Thursday, August 21, 2008


I've mentioned before how there are certain elements on the Tampa Bay Rays team making this unlikely run who make you not want to root for them.

In so doing, though, I breezed past the fact that there is someone on that Rays team who is probably a huge part of their success this season.

Cliff Floyd has played in just 59 games this year, hitting .260 with 9 homers and 25 RBI. But he might be the most important player on that team.

By all accounts, Cliff Floyd is a true professional. He does the right things, gets frustrated when he can't play because of injury (which happens a lot), and for a while now, he's been a mentor to younger players.

I never really thought about it much when he was with the Mets, but Floyd might have been the glue that made the 2006 team stick together and do as well as they did. There were some elements on that team that were potentially damaging (looking your way, Paul Lo Duca), but they never seemed to get in the way (like they did in 2007, when Floyd was no longer a Met).

He also took David Wright under his wing from the get-go. Maybe he sensed star power, and knew the MTV appearances would come if he was David Wright's right-hand man...but I know it was more than that. Floyd showed Wright the ropes about how to play in New York, and I'm sure a lot of what makes Wright the class act that he is has to do a lot with the fact that he spent so much time with Cliff Floyd while they were both Mets.

And now, Floyd is playing that role again. Except most of the team is David Wright. And there's even a Jose Reyes - apparently B.J. Upton has had a case of the not-hustlings. And manager Joe Maddon has left it to the veterans (namely, Floyd and Carlos Pena) to handle the situation. I read somewhere that Floyd was near tears when he told reporters that the 23-year-old Upton will "get it right". He's someone that cares about the game and how it's played...and he's brought to Tampa Bay a little bit of what was missing with the Mets last year and much of the first half of this year.

So every time I see Cliff Floyd hit a go-ahead homer for Tampa, or get an otherwise clutch hit, I'm happy for him. Because it's tangible proof of his importance to that team that everyone can see - and I know that a lot of the intangibles are going largely unnoticed.

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