Who will get the Rays first Cycle?

 


David Zalubowski / AP

I remember back on March 31, 1998 a friend of mine and I were chatting up in the Beach area about our new Rays team and he asked me  who I thought would be the first Rays player to ever hit for a “cycle” for the team. I had to really think about that one for a few minutes since this first Rays squad had a few burners on the base paths and they could make the difference quickly in a game.

I thought for about three innings and came up with a list of three guys I truly thought had a chance to hit that magical segment of a single, double, triple and then a homer.  I came up with the trio of Dave Martinez (who got the Rays first hit ever), Quentin McCracken and Miguel Cairo.

But what is so amazing is that we have played 1,845 games as a franchise and we still have not had any player hit for that elusive prize. I mean we have had plenty come close, including 5 in 2008, but no one has gotten to that golden moment yet for the Rays. So it kind of caught me by surprise last night after the game checking out the box score and seeing that both Ben Zobrist and Gabe Kapler only missed the magical moment by not getting a double in last night’s 12-4 Rays victory.

What was truly amazing to me is that both guys had the worst part of the cycle out of the way by the start of the 7th inning with Kapler getting the early nod by getting both his triple and home run by the end of the third inning.  Another outstanding statistic is that Zobrist and Kapler each got hit in the same inning three times in that contest. 

They started their scoring in the top of the second inning when Zobrist got on with a infield single to third, then Kapler scored Zobrist on his triple to deep left-centerfield. The in the top of the third inning, Zobrist hit the first pitch he sees for a triple to deep centerfield to lead-off the inning. Kapler then comes up and homers to leftfield to again score Zobrist in the game. 

Then again in the seventh inning, Zobrist comes up with two outs and hits a 2-1 pitch out of the ballpark in leftfield. Kapler then comes up and get a single to rightfield.  Zobrist had another chance to get his cycle, but he hit a ball back to Rockies reliever Matt Daley that he easy converted for the third out of the inning. The night was a huge explosion for the entire Rays offense as they won their sixth game in a row and ended the Rockies own 11-game winning streak.

But was last night’s attempt by two Rays players a good indicator of the type of offense this team can post at anytime in 2009. Gabe Kapler is currently on a 4-game home run  and RBI streak, plus he has gone 7 for 11, with 10 RBI in his last four games. Could we finally be seeing the hitter the Rays envisioned when they signed Kapler on January 12, 2009. Then you have Zobrist, who has emerged as the Rays secret weapon after injuries have made the club utilize him everyday instead of as a platoon or late inning replacement/pinch-hitter. 


David Zalubowski / AP

Zobrist has also been on quite a tear recently going hitless in only two of his last ten games. He has gone 14 for 35 (.400) with 4 homers and 7 RBI, but it is his 14 runs scored that have been the biggest indicator of his surge for the Rays.  He has also walked 7 times in those 10 games and stolen 2 bases to become an all-around player for the team. And this is not the first time in 2009 that Zobrist has gotten near the cycle.

And to just show how explosive the entire team can be this year, including last night, the Rays have had 11 players just this season who have had chances to get the cycle for the Rays. Starting with Evan Longoria on April 9th needing just a triple to complete his during the Rays 4-3 win in Fenway Park. Longoria again almost got the cycle in another game against the Red Sox on April 30th at Tropicana Field during a 13-0 win over the Red Sox. He missed with only a triple again. But he was not the only Rays to have a shot at the cycle that day. Back-up catcher Miguel Hernandez had a career day going 4 for 5 and also missed the cycle with a triple that day. 

In a 7-3 loss to the Red Sox in their second trip to Fenway on May 8th, the usual suspect for the cycle, Carl Crawford only missed with a home run from getting the feat. He did have a ball bounce into the stands in deep centerfield that could have been a close inside-the-park home run if it had not gone into the stands.  Then on May 15th with the Cleveland Indians at home, B J Upton had a chance to put his mark on Rays history, but also missed out with a triple. Two days later Jason Bartlett got a chance at the mark, but he too came up short needing a home run to complete the feat.

Then someone you would not expect, Gabe Gross who has seen limited duty this year as a platoon member in rightfield got a chance to set the mark on May 22nd in the Rays 15-2 win over the Florida Marlins. Gross also missed the mark with only getting a single, double and a homer in the game.  And so far in June, the Rays have had four players now who have attempted to get a cycle for the squad. Before last night’s heroics, Matt Joyce, who was only up for a limited time also had a chance for a cycle on June 2nd in a 6-2 win over the Kansas City Royals. Joyce also came up a triple short of getting the first cycle in Rays history.


Jeff Zelevansky / AP


But the wildest part of it all is that Zobrist now has had two chances, just in June 2009 to get a cycle. Besides last night’s attempt, he had another on June 7th in Yankee Stadium against the New York Yankees, but he again fell just a double short of the cycle.  What is even more amazing is that he has now had three chances since September 27, 2008 to get the Rays cycle record. On the September 27th game against the Detroit Tigers in Comerica Park, Zobrist again came up short, but this time he could not get a triple to complete the cycle.

The Rays have had a chance 11 times in 2009. For the entire 2008 season they only had 5 players even get close to trying for  a shot at Rays history. It began with the Disney World series when the Rays took on the Toronto Blue Jays on April 22nd. Ex-Rays bat boy Jesse Litsch was on the mound and Eric Hinske hit three extra-base hits to fall only a single short of the cycle for the Rays. In that contest, in the only other at bat for Hinske in the game, he struck out swinging to end his quest in the eighth inning. One of the guys you might least expect to have a shot at a cycle actually got pretty close in 2008. Dioner Navarro was having a great first half to the season and picked a May 8th game against the Toronto Blue Jays to try and make a claim for the cycle record. 

