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Nothing identical about twins

But Rays say despite history, they may yet match D'backs' success.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 18, 2004

SAN DIEGO - They were born on the same day, given the same rules and sent off to play at the same time, but since then there really hasn't been much of a comparison between the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks.

When the 1998 expansion twins meet for the first time tonight in Phoenix, the D'backs will have plenty to brag about: the best record of any expansion team over its first six seasons; five straight winning seasons; three division titles, including one in their second season; and, of course, the 2001 World Series championship.

The Rays, well ... they woke up in third place Thursday, the latest into a season they've ever been that high in the standings.

The differences have been obvious from the start. The D'backs choose to spend heavily to win quickly, stocking their roster with top-notch legitimate stars such as Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. They've had a payroll that until this year has been among the top 10, and they've won.

The Rays were going to build for the future, then accelerated their plan and added high-priced veterans who didn't work out, then sliced the payroll and roster, then started again to build with youth, then this year added some low-priced veterans. They've had a payroll that, except for 2000, has been at or near the bottom, and they've lost.

Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli insists their plan may yet work out better.

"There are many paths to the same end," Naimoli said. "You know the old fable of the tortoise and the hare. And perhaps they are a little more of the hare and we are a little more of the tortoise. But I can assure you we are going to get to the end eventually."

When the teams open the three-game series at snazzy Bank One Ballpark tonight, the Rays actually will have the better record. While the Diamondbacks have been cutting back, reducing payroll the past two seasons, the Rays consider themselves in growth mode, planning to increase the payroll and victory totals each season.

"They got to the finish line faster," Naimoli said. "I don't know enough about to Arizona to comment, and I wouldn't comment on them because Jerry (Colangelo, the CEO) is such a good friend, but I like where we are with our development, with the kids coming and with the projections that we have for the team in the years ahead."

The Rays have to hope the future looks better, because the past hasn't looked too good.

The D'backs took advantage of Colangelo's sports experience running the NBA's Phoenix Suns, had a more advantageous stadium situation and made better decisions to build an organization that has been clearly more successful.

Some examples:

Though both hired first-time general managers, Joe Garagiola Jr. and Chuck LaMar, the D'backs chose an experienced manager in Buck Showalter and the Rays hired Larry Rothschild.

The D'backs got a World Series championship out of Johnson and Schilling, the Rays got considerably less from Wilson Alvarez and Juan Guzman.

The D'backs included in their stadium a Friday's Front Row Sports Grill that is a popular year-round destination; the Rays have the Batter's Eye restaurant.

Naimoli said there are some things he wishes the Rays had done differently, such as the restaurant, and others they couldn't control, like the difference in stadium revenues which, he said, allowed Arizona to spend more.

"From a commercial standpoint there probably are some additional lessons we should have learned from them because they are very good at it," Naimoli said.

As for the difference in personnel moves? "There is always luck involved, but what is the old saying, "Luck is where preparation and opportunity meet?' " Naimoli said. "You can't take it away from them because they've made some very astute moves."

[Last modified June 18, 2004, 01:01:05]

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