Before they became the best-run franchise in sports, the (Devil) Rays were being run into the ground by Vince Naimoli.
Prior the 2003 season he imported aging sluggers Greg Vaughn, Jose Canseco, the Crime Dog and Vinny Castilla, thinking they’d power the Rays to relevance. Tampa only got worse, and by 2002 they had hit rock bottom.
Only Vaughn remained in ’02, and he was positively Uggla-ian, batting .163 with a .601 OPS. The Rays finished last or next to last in OPS and BA and were equally woeful on the mound. The immortal Tanyon Sturtze walked 89 and allowed 271 hits in 224 IP. Esteban Yan was the closer, and the best thing you can say about Yan is that he inspired a classic “Simpsons” exchange between Bart and Milhouse, imagining themselves as professional ballplayers.
Bart: “I’m Tomokazu Ohka of the Montreal Expos!”
Milhouse: “And I’m Esteban Yan of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays!”
The news was just as bad off the field, as the Rays learned former top pick Josh Hamilton had a heroin addiction.