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Naimoli on LaMar: 'He's here'

Rumors to contrary have cropped up again, but the general manager's status is said to be solid.

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002


DENVER -- The Rays' performance through 4 1/2 seasons has been disappointing to everyone, especially managing general partner Vince Naimoli. But Naimoli said he remains committed to general manager Chuck LaMar and his plan to build the team with young players.

"Chuck has two years remaining on his contract and we talked about this being a five- to seven-year plan," Naimoli said Saturday. "The direct answer to your question is that we have not considered any changes."

Questions about LaMar's job security have surfaced before, specifically at the end of last season when John Hart resigned from the Indians and there was speculation he was interested in coming to Tampa Bay.

In recent weeks there has been increasing talk in baseball circles that LaMar could be in trouble.

Naimoli dismissed the talk as rumor and said he plans for LaMar to remain on the job for the final two seasons of his contract. "He's here," Naimoli said.

LaMar joined the Rays in July 1995 and has had his contract extended twice so that it runs through the 2004 season. LaMar will make about $600,000 this year, $700,000 in 2003 and $800,000 in 2004.

But Naimoli also said he expects to see success at the major-league level by the end of LaMar's current deal.

"I think we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," Naimoli said. "You know what we have out there now youth-wise and you can see the positions we have to fill in with the youth, but you can see the youth coming.

"Whether the youth is going to be here this year or next year, but for sure by the following year. So the five-year plan, maybe it's a five-year plan, maybe it's six-year, maybe it's seven-year. But I wouldn't say anything more than seven at this point."

The key to LaMar's plan is the development of young prospects. Some, such as Joe Kennedy, have reached the major leagues and done well. Others, such as Toby Hall and Jesus Colome, have been sent back to the minors for more development. Others are still on the way up, including outfielder Carl Crawford, who is at Triple A, and outfielders Rocco Baldelli and Josh Hamilton, who are in Class A. Some, such as Matt White and Bobby Seay, have been stalled by injuries and inconsistency.

LaMar has made questionable acquisitions at the major-league level, such as signing Juan Guzman and Wilson Alvarez and trading for Vinny Castilla.

He since has been severely limited by a lack of money to add players, and has been under orders to reduce payroll, making it more challenging to improve the team.


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