GM LaMar trying for optimism
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published May 9, 2004
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The way they have played so far, it sure looks like they're the same old Devil Rays, headed toward another long summer, a seventh straight last-place finish and a reverse pennant-race run at avoiding 100 losses.
But general manager Chuck LaMar, commended and rewarded with a two-year contract extension after rebuilding the team during the winter, insists that is not the case, and that the improvement, eventually, will show.
And if there is anything that makes their brutal start a tad bit easier to handle, it is LaMar's belief this is not a bad team doing the best it can, but a better team playing badly.
"Probably for the first time after a month of the season we look at our record and we're disgusted," LaMar said. "From that standpoint there's no question - forget payroll - we should have a better record. In past years we couldn't come out and say it, but because of our schedule - and we always have a tough schedule in April - our record might have been the same as it is now, and in-house we might be saying, "You know what, we're not happy, but we're playing about as good against the caliber of teams we're playing as we could.'
"That's not the case this year. Forget what kind schedule we have and forget the travel and everything else. There's no question with the ability we have on this club there's some wins that have gotten away from us. It's games that you can't make up, yet it shows you how truly improved we are. We have to go out and prove it, and I think in time, as this unfolds, we will."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: If B.J. Upton continues to hit .350 at Double-A Montgomery, he'll be at the Trop sooner than later, maybe by the All-Star break. ... Ex-Ray Joe Kennedy has more wins (four) for Colorado (!) than Mark Hendrickson, Paul Abbott and Jeremi Gonzalez combined (three). ... It's probably a good thing for LaMar he got his two-year contract extension before the season started. ... Marlins veteran Jeff Conine told USA Today that Guy Gallagher's visiting clubhouse at the Trop is the best in either league - by far: "They're awesome. They take care of you there. It's a dreary stadium, but the clubhouse guys are great." ... The original Spider-Man 2 deal was going to net the Rays about $50,000. ... After three A's-Rays games drew 31,512 to the Trop last week, the Oakland Tribune's Josh Suchon wrote: "Why is there baseball in Tampa Bay?" ... Troubled Marlins prospect Jeff Allison, reportedly being treated for drug problems after leaving extended spring training, has the same agent, Casey Close , as Rays problem child Josh Hamilton. ... Final details of the sale of 48 percent to Stuart Sternberg should be wrapped up this week, possibly by Tuesday.
TWO OF A KIND: It's no surprise Rays manager Lou Piniella and Cowboys coach Bill Parcells are friends, because they are similar in style.
What does Piniella admire about Parcells?
"He's a details guy. He really is. He's very thorough in the game and, obviously, he's a winner. You can see that he enjoys what he's doing," Piniella said. "And I know one thing, he really enjoys winning."
DRAFT DAZE: The Rays have the fourth selection in the June 7 draft, then don't pick again until 45th because of 11 free-agent compensation sandwich picks.
The Rays are down to seven or eight candidates for their first choice, and while most of the talk has been about college pitchers, there are a few prep players they may consider - right-handed pitchers Nick Adenhart (Williamsport, Md.) and Homer Bailey (LaGrange, Texas); and shortstops Matt Bush (San Diego) and Chris Nelson (Decatur, Ga.).
[Last modified May 9, 2004, 01:40:27]
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