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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Where would they be without Wigginton
By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 1, 2006
CLEVELAND - Carl Crawford was clearly the best Devil Ray this season with a line of impressive stats and a list of significant accomplishments, and he was appropriately voted their Most Valuable Player.
But their Most Valued Player was Ty Wigginton.
Released by the Pirates after a so-so 2005 season, Wigginton signed with the Rays and delivered a career year, with a team-high 24 homers and 79 RBIs.
He has been their most clutch performer, with 15 of his homers, and 30 of his RBIs, either tying a score or putting the Rays ahead, and one of their most versatile, starting at first, second and third base while filling in in the outfield and at DH when needed. He is one of their most professional players, always eager for the chance to play and the opportunity to succeed, described regularly by manager Joe Maddon with the ultimate compliment of, "He's a baseball player."
And he did it all for $675,000, plus $75,000 in incentives, which makes him a prime example of the value-oriented and opportunistic approach of the new regime.
Runnersup: Greg Norton, another veteran who stepped up and led by example; and Shawn Camp, who, though a tad inconsistent, was dependable and durable, making a team-record 75 appearances.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Aubrey Huff had a good head start on this one before being traded. That leaves Seth McClung, who came into the year confident of a breakthrough season as a starter, then started so poorly (2-10, 6.81) he was demoted to the minors and re-converted as a reliever. He has had some success, but that hasn't gone too well, either, as he has allowed the winning run four times and doesn't seem to take accountability for his failures.
Runnersup: Jorge Cantu, who was hurt but now has to prove whether the aberration was this season or last; and Scott Kazmir, only because his cranky shoulder kept him from some special things.
MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE: James Shields didn't get much mention among the team's top pitching prospects, but all he did was win six games and show the ability and attitude to push his way into the rotation plans for 2007.
Runnersup: Ben Zobrist, who went from Double A with Houston to the Rays' starting lineup; and Ruddy Lugo, who showed he was more than Julio's little brother with a 3.81 ERA in 64 appearances.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: In addition to a large video board and new turf, another change being considered for the Trop is lowering the height of the outfield walls to increase the chances for home run-robbing catches. ... All members of Maddon's coaching staff are under contract and expected to return. ... With the season ending, the Rays are just about done paying off former GM Chuck LaMar, assistant Cam Bonifay and former coaches John McLaren and Matt Sinatro. Some of Lou Piniella's money was deferred into 2007.