A decade into the life of the Devil Rays, there might not even be such a thing as the face of this franchise yet. But at least Crawford has remained a symbol of hope from the day he arrived at The Trop in 2002. He came through the system. He signed on for the long haul. He's an energizing, stolen-base-and-triple machine. And you can see the pieces beginning to fit into the rest of his game right there in front of your eyes. So if he isn't the face of where this team has been, he's at least the face of where they're going -- assuming they don't trade him some day for half the Pacific Coast League all-star team.
For all that has gone wrong in the Devil Rays' decade on the field, Crawford represents the blueprint for any hopes that the franchise might turn things around. He's a homegrown talent for a franchise that can't afford to build through high-priced free agents, with the only drawback being the Rays haven't given him enough help. Though he just turned 26, Crawford has played more than 700 big league games and posted impressive numbers all the way along. Crawford is signed through next season with team options for 2009 and 2010, and the organization has given him every reason to bolt as soon he can. But if the Rays can somehow parlay their core group of up-and-coming players into a truly competitive season within the next year or two, Crawford might be convinced to stick around for the payoff after all those years of losing.
If anybody should be considered the Rays face of the franchise, it's definitely gotta be Carl Crawford. What he's done so far in a still-young career is amazing. He's racking up hits, stolen bases and triples like it's nobody's business. If he had the exposure of a player in a bigger market, Crawford would be a perennial All-Star and multiple Gold Glove-winner by now. Those accolades would come in addition to his stolen base crowns. He's improved his stats every year of his career. He's priming himself for MVP-stat runs during his "peak years," while being locked up to a very team-friendly contract. He's a leader by example and rarely makes off-base comments, which easily makes him a fan-favorite. The best of Carl Crawford is still a ways away, which could spell something special for the Rays in the next few years.
This is a tough one because this is such a young team with no real dominant personality or history. I think you could give it to any of their players at this point. My pick is Delmon Young. He may not have the most sparkling history, but he seems to want to put his mistakes behind him. He has a great baseball pedigree and he understands what it takes to be a great baseball player.