Lou's worst club still inspires hope
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003
NEW YORK - Lou Piniella has never been this big of a loser before.
And he says he couldn't be more confident that the Devil Rays soon will be winners.
The Rays now have 89 losses, the most Piniella has had during his 17-year managing career, worse than a 74-88 season in Cincinnati in 1991.
The frequent losing has been tough for a guy used to winning, "a little painful in that regards." But Piniella said the Rays soon will be on the plus side of the equation.
"We knew that this year would be a year of growing pains," he said. "I've got enough confidence in myself as a manager to feel that I can win under any circumstances, and that's the way I approach every ballgame. But the reality of the thing is that our job was to analyze, to evaluate and to take a look at as much of our farm system this year with the idea that now we go out over the winter and we start improving these areas we need to improve and start putting this thing here on a forward track.
"And now that I've been on the job (for a while), I'm more convinced than ever that we'll get it done."
HITTING AND RUNNING: Aubrey Huff continued his tremendous season, joining Fred McGriff as the only Rays to total 100 RBIs in a season.
"You're producing runs and driving in runs, and any time you do that it's a good thing," Huff said. "Nowadays average is so overlooked; I still pride myself on hitting .300. But everyone is looking for run production and to drive in 100 runs, that's special."
Huff, whose 42 RBIs since Aug. 1 are the most in the majors, has a shot at McGriff's 2000 team record of 106. "That's reachable," Huff said.
Huff is one hit shy of Randy Winn's 2002 single-season team record of 181 hits. He also tied a team record in the opener with an RBI in seven straight games.
Carl Crawford, 22, stole a base in each game to become the sixth youngest player to swipe 50 in a season.
"Not too many people take notice, so I guess it's not that big a deal, but it is to me," Crawford said. "It's cool. I'll see if I can get a couple more."
He is also on track to be the fourth youngest to win a league stolen base title.
CARIBBEAN VACATION: Managing general partner Vince Naimoli said he didn't know anything about a Puerto Rico promoter reportedly saying he'd seek to move some Rays games to the island next season.
But he didn't say he wouldn't consider it, either.
"If we were approached the first thing we'd have to do is talk to the city (of St. Petersburg) about our lease," Naimoli said. "But we have not been approached."
DOUG IN: Rookie Doug Waechter, 22, is making an effort to not treat his first start today at Yankee Stadium any differently than the first two of his career. He will have his sister, who lives in New York, and about 15 friends and relatives, including his mom, who are flying up from St. Petersburg, on hand.
Piniella hopes Waechter, 3-0 after three outings, continues his impressive performances.
"Let's hope he continues to pitch well through September, has a good spring and we keep him right in the rotation," Piniella said. "I'd like that more than anything else."
HONORARIUM: Lance Carter was chosen by teammates as the Rays' nominee for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, given annually to the player who inspires others through onfield play and contributions to the community. Fans will pick six finalists through online voting (www.bigleaguers.yahoo.com) and players will vote on the winner. ... Triple-A manager Bill Evers will be honored Thursday at the Back-2-Back Championship Celebration in Durham.
MISCELLANY: Crawford extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games. ... Travis Lee extended his to 12 and got his career-high 35th double. ... New York's Mike Mussina won his 199th game.
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