In the last 21 years, nine players have regularly called first base their home for the Tampa Bay Rays (and Devil Rays). When compared to the ballclub’s messy turnover rate at catcher, first base has enjoyed relative stability. In fact, selecting the top five Rays to play the position was easy. Ranking their individual performances proved a lot trickier. Relying on Baseball-Reference.com for the numbers and my own opinionated heart for the rest, here are one fan’s picks, from worst to first, for the High-Five of Tampa Bay First Basemen.
Make way for the Crime Dog!
No. 2, Fred McGriff
The Tampa Bay Numbers
Home runs: 99
Batting average: .291
Fielding percentage: .993
Fred McGriff should be a hall-of-famer. Period.
He’s not. But that’s a gripe for another time. McGriff is a Devil Ray legend, however. No Tampa Bay fan will argue with that. While the No. 2 spot on the First Basemen High-Five may not be Cooperstown, it is an honor proudly bestowed today upon the man affectionately known as the Crime Dog.
The Tampa native, five-time All-Star, one-time All-Star MVP, three-time Silver Slugger and 493-time crusher of long balls played nearly four seasons with the Devil Rays. From 1998 through late summer of 2001, Fred McGriff manned first base for the brand new ballclub. In 550 games and 2,002 at-bats, the already established MLB star hit 97 HR and collected 352 RBI on 590 hits. His batting average was over .290 and his OPS topped a monstrous .864. Additionally, he earned 296 BB and scored 270 runs on an expansion team that would finish with a paltry 263-384 mark.
Defensively, McGriff had a .993 fielding percentage at first base during his time in Tampa Bay. He assisted in 467 double plays and recorded 4,098 put-outs in his 4,449 chances. He did make 38 errors while a Devil Ray, the most of any of the High-Five. However, a lot can be forgiven in the field when you hit for consistent power at the plate.
McGriff would return to Tampa Bay briefly in 2004 for just 27 games and his final two home runs before retiring from baseball.
Fred McGriff is the only steroid-free player in baseball history to hit 493 HR and not be in the Hall of Fame. His ten years on the Cooperstown ballot ended this year with the Crime Dog once again falling short of enshrinement. The last shot for McGriff to make the Hall will be the Today’s Game Era Committee. He has a good chance there. But until that well-deserved day, we’ll keep his name proudly on our walls at the No. 2 spot of this High-Five.
Want your voice heard? Join the Rays Colored Glasses team!
Tomorrow: Carlos Pena at No. 1. Anybody really surprised?