Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida on May 27, 2001 · 61
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Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg, Florida · 61

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St. Petersburg, Florida
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Sunday, May 27, 2001
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61
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"'m;' '-'rHr i' ijuiiiini tfitynitfmfiin 6c TIMES SUNDAY, MAY 27, 2001 RAYS EXTRA BIG LEAGUE EXTRA THE SUNDAY REPORT racIHlale qsm save RAYS TALES I f L JU r, : . w , 'ff 4 i - ; MARC TOPKIN DEVIL RAYS If-"-- tucm n ifP9Cia,,0,heTimesi1972 NOW: A more elegant THEN: Polka-dot ties and McHae gets t0 teacn tne striped shirts were the Rays how t0 win rage in West Palm Beach. LESSON PLANNER: Before John McHale Jr. became COO of the Rays, before he was president of the Tigers, before he was vice president of the Rockies, before he was a lawyer, before he was a lot of other things, he was an English teacher at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach. And one of his students sophomore English, 1 972 was Rick Williams, the former Rays pitching coach and current Marlins farm director. Over the years, McHale has remained friendly with Williams never once lecturing him about his syntax or grammar even if he didn't make much of an impression in the classroom. "I don't really remember him as my English teacher," Williams said. "And English was one of my better subjects." FAMOUS INTERN: One of McHale's first "jobs" in baseball was to spend the summer of 1 972 in Newport News, Va., with the Peninsula Whips. His father, John Sr., was running the Expos, and John Jr. went off to get experience with the Triple-A team. McHale ended up doing a bit of everything, working everywhere from the concession stands to the ticket office to the clubhouse, In other words, he was to learn everything he could from Carlos Ledezma, who was the assistant trainer, equipment manager, clubhouse director and assorted other things. "I was his intern," McHale said. Nearly 30 years later, the two are working together again for the Rays. Ledezma is the Rays home clubhouse manager, and he's still impressed by McHale efforts from that long ago summer. "He was very involved and anxious to learn," Ledezma said. WISE GUY: Scott Miller of CBS Sportslihe.com apparently is concerned about the Rays' financial situation. So much so that, in a column for America Online, he offered a handful of fund-raising suggestions: Dunk-The-Owner Booth: "Scorned business leaders throughout the Tampa Bay area bid to be first in line to take their pitch to dunk Vince Naimoli Is there anybody out there who wouldn't pay big bucks for the opportunity?" General Manager for a Day: "Bid to become Chuck LaMar for a day . . . and then see if you can do the job better than him!" The Wilson Alvarez Memorial Bake Sale: "Cupcakes! Creme cakes! Double takes! Injuredfailed Devil Rays pitchers preside over a bake sale to rival any church group's, anywhere!" The Vinny Castilla Memorial Car Wash: "While Castilla tools around Houston in his expensive sports car, join the Devil Rays in the parking lot of the local Publix grocery store for a car wash in Vroomin' Vinny's memory!" POSITIONING THEMSELVES Does it matter who starts for the Rays? Here is the team record with different starters at each position: C: Flaherty 13-23, DiFeliceO-12 1B:McGriff 10-31, Cox 3-4 2B: Johnson 9-19, Rolls 3-1 1 (Smith 1 -5) SS: Martinez 1 1-27, Sheets 2-7, Johnson 0-1 33; Huff 5-17, Rolls 0-1 (Castilla 8-16) LF: Grieve 9-22, Vaughn 4-7, Cox 0-6 CF: Williams 12-32, Winn 1-3 RF: Guillen 7-20, Grieve 3-7, Winn 3-7, Tyner 0-1 DH: Vaughn 9-26, Cox 2-2, Grieve 1-5, McGriff 1-2 WHAT THEY'RE SAYING Lynn Henning, writing about John McHale Jr. in the Detroit News: "McHale's decision to leave the Tigers is being portrayed as something of a rescue mission a charitable job transfer orchestrated by no less than commissioner Bud Selig. . . . Selig's motivation for bringing McHale to Tampa Bay was inspired, he said, by two factors: First, Tampa Bay's consortium of owners, which has created a haphazard