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    How could Lou love Tampa Bay?

    New York writers fling zingers at the Rays' audacity in competing with the Mets to lure manager Lou Piniella.

    By TOM ZUCCO, Times Staff Writer

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 22, 2002

    It just irks them. Drives them nuts.

    How could anyone compete with New York?

    The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and New York Mets are in a bidding war for Seattle Mariners manager Lou Piniella, a native of Tampa. Like the respective teams, both metropolitan areas have their strong and weak points. Either side could win.

    The New York media, however, see things a little differently.

    They're getting personal.

    * * *

    "Everyone knows the Mets will win this derby eventually -- everyone, that is, except the Devil Rays. Piniella wouldn't stay home if the Devil Rays threw Busch Gardens, the Skyway Bridge and Derby Lane dog track (Piniella's personal favorite) into the deal."

    -- Jon Heyman, Newsday

    * * *

    It seems that every chance they get, newspapers and radio stations in New York take their best shots.

    "Devil Rays officials have been telling Tampa media outlets they are serious about luring Piniella," read a story in Monday's New York Post. "Not just making a good show to satisfy disenfranchised fans."

    Or they pretend the Tampa Bay area doesn't exist. ESPN Radio in New York reported last week that Piniella could be announced as the Mets manager on Friday.

    Sorry. Friday arrived. Piniella didn't.

    Of course, these are the same august publications that referred to American Taliban John Walker Lindh as "Johnny Jihad" and have labeled the gunman terrorizing the Washington, D.C., area as the "Sniper Psycho." One of the headlines in Monday's New York Post read "Dems to Bubba: It's Time To Panic."

    * * *

    "By all appearances, the sad-sack D-Rays seem hopeful about their chances to land their hometown hero and momentarily remove the focus from the fact that they have no clue. No surprise, they apparently have no idea they are an unfortunate, unwitting pawn in the high-stakes poker game with Seattle on one side and Piniella and the Mets on the other.

    "The smart money knows the Mets will get their man."

    -- Heyman

    * * *

    Chris Thomas has heard all this before.

    "Classic New York arrogance," said Thomas, host of the Chris Thomas Show on sports radio station WDAE-AM 620 and former sports director at WFLA-Ch. 8. "To them it's unfathomable that Piniella would take a job here. But since when did the Mets become such a sweetheart job?

    "That's so vain on their part. I grew up in that part of the country. Those obnoxious morons. Mean, arrogant and vain -- all the qualities we look for in a New Yorker."

    Thomas recalled the bashing the bay area took when St. Petersburg hosted the NCAA South Region basketball tournament in 1989 at Tropicana Field. CBS announcers, speaking to a national audience, poked fun at the conditions of the facility, asking whether the city had paid its power bill. Columnists, including several from New York, complained about the cramped media work area and flooded interview room.

    "They (the New York media) would rip anybody," Thomas said. "It's just that superiority complex they all have. It's genetic. They can't help themselves."

    * * *

    "The last thing Lou Piniella wants is to become a hopeless loser in his very own stomping grounds. Which means there is as much chance of Piniella's accepting a job to manage the VIP room at Tampa nudie bar Tanga Lounge as there is for him to manage the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, currently targeting their turnaround for the turn of the next century."

    -- Heyman

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