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Many places to go, or maybe no place

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 20, 2002


Rick Williams is a baseball lifer.

Good guy. Works hard. Loves his job.

But there's a problem.

Williams -- today, anyway -- is farm director of the Marlins. Sometime in the next week or two, the Marlins formally will be sold to Jeffrey Loria, who is dumping the failed Montreal franchise on Major League Baseball.

Loria has invited most of his staff to come to Florida, a contingent that includes not only general manager Larry Beinfest, manager Jeff Torborg and coaches, but 50 members of the minor-league department including, perhaps, farm director Tony LaCava.

Friday night, Marlins employees were given permission to look for other jobs -- though there aren't many open at this late date.

So where does that leave Williams?

"I wish I knew," he said. "We've been in limbo for over three months. It's difficult, difficult in all aspects for all employees. You wake up thinking about it, you spend the day thinking about it, and the last thought you have before you go to sleep you're thinking about it. And you have absolutely no control over it."

Williams, who was the Rays' first pitching coach and still lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children, doesn't know what is going to happen to him or 100 other Marlins employees.

Williams has two years remaining on his contract (which leaves him better off than many of others), but doesn't know who is going to pay him, or what he's going to do, or if he's going to work at all.

The scenarios are dizzying. He could be retained on the Marlins staff. He could be fired and offered some job with the Expos, who likely will be run for a year by MLB then folded or sold. He could join the ex-Marlins who go to Boston with owner John Henry. Or the ones who went to Detroit with former GM Dave Dombrowski.

Or he could be handed a check and, for the first time in his adult life, not have anything to do in baseball, an option so distasteful he says he would offer his services to every team, in any capacity, just to stay involved.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Williams said. "I think we're all hoping there's closure as soon as possible."

RAYS FURLOUGHED: The Rays temporarily have laid off several clubhouse and other support staffers, and delayed the scheduled rehiring of some seasonal employees at least until the start of spring training.

"Our assessment of the overall economy, our results posted in 2001 and a number of other issues which may effect our game have all influenced us in reviewing our operating plan for 2002," chief operating officer John McHale Jr. said. "Like so many other businesses, we've realized we can only afford so much. We're trying to do the best we can, but we can't continue as if none of that stuff is out there. We have reduced force in a pretty broad variety of areas, including baseball operations."

MORE RAYS: The new marketing campaign, featuring several up-and-coming players, is themed "Heart & Hustle." ... Jose Tavarez, director of guest services, was promoted to vice president of employee and guest relations, making him responsible for all aspects of customer service and fan comfort. ... Tropicana Field will be open for prospective full and partial season-ticket purchasers on Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

CAPITAL PUNISHERS: Bud Selig's comments that relocation was coming and that Washington was "the prime candidate" naturally perked ears around the capital. The obvious move is to auction the Expos to Washington interests for the 2003 season. Others suggest MLB prefers to fold the Expos and Twins and move the Marlins to the capital.

SHEFF'S STEW: As happy as Gary Sheffield was about going to Atlanta, Brian Jordan was upset about leaving. Jordan was especially irritated that general manager John Schuerholz sought his help in recruiting Terry Pendleton to become the team's hitting coach and convincing John Smoltz to re-sign, then traded him. "It's like he just stabbed me right in the back," Jordan said.

MISCELLANY: Best news of the week was Selig reiterating that owners have no plans for a spring training lockout, and union chief Don Fehr saying the players have not considered a strike. ... Barry Bonds' five-year, $90-million deal is actually a four-year, $72-million contract with an $18-million option for 2006 that only vests if Bonds is playing regularly in 2004-05. ... A swap of spring training sites is one of the remaining issues in the Expos-Marlins sale, though the move might be postponed until 2003. ... Ex-Ray Cory Lidle got $7.6-million over two years from Oakland. ... New Red Sox owners reportedly are looking to hire Oakland's Billy Beane as their next GM.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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