management system and public-relations disaster, needs streamlined leadership. That, Selig and others believe, can be best handled by a man of McHale's style and diverse skills. And those qualities are what has distinguished McHale." QUOTE OF THE WEEK "I just got tired of a job that only took 10 or 12 hours a day. " JOHN McHALE JR. new Rays COO explaining why he left the Tigers BY THE NUMBERS 28: Bases stolen by the Rays. 35: Wild pitches thrown by the Rays. 48: Double plays grounded into by the Rays. RAYS VS. RAYS VS. RAYS VS. RAYS After 48 games Overall Year W-L Pet P-GB W-L .Pet. P-GB 2001 13-35 .271 5-14 44-118 .272 ?-?? 2000 16-32 .333 5-13 69-92 .429 5-18 1999 22-26 .458 4-6.5 69-93 .426 5-29 1998 22-26 .458 4-13.5 63-99 .389 5 51 projected. P-GB: Place in East Division-games behind first MARC TOPKIN ST. PETERSBURG The thousands of words spoken at last week's announcement of John McHale Jr.'s hiring as chief operating officer left few doubts about his experience, his credentials, his appetite for challenges, his ability to handle the task of saving the Rays. But the biggest, and most important, question, can't be answered yet: Will he be allowed to do his job? More specifically, will Vince Naimoli and his invisible bickering partners allow McHale to do his job? At this point, everyone says yes. McHale says so, Naimoli says so, team officials say so. (We don't know what the other general partners say because they, apparently, don't say anything, at least not in public). But there are some, including some insiders at the Trop, who wonder whether Naimoli really will let go. What happens the first time McHale wants to do something his way, or to spend money for something he thinks is important, or to change a policy? Will Naimoli will let him do so? Even at Tuesday's news conference, there were a couple of times when McHale was asked a question and Naimoli insisted on answering. For McHale, who received a four-year contract, to be effective, he must have the authority and the opportunity to make important decisions. If he does, and if he can do things the way he would like to, it should be a good thing for the Rays. McHale delivered an eloquent soliloquy on the place a baseball franchise occupies in a community (the text appears on page 2C), and that wasn't the only interesting thing he had to say. Though some local media types and fans have bought into rumors that the Rays could be folded as part of a contraction of Major League Baseball, McHale made a salient point: If he thought it might happen, he would not have taken the job. And given that his hiring was arranged, if not ordered, by the commissioner's office, he should know. . McHale said his primary concern is making sure that people understand how long it takes to win, that organizations usually are successful because they have productive minor-league systems and that it can take 7-10 years to build one. He talked about fan-friendly things like a stadium staff that "provides a clear, unequivocal welcome," courteous ticket-sales staffers who are "prepared to go the extra mile," a front-office organization "that reflects the diversity of the community." He plans to go into the community for healing, saying "if there are misunderstandings, or fissures that have occurred, as a result of anything that has been done or not been done," he'll address them. At one point, McHale was asked why, considering all the problems, he would take the job. The short answer: He likes the challenge. "This is a market and a franchise which is important to Major League Baseball," he said. "It was a market determined to have extraordinarily promising characteristics during the expansion process. . . . There are an intriguing set of challenges and opportunities here. And I think that that mix of challenges and opportunities appealed to me to help fill some of the void I felt after the completion of Comerica Park." DRAFT BREEZE: With the draft nine days away, the Rays have narrowed their focus to five candidates for the No. 3 pick: Southern Cal pitcher Mark Prior, Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixcira, Minnesota prep catcher Joe Mauer, Middle Tennessee State pitcher Dewon Brazel- ton