Piniella: Walks are important
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003
NEW YORK -- Lou Piniella likes his teams to run.
But he wouldn't mind if they walked more too.
Piniella is a firm believer that the key to an improved winning percentage is an increased on-base percentage.
He points out that the three teams with the best records in the American League rank 1-2-3 in on-base percentage, and that five of the top six teams last season had the top five team on-base percentages.
Piniella and batting coach Lee Elia have addressed this with the players, but this isn't strictly an issue to be dealt with on the big-league level.
Players coming through the Rays farm system don't tend to walk much either, perhaps a byproduct of the organizational philosophy to draft athletes and refine their baseball skills rather than draft baseball players and try to make them better.
With the team depending heavily on the prospects in the minor-league system, Piniella wants to see more of an emphasis on getting on base.
"What you really want your kids to do is learn to hit at the minor-league level, but at the same time if you don't learn your strike zone you're going to come up here and you're going to struggle," Piniella said.
"Really, it's a philosophy that should be adhered to -- to some degree -- at the minor-league level. It's harder to learn it up here than it is down there; they throw more balls down there than here."
He is not calling for an extreme shift in philosophy such as Oakland has done and Boston is starting to employ. He just wants to see improvement.
"I'm not saying to overdo it," he said, "but it's something the organization should adopt to some degree.
PRICE HIKE: The value of the Rays went up -- and down -- according to the latest estimations by Forbes magazine.
In the annual baseball issue, dated April 28, the Forbes folks figure the value of the franchise increased from $142-million last year to $145-million. But the Rays dropped a notch compared with the other teams, from 27th to 28th. In 2001, the magazine said the Rays were worth $150-million and ranked 25th.
The Forbes figures -- which don't include interest, taxes or depreciation -- also show the Rays made money last season, albeit a small amount, $1.4-million.
Team officials say the Forbes figures are not accurate.
"We don't supply information to Forbes and we don't know where they get their information," vice president/general counsel John Higgins said. "What they've written this year about our finances is incorrect."
EX-RAY FILE: Tanyon Sturtze, off to a 2-0 start for Toronto, continues to rave about the difference in playing for the Blue Jays. "How can you not feel confident the way this team plays," Sturtze said. "I mean, it's great. I don't feel like if I make a mistake it will be that bad because they will either catch it or if it is a home run they'll come back and get it back for you." ... Outfielder Jason Conti cleared waivers and was sent to Milwaukee's Triple-A team. ... The Royals plan to make Brent Abernathy a leadoff hitter.
HOO-RAYS: The idea of installing FieldTurf on the extra infield at Progress Energy Park is a good one. But the idea of working out more during the spring at Tropicana Field, and even playing an exhibition (say with the Yankees, proceeds to area charities) is a better one. ... Trop security has been told to enforce the "no food/no drinks" policy with zero tolerance. ... After opening night, the Rays averaged 12,900 for the next nine games.
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