Can you recall the promise? Recall the potential? Recall that June evening when Wil Myers was little more than a name with no major league experience, when the Tampa Bay Rays announced their intention to make the future now?
The email’s subject line, dated June 16, for immediate release:
“RAYS TO ADD WIL MYERS TO MAJOR LEAGUE ROSTER”
Cue the credits. The rest is history.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America named Myers, 22, the American League Rookie of the Year on Monday night. Little about the news is a surprise, and that’s no slight to Rays right-hander Chris Archer or Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias, the other finalists and fine young players of their own.
“As the season went on, I could see that I could have a chance to win the award,” Myers, an outfielder, said in a conference call. “That kind of followed along a little bit. To be able to win is a huge honor, and I’m very excited about it.”
This is confirmation of what was witnessed since that sun-splashed afternoon on June 18 at Fenway Park, when the firecracker from Thomasville, NC, made the transition from what-if to “What now?” This progress was predictable all along, and it was reflected in the BBWAA’s results: Myers received 23 of 30 first-place votes, while Iglesias finished second and Archer third.
“I don’t think it’s a negative pressure thing,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Myers winning the award. “It’s a positive thing.”
Pressure? Oh, pressure hasn’t made Myers blink so far.
There were comparisons to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, a three-time All-Star and the AL Rookie of the Year in 2008. There were power displays, the tempting talent. There were growth moments: Myers’ name will forever echo at Fenway Park after a botched fly ball from David Ortiz in Game 1 of the ALDS.
But he remains interesting because he has so much more to show, so much more to give.
He came. He saw. He did as Maddon instructed, before Myers made his debut: “I want him to play. I want him to be a Ray.”
Over time, that advice came to mean many things. It was part production: Myers hit .293 with 13 home runs, 53 RBI and a .354 on-base percentage in the regular season, the highlight being a July when he hit .352 with four home runs, 18 RBI and a .406 on-base percentage.
It was part impact: Myers provided an offensive spark, so much that it’s no stretch to wonder if the Rays would have made their fourth postseason appearance in six years without him. Yes, he lived through slumps since his call-up from Triple-A Durham, the worst in August when he hit a season-low .209.
But mostly, there was a sense of wonder each time he stepped to the plate, with the first notes of Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” blaring in the background.
He came. He saw. He had an “it” presence about him.
“I think,” Maddon said, “it’s going to prompt him to work even harder.”
Know this is a beginning, not an end. Last December, the Rays lost a valuable right-hander in James Shields to receive Myers during a blockbuster trade that shook the baseball world and re-shaped the parties involved.
The Kansas City Royals made a move for the present, the Rays for the future. Both players delivered immediate returns, and both will remain centerpieces for their franchises.
The good news for Tampa Bay is this: Myers has the potential to provide dividends for at least the next five years. That’s an investment to keep, a future worth banking on.
“I think the biggest thing is you have expectations on winning,” Myers said. “You put all the expectations on winning for your team. That puts aside the expectations on personal goals.”
What was your favorite Myers moment? Was it the Fenway Park debut? Was it his first homer on June 22, a 376-foot shot to right field off CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium as part of a 3-for-4 day?
Was it his first homer at Tropicana Field on June 24, a 428-foot beast to center field off Esmil Rogers? Was it his boyish innocence, his sometimes out-of-control hair?
Take your pick. There were plenty to make you step back from your Cracker Jack and think, “Get comfortable. This guy has it. Watch him grow.”
He came. He saw. He left us wondering.
That’s the best part. The AL Rookie of the Year honor is reason to look back at all Myers’ good, all his raw ability. Yet it’s also an excuse to glance ahead, to dream about what he can be.
“Just to be able to win this award,” Myers said, “is an honor.”
Likely, there will be more. His future will include All-Star Game appearances, home run chases, more memories made at the Trop and elsewhere.
Who knows? Perhaps there will be MVP talk and World Series rings down the line.