and Baltimore-area prep pitcher Gavin Floyd. Prior and Teixeira are the top talents, but financial issues could affect the draft order. GOING NOWHERE: With Wilson Alvarez agreeing to defer $2-million in salary again next season, there has been some ESPN chatter that the left-hander is more attractive to teams, such as the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Cardinals, that are monitoring his comeback from shoulder surgery. One problem: Alvarez has a complete no-trade clause and says there has been no talk about waiving it. "No one has said anything to me," Alvarez said. "I just want to pitch." COMPUTER CRASH: The stadium's cyber cafe, where fans could surf the Internet and check e-mail, has been closed at least temporarily. It may be re-opened later in the season under new sponsorship. H00-RAYS: The Washington Post says an unnamed northern Virginia group has interest in the Rays. . . . Congrats to assistant general manager Scott Proefrock and his wife, K.K., on the birth of their son, John. THE SUNDAY REPORT Following A's formula, Padres win The Pirates have not had a winning season since dismantling the Barry BondsBobby Bonil-la-led teams from the early 1990s. The Marlins still are recovering from their salary dump after 1997. And then there are the San Diego Padres. The National League pennant winners in 1998, the Padres purged their payroll the next season, beginning with pitcher Kevin Brown. Yet three years later, the Padres are contending. Overcoming a 7-14 start, San Diego moved atop the NL West last week. The Padres have done it by patterning themselves after Oakland, last season's surprise team. General manager Kevin Towers admits he had the Athletics in mind while forming his roster. "Your job as a general manager is to look around at certain things other organizations have done," Towers said. "If it's something you like, you might try to implement it." -A. -if JOHN ROMANO BASEBALL Specifically, the Padres have hitters who are willing to take pitches and pitchers who throw strikes. San Diego is first in the league in walks drawn and third in fewest walks allowed. The Padres also have come up with a first baseman in the mold of Oakland MVP Jason Giambi. Ryan Klesko, a perennial prospect in Atlanta, is one of the league's top hitters in his third season in San Diego. Towers also deserves credit for some minor acquisitions that have produced major results. Rickey Henderson was signed late in the spring and has an on-base percentage over .400. Former Devil Ray Bubba Trammell also is thriving after being acquired from the Mets for reliever Donne Wall. Like he did at Tropicana Field, Trammell has become a fan favorite in San Die go. The difference is he is getting serious playing time and had 22 RBI in a 64 at-bat stretch. ARM WEARY: Wonder why man agers pay close attention to pitch counts? Randy Johnson threw 146 pitches against the Phillies. He failed to get past the fifth inning in his next two starts. MONEY TALKS: His career as a minor-league coach lasted about three months, but John Kruk is making no apologies. The former Phillies first baseman is leaving Double-A Reading this week to work for FOX Sports Network. I m the first to say that I m doing it for the money," Kruk said. "You hear people say it's not about the money? That's bull." REBEL YELLS: Good and bad news for Dixie Hollins High fans. Roy Smith, drafted out of Dixie in the 13th round by the Mariners in 1994, was called up by the Indians. Smith was 5-for-5 in save chances at Triple-A Buffalo and had a 0.68 ERA. On the down side, former Rebel Kurt Abbott had hernia surgery Tuesday and could be out two to six weeks. Abbott has been on the disabled list in Atlanta for more than a month. GO FIGURE: The White Sox led the majors in runs scored last season and Jerry Manuel was named the AL Manager of the Year. Chicago is 25th in the ma jors in runs scored this season and hitting coach von Joshua is fired. Joshua suggested that too many hitters were swinging for the fences, hoping to land big contracts with power numbers. "They listen, but it's the lure of the big 'fv v Allsport If s early, but after hitting a career-high 49 homers last season, Barry Bonds is on