ARLINGTON — Evan Longoria waited 15 years for another chance at a world title.
Now, as the veteran third baseman/designated hitter returns to the game’s biggest stage when his D-backs face the Rangers in the 2023 World Series, he feels more prepared to walk away with the ring than he did when he was a 23-year-old rookie with the ’08 Rays.
The biggest difference this time?
Longoria won’t enter Friday’s first game with a “stupid” attitude.
“As a young player, I really believed the path to victory was: I needed to get a hit every time I got up there,” Longoria said Thursday at Globe Life Field. “That’s the kind of pressure I was putting on myself. Like: ‘If I don’t play well in this series, we won’t win.’
“Looking back, this was clearly a stupid idea.”
There is no doubt that the pressure got to him at that time.
Longoria had a star performance in the 2008 American League Championship Series, driving in eight runs, scoring eight more and hitting a home run in four straight games as Tampa Bay blanked Boston in seven games.
But under the bright lights of the World Series, Longoria retreated into the shadows.
He went 0-for-16 with nine strikeouts over the first four games of the 2008 Fall Classic against the Phillies. Longoria’s only hit — an RBI single in the Rays’ decisive Game 5 loss — was too little, too late to save Tampa Bay.
“I had all this pressure and weight on me as a young player, and it really felt like the court was collapsing on me,” Longoria said.
This kind of recognition would almost certainly never be given by any young player today. But Longoria’s openness and willingness to share his own experience may now help another 23-year-old rookie: D-backs star Corbin Carroll.
“I talked to him a few times throughout the postseason about not handling it any differently,” Longoria said. “We hope he takes some of that to heart.”
It’s safe to say that Carroll listened.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Carroll said on the eve of the World Series. “I’m going to go out there and do my best. All I can control is my effort and my process and all the work I put in.”
As for Longoria talking about his personal expectations in his first world championship, Carroll seems to agree with Longoria’s harsh, “stupid” assessment.
“Regarding Lungo, I think he said he didn’t even take a hit [fifth] “A game and he felt like the world was falling apart,” Carroll said. “But we kind of laughed about it, honestly, because if you go two games in the regular season and no results, that’s what it is. He’s going to turn around. We have to approach it the same way.”
Carroll has already put that lesson to good use in the postseason. After going just 3-for-23 (.130) without an extra-base hit or stolen base in the first six games of Arizona’s NLCS win over the Phillies, Carroll stole the show in Game 7. He went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two stolen bases to help out a linebacker D to grab the flag.
Longoria has the full support of his manager to have these chats.
“It was probably the first day conversation in my office that I gave him the freedom to do whatever he needed to do,” Torey Lovullo said. “…The conversations he can have when I’m not there are so much more powerful than anything any other teammate or any other coach could have because [his] reputation. “And he didn’t stop doing it.”
That’s why Longoria didn’t hesitate to remind all of his teammates — not just the rookies — that no player would be able to carry Arizona to a title. The 2023 World Series won’t be won or lost on any one pitch or one hit — or even one game, for that matter.
Longoria’s initial vision of how to win a World Series: “You realize the best path to victory is to carry the team,” didn’t work 15 years ago, he remembers thinking.
“That vision is much clearer in my mind as to how we’re going to win this series,” Longoria said. “Now, we still have to go out there and actually do it. We have to go out and execute what we’ve done all year.”
“But I really believe it’s out there and we can do it.”
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