You know what silly record I always wonder about? I always wonder what year someone will pass Evan Longoria as the best player in Tampa Bay Rays history.
I know this is a frivolous matter to wonder about, particularly in these trying geopolitical times. But there are only 30 Major League Baseball teams, and each of them has its franchise greats, the all-timers, the ones who have statues outside their home stadium. But the Rays are one of only two teams -- joining the Marlins -- that have the best player in franchise history currently on their roster (for Miami it's Giancarlo Stanton). According to Baseball Reference -- which we'll be referencing throughout this column -- here are the top 10 players in Tampa Bay history by WAR.
- Evan Longoria, 46
- Ben Zobrist, 36
- Carl Crawford, 35
- David Price, 21
- James Shields, 19
- Carlos Pena, 18
- Scott Kazmir, 16
- Kevin Kiermaier, 16
- Melvin Upton, 15
- Julio Lugo, 13
Now, the Rays and the Marlins are obviously unique cases: The two franchises have only been around since the 1990s, and they haven't been particularly good most of that time, even though the Marlins have a couple of championships to show for their efforts. But still. In Longoria's case, he is already 10 WAR ahead of second place in Rays history, and he's under contract through 2022 with an option for '23. And he's still probably the best player on that team. When will anyone stick around Tampa Bay long enough to catch him? Will it require another 50 years? More?
I've always been fascinated by this sense of instant permanence, the idea that the players we watch today are making history, are an essential part of each team's lore, every minute they do anything. Thus, using Baseball Reference's handy ranking of every franchise's top 24 players by WAR, I thought we'd took a look at every franchise and mark who is currently on the roster who is on that top 24 list … and where they might be next.
American League East
22. Adam Jones, 27 WAR
Jones has never been a darling of the statheads, but hey, the Orioles haven't either. Manny Machado is already at 24.4 and should enter the top 24 by the end of the season, if not by the All-Star break.
Boston Red Sox
11. Dustin Pedroia, 50 WAR
That Pedroia is one of the top 15 players in Red Sox history is one of the more unappreciated aspects of the Laser Show. Pedroia is slowly putting together a Hall of Fame case. Pedroia put up a 5.6 WAR last year, and if he does that again this year, he'll pass Bobby Doerr, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz and Tris Speaker to reach seventh place in Red Sox history. It's possible he could catch Wade Boggs in three or four years.
New York Yankees
It's pretty tough to crack this list, obviously. Recent Yankees on the list? Derek Jeter at No. 5, Mariano Rivera at No. 9, Alex Rodriguez at No. 11, Andy Pettitte at No. 13, Bernie Williams at No. 14, Robinson Cano at No. 19 and Jorge Posada at No. 23.
Tampa Bay Rays
1. Evan Longoria, 46
8. Kevin Kiermaier, 16
Baseball Reference only goes to 12 for the Rays because they are such a young franchise.
Toronto Blue Jays
3. Jose Bautista, 37
Edwin Encarnacion had made it to No. 12 before leaving. Josh Donaldson, who has only been a Blue Jay for two seasons, is already at No. 26.
Chicago White Sox
Chris Sale had reached No. 18.
Lots of black and white pictures on this list. There's still no one all that close to the top 25 on this roster.
11. Miguel Cabrera, 51
13. Justin Verlander, 50
Cabrera just recently reached one-third of Ty Cobb's 144 WAR.
Kansas City Royals
8. Alex Gordon, 32
19. Lorenzo Cain, 20
All that run of young talent, and here are the only two to sneak onto this list. But they do have that ring.
6. Joe Mauer, 50
Mauer will pass Kirby Puckett this year.
18. Jose Altuve, 21
Look out No. 24 and No. 25, Mike Hampton and Richard Hidalgo: The emerging young talent here is about to knock you, and some other guys, off this list.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Mike Trout, 48
Trout is probably going to be the best player in franchise history by the All-Star break: He's only four WAR behind the all-time leader, Chuck Finley, right now. Albert Pujols, who has played the same number of seasons in Anaheim as Trout has, is four wins away from reaching the top 25.
No one's close, or even close to close.
4. Felix Hernandez, 51
8. Kyle Seager, 24
17. Robinson Cano, 17
20. Hisashi Iwakuma, 16
Look at all those Mariners! This actually made me sort of sad: Is this the second golden era of Mariners baseball? That's kind of depressing.
3. Adrian Beltre, 37
14. Elvis Andrus, 24
Beltre is also in the Mariners' top 10.
National League East
Freddie Freeman needs another six-WAR season to pass Jack Stivetts and crack the top 24.
1. Stanton, 27
12. Christian Yelich, 13
Like the Rays, only the top 12 are listed. But yes: In Longoria, Trout and Stanton, we're going to be seeing three players become the best in their franchise's history this year. The late Jose Fernandez was No. 11, by the way.
New York Mets
2. David Wright, 49
9. Jose Reyes, 28
Wright is 30 behind Tom Seaver. Reyes took a circuitous route back on his way up the Mets' leaderboard; with a three-win season, he'd pass Sid Fernandez, Edgardo Alfonzo and Carlos Beltran to reach No. 6 all-time.
Ryan Howard, if he were still active, still didn't crack the top 24.
7. Ryan Zimmerman, 33
9. Bryce Harper, 21
19. Stephen Strasburg, 18
Zimmerman is the top all-time National, and if he stays healthy, he can pass Vladimir Guerrero when you do the Expos/Nationals' combined list.
One suspects these current batch of Cubs will find a way to go down in franchise history regardless.
8. Joey Votto, 47
Two more quality years and Votto will pass Joe Morgan. Six more and he could pass Pete Rose for No. 1 all time in Reds history. One suspects there would be some debate about that ranking.
3. Ryan Braun, 44
Braun -- trailing Robin Yount and Paul Molitor and likely to be traded this July -- seems like he'll stay at third for a long, long time.
14. Andrew McCutchen, 37
And again: How much longer will McCutchen be a Pirate to keep moving up this list? At one point, he seemed a cinch for a statue outside PNC Park. Now?
St. Louis Cardinals
15. Adam Wainwright, 38
21. Yadier Molina, 33
With a bounce-back season, Wainwright can pass Lou Brock and enter the top 10.
4. Paul Goldschmidt, 28
8. A.J. Pollock, 15
Again, there are only 12 players listed … but Goldschmidt, with a solid season, will reach No. 2, behind only Randy Johnson.
4. Carlos Gonzalez, 23
5. Nolan Arenado, 20
Just 12 here again … and to get an appreciation for what all-time leader Todd Helton did, Arenado needs to have the career he has had two more times, and then he'll be close to Helton.
Los Angeles Dodgers
8. Clayton Kershaw, 54
Kershaw is only 13 WAR short of Don Drysdale for the top spot, a pretty amazing thing for a guy who is still only 28 years old.
San Diego Padres
This is not a particularly difficult list to crack -- No. 24 is Will Venable -- and, still, nobody.
San Francisco Giants
Buster Posey should break into the top 24 by May, but Madison Bumgarner will need a couple of more years.