track to join some legendary sluggers. BARRY THE BOMBER Barry Bonds' tremendous power display already has stats freaks breaking out the comparisons to Mark McGwire's 70-homer pace in 1998. But Bonds has an even more distant standard in sight. It has been 80 years since a player finished a season with a slugging percentage above .800. With nearly one-third of the season completed, Bonds had a slugging percentage of .915. (That means nearly one total base for every at-bat.) Although it is highly unlikely Bonds will continue at such a torrid pace, he has a chance to finish with the highest slugging percentage of the past half -century. McGwire holds that distinction with a .752 slugging percentage the season he hit 70 home runs. Here are the top 10 seasons for slugging percentage in the first and second halves of the last century. 1900-1950 1951-2000 PLAYER YEAR SLG PLAYER YEAR SLG Babe Ruth Babe Ruth Babe Ruth Lou Gehrig Babe Ruth Rogers Hornsby Jimmie Foxx Babe Ruth Babe Ruth Ted Williams Compiled by John 1920 1921 1927 1927 1923 .847 .846 .772 .765 .764 1925 .756 1932 .749 1924 .739 1926 .737 1941 Romano. 735 Mark McGwire Jeff Bagwell Ted Williams Mark McGwire Frank Thomas Larry Walker Albert Belle Larry Walker Mickey Mantle Todd Helton 1998 .752 1994 .750 1957 .731 1996 .730 1994 .729 1997 .720 1994 .714 1999 .710 1956 .705 2000 .698 dollar," Joshua said. TRICKLE-DOWN THEORY: In one of the more bizarre connect-the-dots explanations, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa suggests that Rick Ankiel's control problems stem to a hunting knife accident suffered by catcher Mike Math-eny. Matheny sliced his finger just before the playoffs last season and was replaced by Carlos Hernandez behind the plate. Ankiel's control problems began in that playoff game with four walks and five wild pitches. "It sounds like (nonsense)," La Russa said. "But (An-kiel) was really locked in at the end of the season. Carlos was playing with a bad back. A couple of those balls got by and he's saying, 'Oh, no,' and he starts aiming. Of all the answers, having to deal with a different catcher ..." MONOPOLY: Expos managing general partner Jeffrey Loria has more than tripled his interest in the team. Loria owned 24 percent when the month began, but after his partners did not answer a cash call, he bought their shares and has 92 percent ownership. Loria has issued another cash call and could soon own the team outright. HELP, PLEASE: The word is several American League clubs have contacted teams in Japan to get scouting reports on the best way to defense Ichiro Suzuki. It can't hurt. Ichiro was a career .353 hitter in Japan. He was' hitting .363 going into Saturday's game. THE LAST WORD: After teasing fans with a hot spell, the Reds have had an expected collapse. It has not helped that Barry I.arkin, Ken Griffey Jr., Aaron Boone, Pete Harnisch and Scott Williamson are on the disabled list and Dmitri Young and Pokey Reese have been nursing injuries. "I'm getting tired of turning in a lineup card every day to the umpire with white-out on it," manager Bob Boone said. Information from other news organizations was used in this report. FIRST PLACE TO STAY? Not only is Memorial Day a good kickoff for summer, it also is a good time to begin watching pennant races a little more seriously. The first quarter of the season is complete and most of the pretenders have been identified. In 1998, every team leading its division on Memorial Day went on to win the title. The past two seasons, seven of the 12 division leaders at the end of May hung on to win the division. Here is a look at the past three seasons with the teams leading at the end of May and the end of the season, 2000 1999 1998 AL MAY 31 FINAL MAY31 FINAL MAY 31 FINAL West Seattle Oakland Central Chicago Chicago East Boston New York NL MAY31 FINAL Texas Texas Texas Texas Cleve. Cleve. Cleve. Cleve. Boston New York New York New York MAY 31 FINAL MAY31 FINAL West Arizona San Fran. Central St. Louis St. Louis East Atlanta Atlanta Compiled by John Romano. Arizona Arizona Houston Cine. Atlanta Atlanta San Diego Houston Atlanta San Diego Houston Atlanta 4 il ! I i

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