Since my last post was a little dark, and also since the Rays have the day off today, I thought I’d do something fun. Over the last few days, I have been combing the interwebs for the best Rays GIFs of all time, and I have created a masterpiece–a lineup of the franchise’s most GIFable players. But before I get right into it, lets go over the criteria:
- Memorable moments- We all know these make for great GIFs
- Outstanding plays- Great catches, monster home runs, etc.
- Player Personality- Bat flips, celebrations, dugout shenanigans, all that stuff
- GIF projectability- This is a hard one, but when I made this list, I had to make sure I considered some Devil Rays. In order to do that, I had to think about what their GIFability would be if they played today.
With that said, let’s get started.
Catcher- Jose Molina
Excellent pitch framer, awful hitter. But for better of worse, he’s the best catcher to put on a Rays uniform, and was one of the backbones of the analytics movement. Here are some GIFs turning balls into strikes, and hitters reacting badly.
Don’t hate the umpire, hate Jose.
First Base- Carlos Pena
This was a tough one. I really wanted to go with Fred McGriff. But what separated Pena from the crime dog were two things. The moments, and the personality. Pena was a large part of the Rays playoff years, putting the team on his back every time Evan Longoria went on the DL. His personality is larger than life, and the camera loves him. What sold me was when I remembered his signing of a one day contract to retire a Ray. You can now see him and all his charm as an analyst on MLB network. Who could forget this grand slam he hit when he returned to the franchise in 2012? Also of note, Pena is only player on this list to have worn a Devil Rays uniform.
Second Base- Ben Zobrist
Really, I could’ve put Zorilla at any position. But, since I deducted points for every time I had to sit through one of his wife’s national anthems, the keystone was the only spot that could hold him. Zobrist, of course, is a great player in his own right, a revolutionary, giving meaning to the ‘super utility role.’ He could play gold glove caliber defense at any position, and his bat kept him in the starting lineup every day. If not for him being a late bloomer, this guy would have an undebatable hall of fame case.
Third Base- Evan Longoria
Shocking, I know. 2008 ROY, 3 time gold glove, 3 time all star, silver slugger, franchise leader in tons of stuff. Game 162, home runs in his first two playoff at bats. I could go on and on. This dude was a GIF machine on both sides of the ball. Here are just a few:
Thanks for the memories, Evan. Your time with us was truly, truly, magical.
Shortstop- Adeiny Hechavarria
Though he has only been a Ray (and will only be a Ray) for a short time, his smile and his glove have made him highly GIFable. I wanted to put Jason Bartlett or Julio Lugo here, but they just didn’t stack up. It didn’t take but one inning for Hech to show us why he belongs on this list.
I mean come on.
He knows how good he is.
Right Field- Steven Souza
Now, you might think Steven Souza was the clear choice here, and I agree, except–remember my fourth criteria? It was GIF projectability. Even though Souza provided us with lots of GIF worthy moments, including Souza hugs, great catches, and diving for balls 20 feet away from him, I was very tempted to put Carlos Gomez here, as he has already provided us a season’s worth of GIFs in just 12 games. But nonetheless, when it comes to the number of quality GIFs right now, Souza is the winner. Here are a few I alluded to:
Center Field- Kevin Kiermaier
Great play after great play, gold glove after gold glove. And some dreamy green eyes to boot. He’s not just your favorite player, he’s your girlfriend’s favorite player as well. Kiermaier is not only the best center fielder in baseball, he’s quietly become one of the best players in baseball. Over the last 3 years, he’s out bWAR’d both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, while missing over 100 games combined over the last two seasons. When his bat finally catches up to his glove, which it will, this guy will be a perennial MVP candidate.
To be honest, I could write a whole other story about the GIFablilty of KK, but I’ll save that for a rainy day.
Left Field- Carl Crawford
Just kidding, there are two players on this list who’ve worn D-Rays Green. Oh what could’ve been. Not just for CC’s career, but how this list would’ve been different had Manny Ramirez not been caught doping a second time. Anyway, Crawford definitely had his heroic moments in Tampa Bay, which included opening day home runs, great catches in left field, and this one, when he stole home against the Red Sox, the team he would go onto become one of the biggest free agent busts in baseball history for.
Starting Pitcher- Chris Archer
This one was by far the toughest choice. Between him, James Shields, David Price, and so on. Archer is the choice because of his big fastball, big personality, and, at times, big hair. He has not just become the face of the Rays, but one of the faces of all of baseball. The camera loves this guy, and so do GIF creators everywhere.
Relief Pitcher- Fernando Rodney
Shortly after The former Rays closer busted out the bow and arrow, it became a team wide thing. Every time a Ray got a hit, they shot the arrow into the dugout. Rodney, however, had one of the best seasons for any pitcher, ever, in 2012, posting a 0.60 ERA and a ridiculous 641 ERA+. He did come back down to Earth in 2013, but the bow and arrow was much the same.
So there you have it. In the 20th year of the Tampa Bay baseball franchise, the all GIF team. Here’s to 20 more years of GIFable players, and moments.
PS- none of these GIFs are my own.