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Some things to play for

The calendar flips to September this week, signaling the beginning of the end of another losing season. But all is not lost, as the Rays - besides trying to avoid another 100-loss season - have several individual and team accomplishments to aim for, or avoid.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published August 26, 2007


Carlos Pena

CPOY?

Pena is among the leading, and most deserving, candidates for comeback player of the year. Consider that he spent most of last season at Triple A and over the previous two seasons had played only 97 big-league games, hitting .239 with 19 homers and 47 RBIs. This season he's hitting .270 with a career-high 28 homers and 83 RBIs. Other potential candidates include Seattle's Jose Guillen, Boston's Eric Gagne, Texas' Sammy Sosa and Oakland's Shannon Stewart.

Big flies

With a strong finish, he could claim the team record for homers in season:

HRs Player, year

34 Aubrey Huff, 2003

34 Jose Canseco, 1999

32 Fred McGriff, 1999

29 Aubrey Huff, 2004

28 Jorge Cantu, 2005

28 Carlos Pena, 2007

The new guy

He also could become the fifth player in the past 25 years to hit 30-plus homers after being a nonroster invitee to spring training:

Player, team HRs

Dave Kingman, '84 A's 35

John Jaha, '99 A's 35

Albert Pujols, '01 Cards 37

Jose Guillen, '03 Reds/A's 31

 

Al Reyes

First time for everything

A 37-years-and-4-months-old middle reliever for most of his career who came into this season with six career saves, Reyes is on the verge of becoming the third-oldest pitcher to have his first 20-save season:

Pitcher, team Svs Age

Hoyt Wilhelm, '63 Chisox 21 41

Ellis Kinder, '53 Red Sox 27 39

Tom Burgmeier, '80 Red Sox 24 37

Johnny Sain, '54 Yankees 22 36

Al Worthington, '65 Twins 21 36

Tim Worrell, '03 Giants 38 36

Saito Takashi, '06 Dodgers 24 36

Dioner Navarro

How low can he go?

Navarro is in a tight battle for the lowest batting average among all major-leaguers with at least 325 plate appearances:

Player, team Avg. AB H

Nick Punto, Twins .200 385 77

Dioner Navarro, Rays .20667 300 62

Richie Sexson, M's .21002 419 88

Andruw Jones, Braves .22105 475 105

Ray Durham, Giants .22195 410 91

 

Carl Crawford

Grand company

It would take a tremendous finish, but Crawford has a chance to make some serious history. With nine more homers, he could become the first player in major-league history to increase his batting average (.305 last season) and home run total (18) in six consecutive seasons. He and Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby are the only ones to do it five times.

And with 39 more hits, he would reach the 1,000 plateau at age 26 (only eight active players, and fewer than 60 others, have done so), and in less than six full seasons.

On the run

Crawford has a chance to win his fourth AL stolen-base title in five seasons. Only five players have had a more dominant run:

Player Titles Years

Kenny Lofton 5 straight 1992-96

Rickey Henderson 11 in 12 1980-91

Bert Campaneris 6 in 8 1965-72

Luis Aparicio 9 straight 1956-64

George Case 6 in 8 1939-46

Mister Devil Ray

Crawford is already the Rays' all-time leader in hits, runs, triples, at-bats and steals. He is closing in on a couple of other marks:

Games

Aubrey Huff 799

Crawford 797

Assists

Randy Winn 40

Crawford 35

Get him a triple

With his next triple, Crawford becomes just the third player in the past 75 years to have 60 over a four-year span, joining Stan Musial and Lance Johnson.

 

 

Delmon Young

First-timer

Young's chance for AL rookie of the year appears slim at best given what turned out to be a thick field, including Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia, Baltimore RHP Jeremy Guthrie, Kansas City RHP Brian Bannister, Angels OF Reggie Willits and Boston's Japanese imports, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima.

But, despite a recent slump and power outage, he leads all major-league rookies in hits (146), doubles (32), multihit games (42) and outfield assists (15), and leads AL rookies in RBIs (66) and total bases (205).

Better than average

Crawford, hitting .313, and B.J. Upton, .307, are challenging Aubrey Huff's 2003 team-record .311 average. The top five:

Player, year Avg.

Huff, 2003 .311

Fred McGriff, 1999 .310

Crawford, 2006 .305

Crawford, 2005 .301

Randy Winn, 2002 .298

Fan club

Rays pitchers are headed toward an unprecedented double: They have the worst ERA in the league, 5.70, and have struck out the most batters (930). No team in AL history has finished a season last in ERA and first in strikeouts.

The Rays have a shot at an MLB Grand Slam - last in ERA, batting average, fielding percentage and attendance - though it would take a huge offensive slump because they are 13 points ahead of the White Sox.

Century city

Manager Joe Maddon isn't concerned about the stigma of 100 losses and maintains it won't matter in a few years when the Rays are winning 100. Still, they appear headed for their second straight 100-loss season, and their fourth in the past seven years:

W-L Pct.

Current record: 50-79 .388

Current pace: 63-99 .389

Record to avoid 100: 13-20 .394

Under Sternberg/Friedman: 111-180 .381

Under Naimoli/LaMar: 518-775 .401