he only improved.
Flaherty was so well received by the Padres that he was honored with the Favorite New Padre Award. After a short stint in San Diego, though, Flaherty was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays ahead of their inaugural season in 1998.
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Despite playing for a troubled ball club that couldn’t get out of fourth place, Flaherty was a consistent hitter and a respectable professional in the game of baseball. In his first season as a Devil Ray, Flaherty was a recipient of the Tampa Bay BBWAA Champion Award, given to the player “who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.” Flaherty would have his best season of his career in 1999, when he batted .278 with career highs homers (14) and RBI’s (71).
Flaherty’s ability to throw a potential runner out was among the very best in the game. He threw out 38% of attempted basestealers in 1998, and 40% more in 199. Flaherty would play three more seasons for the Rays as catcher. Although he would never attain the success he had in 1999, he continued to be among the more likable and respected members of the Devil Rays through his tenure with the team.
Flaherty left the Rays after the 2002 season. Being born in New York City, the idea of playing for the New York Yankees was appealing and he joined the team as a backup for Jorge Posada.
For the next three seasons, Flaherty provided quality bench work as a member of the Yankees until the end of the 2005 season. He retired at the end of spring training in 2006 after trying to catch Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Flaherty never made an All-Star game or won a World Series championship, but he proved to be a solid competitor and gamer throughout his career. At the end of the day, he was a winner in his own right.
John Flaherty retired from baseball on the field, but has remained a big part of the game in other ways. He is a part owner of the Rockland Boulders, an Independent baseball team playing their games in Rockland County, New York. Flaherty was also inducted into the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009 at Foley‘s New York Pub and Restaurant. Flaherty is still involved with the Yankees as a color commentator and analyst for the YES Network during the regular season.