5 best Rays who aren't in the Hall of Fame

January 24th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- In their short history, the Rays haven't had many Hall of Famers play with the organization, with Wade Boggs and Tampa native Fred McGriff being the most notable players to wear a Devil Rays jersey.

However, the Rays have had a lot of very good players, though some of them have suited up for Tampa Bay well past their prime. Yes, we’re looking at you, Dwight Gooden and Manny Ramirez.

But we thought it would be interesting to take a look at some ex-Rays players who didn’t have Cooperstown-worthy careers, but good ones, nonetheless.

Before we get to the top five, it’s important to clarify that this exercise isn’t about how good these players performed as members of the Rays, but instead how effective they were throughout their respective careers. These players also have to be retired, so that’s why you won’t see the Evan Longorias of the baseball world.

We also elected to go with players that played more than a handful of games with the Rays, which is why Gooden and Ramirez (not to pick on them) aren’t included on the list. With that being said, let’s take a look at the list.

1. José Canseco
Career bWAR: 42.4

If you look at his career, Canseco had an outside shot at making a run at the Hall of Fame. The Cuban outfielder won the 1988 American League Most Valuable Player Award, took home the '86 AL Rookie of the Year Award, made the All-Star team six times and won two World Series titles.

With the Rays, Canseco hit 34 homers in 1999, making quite a 1-2 punch with McGriff in the middle of the lineup. Canseco's career accolades likely wouldn’t have put him into the Hall, and his involvement with performance-enhancing drugs never helped his case.

2. Johnny Damon
Career bWAR: 56.3

Damon ultimately didn’t do enough to get any Hall of Fame traction, but the outfielder had a heck of an 18-year career in the big leagues. Damon recorded 2,769 hits in his tenure and helped both the Yankees and Red Sox win a World Series. Damon was removed from the ballot after receiving just 1.9 percent of the votes in 2018, but he made this list -- and that’s a pretty solid consolation prize.

3. Carl Crawford
Career bWAR: 39.1

Crawford didn’t have the career-long numbers for a legitimate case at the Hall of Fame, which is why he fell off the ballot without a vote in his first year of eligibility, but he just might be one of the most underrated players over the past couple of decades. In his prime, Crawford stole 50 or more bags in five seasons, including a ridiculous 60 in 2009. He was a four-time All-Star and also took home a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award.

4. Ben Zobrist
Career bWAR: 44.6

Like the others on this list, Zobrist probably didn’t do enough to make the Hall of Fame. However, there’s a long list of players in this era -- most players, actually -- that would sign up to have the career Zobrist had.

Zobrist became an everyday player in 2009, when he was 28 years old. After that, Zobrist made three All-Star teams and won World Series titles with the Royals and Cubs. His biggest impact was making the super-utility role one of the most valuable positions in baseball. Before Zobrist, having a utility player was a luxury; it’s basically a requirement for teams now, especially the Rays.

Career bWAR: 30.4

“Big Game James” doesn’t have much of a Hall of Fame case, but he was clearly one of the best pitchers in franchise history -- and almost certainly the most influential. Shields, who pitched for Tampa Bay from 2006-12, remains the franchise leader in wins (87), starts (217), innings pitched (1,454 2/3), complete games (19), shutouts (eight) and strikeouts (1,250). And the right-hander’s remarkable work ethic -- reflected in his motto: “If you don’t like it, pitch better.” -- set the standard for future Rays aces, from David Price and Chris Archer on down.

Shields made one All-Star team in 2011, when he finished third in the AL Cy Young Award voting after going 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA in 249 1/3 innings over 33 starts, including 11 complete games and four shutouts. The workhorse starter continued to pitch well after being dealt to the Royals, leading them to their first winning season in a decade in 2013, then helping them reach the World Series in ’14. Shields pitched four more seasons for the Padres and White Sox, and his durability was on display until the end; even when he lost 16 games with a 4.53 ERA in his final season in 2018, he took the ball 34 times and worked 204 2/3 innings.