In that game, Navarro hit a Grand Slam to win the game for the Rays in the 13th inning, but he missed the cycle by a triple that night. But the event was considered a turning point for the young Rays team, so missing the re
cord might not have been a bad thing that night. It was three months before anyone else had a shot at a cycle for the Rays when on August 2nd, Evan Longoria tried to make his mark, but he also came up a triple short in the Rays 9-3 win over the Tigers at Tropicana Field.

A wild statistic is that in the last three attempts by Rays players to hit for the cycle in 2008, they all came against the same team, the Detroit Tigers. First we had Longoria on August 2nd come up short. The next player to have a chance at Rays immortality was Upton on the same night( September 26, 2008) that the Rays clinched their first American League East title. Upton’s chance at the cycle was overshadowed by the big event as he only fell a triple short of the cycle after beating out a throw for an infield single to even have a shot at the historic mark. And of course, the next day, Zobrist had his chance to also add his name to Rays history. 

All in all since the beginning of the 2998 season, 16 Rays players have had a chance to finally put their name on the Rays history book as completing a cycle during a game. The Rays might have gone 0-16 in that time, but in 2008, they went 4-1 when a player was attempting to go for the record. And so far in 2009, the team has gone 8-1 when a Rays batter has been attempting to go for the cycle. And also of note, for the first time in two seasons, two player have been just short of cycles in two different games only 46 days apart.

With the Rays offense cranking on all 8 cylinders right now there will be more chances for the team to flex its muscle and give more guys chances to finally put their name into the Rays record books as the first player to hit a cycle for the Rays. I can not even guess who the first one will be anymore. Almost everyone in the lineup can have an outstanding game and transform a simple game into a historic event.

But I would not bet against Crawford and Zobrist right now, both players have the ability and the speed to finally give us an answer to that question asked back in 1998. Who do you think will get the first Rays cycle?

11 Comments

A lot of guys have been close to hitting the cycle this year. It really makes a game more exciting as you wait for someone to do it.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Julia,
It has been a great year offensively, but this year just feels a bit different.
And not always in a bad way.
It has the feeling of a impending explosion, hopefully an offensive explosion by the Rays.
But because of better scouting reports ans pitcher’s only being able to adjust so much, hitter are also changing their approaches on the fly this year.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff,
I can’t believe that the Rays have never hit for the cycle. It’s bound to happen. I can’t believe that you can remember the date that you and your friend had this discussion. I’m sure they’ll do it soon… they’ve already flirted with five already (like you said). Time to stop the flirting though! Ellsbury came close this season as well… whenever the triple comes first, it seems like the cycle will happen.
Elizabeth
http://redsoxgirl46.mlblogs.com

The Dodgers last cycle prior to Orlando hudson hitting one this year was in 1970 by Wes Parker That is a lot of years in between! Your boys have come so close tht is bound to happen soon.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com/

Eliabeth,
It was easy to remember that date since it was the first game we ever played in the MLB against the Tigers.
We have been close, so close, but not cigar.
But then we only have been around for 12 years now.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Emma,
Wow that is huge gap in cycles there.
Just goes to show just how area it is, that can take years until you even get your first one, and even a few decades to get another.
I always thought someone might have gotten one before 1970 for the Dodgers.
Wow!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff- Sorry we had to send your boys packing with only one win in Denver. I drove back from Chicago to see the whooping you put on us game 1 but luckily we remembered we are hot right now and took the series. Big picture we are further back in our division and your boys may be in the toughest division in baseball, but I like to think we can take out the Dodgers. Your guys put up a hell of a fight .
Tom
http://rockymountainway.mlblogs.com

Tommy,
The best thing I loved about the series was the Rays gear all over the stadium.
I remember going to other stadiums from 2000-2007 and seeing a small group of Rays gear, but nothing like 2009.
It is great to see the influx of fans going on the road with the team, plus the transplants coming out wearing the team gear.
We are not the Red Sox or Yankees and will not “take over” a stadium, but we love our baseball too.
I only wish sometimes every team can go .500 ball for the year.
Seriously, none of the other two games were decided until that third out, and that is how baseball should be played in my mind.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Well if I where to pick a player today I think the obvious choice would either be B.J. Upton or Carl Crawford but I also think Jason Bartlett could. Anyway the Rays have been round since 1998 and the haven’t hit for the cycle still surprises me. Because even though they just had their first good season they have had Wade Boggs (even though he was old then), Crawford has been around for a while, Tion Martinez, Fred McGriff, and Randy Winn.

Bob, http://bostonsports.mlblogs.com/

Well if I where to pick a player today I think the obvious choice would either be B.J. Upton or Carl Crawford but I also think Jason Bartlett could. Anyway the Rays have been round since 1998 and the haven’t hit for the cycle still surprises me. Because even though they just had their first good season they have had Wade Boggs (even though he was old then), Crawford has been around for a while, Tion Martinez, Fred McGriff, and Randy Winn.

Bob, http://bostonsports.mlblogs.com/

Bob,
A player from the past that also intrigued me that did not hit for the cycle was Randy Winn.
I saw him hit a few inside-the-park homers that rattle down in the rightfield corner, but his stride was amazing like B J Upton’s.
Even though we have been around only so many years, the team has been great at adding athletes, that is one of the reason it has surprised me by none getting the golden egg.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com
http://twitter.com/raysrenegade

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