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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ray Lankford, Main Objective - 114

Read the revisited Ray Lankford feature from September 2012,  Ray Lankford, Some Kind

A rookie trying to make the big club in 1990, Ray Lankford found himself just trying to show he fit in, he told The Orlando Sentinel earlier this month.

"When you're a young man, your main objective was to come in and prove that you belong here, make the team," Lankford told The Sentinel after returning to his one-time spring training home.

Lankford, of course, did belong. He ended up playing in 14 major league seasons for the Cardinals and the Padres. He even made the Hall of Fame ballot in January 2010, an accomplishment in itself, though, as expected, he received no support for induction.

Taken by the Cardinals in the third round of the 1987 draft, Lankford made St. Louis on Aug. 21, 1990. His first outing was a strong one, he singled in his first major league at bat, doubling later in the game.

The Cardinals even traded Willie McGee to make room for Lankford to play full time. It proved a wise move. He soon became a fixture in St. Louis.

Lankford's first full campaign placed him third in the Rookie of the Year balloting. He made the All Star team in 1997 and put up 238 career home runs and 258 career steals. He had five seasons with 20 home runs and 20 steals.

But, by 2001, his numbers had begun to decline. The Cardinals even benched him, to help make way for a young rookie named Albert Pujols. It was something the veteran took as the Cardinals not showing him the respect he deserved. It was an assessment Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa disagreed with, according to a New York Times article.

''There isn't any other way we can show respect for this guy,'' La Russa said in The Times article. ''He gets all the respect he earns. He's just got into a rut the last couple years where the swings and misses are driving him to the bench.''

Soon traded to the Padres, Lankford played parts of two undistinguished seasons in San Diego. He apparently patched things up with St. Louis by 2004, returning to the club he played so long for.

It was on Oct. 3, 2004, that Lankford finally ended his career that had begun with a single in 1990, with a pinch-hit home run. It was his 123rd home run at old Busch Stadium the most anyone hit in that park.
1990 CMC Tally
Cards Reviewed:
91/880 - 10.3%
Made the Majors: 56 - 62%
Never Made the Majors: 35 - 38%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 20
10+ Seasons in the Minors: 32

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