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Face it: Rays struck out with Hamilton
Devil Rays officials say they have no regrets about their decision to leave Josh Hamilton off their 40-man roster and available to be taken in the December Rule 5 draft.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 1, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Devil Rays officials say they have no regrets about their decision to leave Josh Hamilton off their 40-man roster and available to be taken in the December Rule 5 draft.
That, of course, is their prerogative.
But Hamilton has turned into one of the game's most compelling and intriguing stories, coming back - thus far - from the drug problems that put his career, as well as his life, in jeopardy to earn raves from scouts and a spot on the Reds' opening day roster.
And the more success he has, the worse it looks for the Rays.
Certainly, the Rays deserve credit for reaching out to Hamilton and investing the time and support to get him reinstated and back on the field last summer at the short-season Class A level.
Their mistakes were in judgment. First, they miscalculated how much interest there would be, with the Reds paying the Cubs to draft him as the Marlins, Phillies and others were poised to act.
Second, they underestimated how quickly Hamilton - who missed nearly four full seasons - would regain the skills and form that made him one of the game's most promising prospects.
When the Rays had to submit their 40-man roster in late November, they added OF Elijah Dukes who made the big-league team, RHP Mitch Talbot (a top prospect) and INF Elliot Johnson (a lesser prospect) but decided Hamilton wasn't worthy.
They lost Hamilton in the draft Dec. 7. Five days later, they took Damon Hollins off the roster, declining to tender him a contract, ostensibly to create more space on the roster as they later added Akinori Iwamura, Brendan Harris and others.
Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the Rays put a lot of thought into management of their roster, and there is no doubt they did. It just appears they made the wrong decision. And they'll be reminded of it starting Monday, when Hamilton stands on the foul line in Cincinnati.
PROPER DIRECTION: The previous front office, led by Chuck LaMar and Cam Bonifay, took plenty of criticism. But there should also be some credit for the number of high-end prospects in the system.
"At the direction of the general manager, which I believe is the most critical part of any organization, this organization developed and followed the philosophy of taking players that would impact the major-league level," said Bonifay, now a Cardinals special scout. "And as you look out there on the field, whether it's this year, next year, or two years from now, I think all the people that were involved here can be proud of what was brought into this organization."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: The Rays ranked 25th among major-league teams (and 86th among all major pro sports teams) in ESPN.com's latest Fan Satisfaction Ratings, a poll based on categories such as affordability, ownership, fan relations, stadium experience and past/future success. (The Lightning was 17th, the Bucs 72nd.). ... More than 30,000 tickets have been sold for Friday's home opener. Ferg's sports bar near the Trop plans a pre- and postgame tent party. ... Rocco Baldelli was named to Gov. Charlie Crist's Council on Physical Fitness. ... Nice touch by clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland to order locker name plates in Korean for Jae Seo and Jae Kuk Ryu and Japanese for Iwamura. ... Based on a Sony PlayStation simulation of the season, Delmon Young will be the AL rookie of the year after hitting .303 with 20 homers and 83 RBIs. ... After the opening homestand, the Rays will determine how much of the upper deck to keep covered by tarps, reducing capacity to 37,000-38,000. ... Minor-league rosters will be set today. LHP Chris Seddon was sent back to Double A, 2005 No. 1 pick RHP Wade Townsend will start at Class A Columbus. ... Senior VP Gerry Hunsicker gave WFAN radio in New York an interesting description of his working relationship with Friedman: "At the end of the day Andrew clearly makes the call. I am here kinda like the resource manual on the shelf that he can pull off if and when needed, and it's worked out well."
What are the odds of the Rays winning the World Series? About 90-1, according to the online sportsbook bodog.com. Joe Maddon being the first manager fired? 15-1. Here are some other Rays-related odds offered: