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Rays

Floyd's short stay left lasting impression

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 09:05 PM
PORT CHARLOTTE -

Cliff Floyd signed with the last-place, worst-record-in-the-majors Tampa Bay Rays in December 2007 for $2.75 million and immediately asked himself this question: "Am I crazy?"

Next came this thought: "I'm not going there to lose."

And he didn't.

The tale of the worst-to-first Rays was well documented. The stars were Evan Longoria, David Price, Carlos Peña, Jason Bartlett and on and on. There were others in supporting roles, such as Troy Percival, when he was healthy, Eric Hinske and Floyd – a trio of veterans who brought leadership and accountability to the clubhouse.

Perhaps none of those three was as valuable as Floyd, who somehow found a way to play on a pair of cranky, 35-year-old legs magically rejuvenated each night in a clubhouse full of kids.

"I think his presence was more powerful than we can quantify," Peña said.

Floyd's line of .268, 11 home runs and 39 RBIs doesn't even begin to tell his story.

"He served as a balancing presence in a very young clubhouse," Peña said.

Floyd visited the Rays on Tuesday in Jupiter. He was kind of upset B.J. Upton wasn't on the trip. He wanted to tell his old teammate enough with this sore back, it's time to get back on the field.

Once a teammate, right?

"Whatever I was going to bring to that team at the point of my career, it wasn't going to be 35 home runs," Floyd said. "So, what was I supposed to bring?"

How about the belief it was a good team?

Floyd and Hinske would look at all the talent and wonder why the Rays did not win more. Because the players didn't think they could, they were told by manager Joe Maddon. So, Floyd went about changing that mindset.

Floyd worked the room, instilling belief in his teammates that it was the same game they played in the minors, that they couldn't be afraid to make mistakes and that there was not one role on the club that was too big for them to handle.

"He has the quiet confidence that rubs off on people and soon everyone is believing," Peña said.

The Rays had their first winning record that season, won the division and the American League pennant and played in the World Series.

The next year, Floyd and Hinske were gone, replaced by Pat Burrell, who turned out to be an expensive bust at designated hitter.

Floyd, who signed with the Padres in 2009 and played one more season before retiring, takes a measure in pride in what he helped create in Tampa Bay.

"It makes you feel good that you were a part of something that every player wants to be a part of," he said. "Every player wants to be a part of something that lasts, not a one-hit wonder. You can put your chest out a little bit and say, 'I was a part of that.'"

Said Maddon: "He was part of the group that really helped flipped us."

The Rays stayed flipped, and they will begin the season April 6 as a team with a legitimate shot at reaching the World Series.

While Floyd's time in Tampa Bay was short, his finger prints remain on the team.

"I believe so. I think some people leave a mark, and Cliff is one of those people," Peña said. "He left a positive mark on this ball club. Yes, Cliff can feel that what has happened in Tampa Bay over the last four years that he's a part of that."


rmooney@tampatrib.com

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