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What if Naimoli named me manager of the Devil Rays?

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By HUBERT MIZELL, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 13, 2002

Although game-by-game Devil Rays agonies and cumulative Trop torment could shorten my life, rather than Tampa Bay's major-league franchise sacrificing another good baseball guy, what if Vince Naimoli named me manager?

Oh, listen to the roar.

"Vinny the Victory Starved" could pay me lots of money for painfully little production, as Boss Ray did Wilson Alvarez for five seasons, then I would be fired, earning a pauper's grave alongside other Tampa Bay skippers who never had a chance.

On my departure day, Chuck LaMar would make the announcement, astonishingly continuing his run as the losingest of GMs. But, thanks to my sacrifice, the Rays could avoid professional humiliation of another hard-working, outmanned Larry Rothschild or Hal McRae.

I mean, they can finish dead last under me. Assuming the quality of Rays players wouldn't get much better, I would try other things, like hiring Bill Murray and Anna Kournikova as coaches, which could put happier faces on some fans.

Hubert's their man. Agree?

If so, call the Rays.

If your ballclub can't win, let's try new stuff in search of joy enhancement at the Trop. I can scribble nine names on a lineup card. I can squirm, wince and get nauseated on the bench for three hours, often topping it with a wobbly ninth inning of Esteban Yan relief pitching. Then, after another defeat, I could handling expounding to media.

You got a better suggestion?

I'm talking to you, Vince.

* * *

BLITZES: A pet peeve of Penn State's Joe Paterno is seeing college football coaches escorted by cops, a southern tradition he sees as overbearing. ... Terrance Holt, brother of gifted Rams receiver Torry Holt, recently executed his 12th kick block at N.C. State. ... Masters golf chairman Hootie Johnson, a man far more liberal than is being portrayed, could ease his pains by choosing the personally elegant Nancy Lopez as Augusta National's first woman member. ... Wonder if Texas A&M will become less prone to NCAA violations now that campus scrutiny comes from new president Robert Gates, former director of the CIA? ... A handwritten note from retiring announcer Ernie Harwell, warm with comments about my column on the gentlemanly Detroit Tigers legend, claimed I'd been far too generous to him, so even a sweet voice from summer nights can be really wrong.

FEEDBACK: Not surprisingly, more than two dozen readers reacted with opinions on last week's Sunday Punch about the NFL celebrating too often and evolving into obnoxious clowning, but the shock is that it was 27-0 in agreement as nobody tattooed me with labels of "boring" or "old codger" or being "generationally warped."

Among those e-mails. . .

Robert Tutko of New Port Richey said, "Agree with you 100 percent. I am an ex-semipro player and Little League coach. If any of our players acted in such a manner, he would be benched. It is sickening to watch antics as so-called ballplayers go into their acts."

Milly Schwartz of Holiday adds, "I've loved football since high school. These immature guys aren't grown up enough, they make too much money and think they own the world."

Bobby Schindler of Tampa offered this opinion: "It saddens me to see professional athletes evolving in such uncaring, arrogant ways. I teach high school and see the influence athletes have on kids. I grew up admiring Greg Maddux, Wilbert Montgomery, Mike Schmidt and Julius Erving. I wonder if Warren Sapp has any sense of the word "humble.' I refuse to support, at least financially, pro football or baseball. Do these guys have a clue how much they are alienating fans?"

And this from one-time major-league infielder Chuck Hiller of St. Pete Beach who still works for the Mets: "I agree with your thoughts on showboating and in-your-face attitudes. I cannot stand it and actually do not watch many games because of it. Bring back the good old days when an athlete doing his job wasn't such a big deal."

There was far more of the same. Allow me to again say that 75 percent of pros conduct themselves in acceptable, sporting ways. TV cameras aren't on them. Networks should be ripped.

College football has an overcelebrating penalty, which has often been poorly administered by officiating crews. They flag legitimate enthusiasm, which is far more understandable. What if NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had the resolve and courage to push through a 25-yard penalty for "offensive gyrations?" Accompanied by $50,000 fines for offending players?

Today, they fear traffic cops more than referees.

* * *

Whatever happened to Ray Guy?

-- To reach Hubert Mizell, e-mail or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.

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