© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2002
The hiring of Lou Piniella is a misguided strategy put in place by a mismanaged Devil Rays organization.
Last year Hal McRae, now an assistant to general manager Chuck LaMar, said the team couldn't win with the current players. Now the organization trades its best player for a big-name manager, but the team still has the same players and a big outfield hole to fill. The farm system has yet to produce quality big-league players, and the free-agent choices have been miserable at best. Yet fans are supposed to believe that, because the team has hired a manager who can throw first base farther than many on the team can throw the ball, the organization is moving in the right direction.
This latest move adds to the list of bad decisions the organization has made in its brief existence. How many other teams can say the field manager draws the second-highest salary in the organization?
-- Bob Borland, Safety Harbor
Last year's minuscule payroll was evidence enough that you have to invest money in the team to avoid the 100-loss plateau. I'm not recommending Steinbrennerish payroll proportions, but keeping payroll at its current level will translate into another season of futility for the Rays, even with a manager like Lou Piniella.
What I see with this organization is no clear direction for the future, including the announcement that Piniella will be the third manager in six years. Just last year, the philosophy was to develop the young players within the organization, retain them as they develop into All-Star caliber major-leaguers and acquire free agents to improve the team as it contends for division and league championships like Oakland and Minnesota.
Acquiring Piniella, however, cost the one player who has defined this organization's development blueprint. The Rays allowed Randy Winn to establish himself after they let their MVP from their inaugural season, Quinton McCracken, go.
It will take more than a high-profile manager to bring fans into the Trop. Piniella's salary would be better served if allocated to more important areas. The bullpen is a great place to start.
Piniella may turn this franchise around, but how much worse would it have been with a different manager and more money put into players on the field?
-- MJ Albritton, Tampa
Hallelujah. Now the Rays may go somewhere. The problem with this team, however, has been Chuck LaMar. The sooner Vince Naimoli realizes his general manager is not a good baseball man and gets a honest-to-goodness knowledgeable baseball person, the sooner the team may go from the bottom to at least the middle.
-- Ruthe F. Cressman, via e-mail
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