A Winn-win situation

A look back at the Rays' expansion draft.

Published April 29, 2007

By MARC TOPKIN Times Staff Writer

Of the 35 players the Devil Rays selected in the November 1997 expansion draft, 24 played for them in the major leagues. Of the others, a few such as, ahem, Bobby Abreu and Dmitri Young were traded in predraft deals; others never developed or were injured. Of the Devil Rays' two dozen, the player who turned out to be the best was one of the last they selected: OF Randy Winn.

When the Rays took him with their 29th pick (58th overall), he was a 23-year-old Double-A player in the Marlins system. He took advantage of an opportunity he might not otherwise have gotten, kept improving and has had an impressive and quite interesting 10-year major-league career.

"Everything's been good, " Winn, below, said last week. "I can't complain."

Winn, 32, played parts of five seasons with the Rays and is currently the starting rightfielder for the Giants in the first year of a three-year, $23.25-million contract extension that will push his career earnings over $40-million.

He has been an All-Star in 2002 for the Rays. Has been a footnote as Roger Clemens' milestone 3, 000th strikeout victim. Has had the distinction of being traded for a manager, from the Rays to the Mariners for Lou Piniella in October 2002. Was part of Ichiro's 2004 hit record. Got traded to his hometown team, the Giants. Saw Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run. And now is party to Bonds' march to the all-time home run mark.

"He's just a special player, " Winn said. "It really hasn't been a circus. Maybe as we get closer, but it's not as bad as it's made out to be."

Winn still makes Tampa his offseason home and keeps up with his old mates, though Carl Crawford is the only player still with the Rays from Winn's last Rays season in 2002. A look at the 35 expansion draft picks:

Played for Rays

Currently in majors

4. Miguel Cairo inf

29. Randy Winn of

Currently in minors

10. Mike DiFelice c

11. Bubba Trammell of

22. Kerry Robinson of

Currently in Japan

7. Jason Johnson rhp

8. Esteban Yan rhp

12. Andy Sheets inf

Currently in Indy League

24. Albie Lopez rhp

Out of baseball

1. Tony Saunders lhp

2. Quinton McCracken of

5. Rich Butler of

6. Bobby Smith inf

13. Dennis Springer rhp

14. Dan Carlson rhp

16. Mike Duvall lhp

18. Jim Mecir rhp

19. Bryan Rekar rhp

20. Rick Gorecki rhp

21. Ramon Tatis lhp

23. Steve Cox 1b

30. Terrell Wade lhp

31. Aaron Ledesma inf

34. Herbert Perry inf

Never played for Rays

3. Bobby Abreu of

8. Dmitri Young of/1b

15. Brian Boehringer rhp

17. John LeRoy rhp

25. Jose Paniagua rhp

26. Carlos Mendoza of

27. Ryan Karp lhp

28. Santos Hernandez rhp

32. Brooks Kieschnick 1b

33. Luke Wilcox of

35. Vaughn Eshelman lhp

Internet item of the week

Wanna get to first base? The supposed actual first base from the Rays' 2006 home opener is listed on eBay for a Buy It Now price of $399.95.

Swing and a miss

We're going to call ESPN's John Kruk out on strikes for this one. With the recent release of a new DVD version of the classic baseball comedy Major League, Kruk tried to cast current big-league personnel into the movie. He suggested Joe Maddon play manager Lou Brown, the old-school skipper hired away from his current job as a tire salesman to go back in the dugout. We don't see that, and neither does Maddon. "I don't know about that, " Maddon said. "He was very crusty. And I can't do the mustache. But I'll take it. It's fun stuff." It should be noted, however, that the Rays do have their own Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn.

You make the call ...

When Carl Crawford said Tuesday's seventh-inning grand slam that gave the Rays the lead over the Yankees was "probably the best home run" he had hit, he wasn't forgetting about his three-run walkoff homer against Boston in Lou Piniella's 2003 managerial debut.

Crawford just thought Tuesday's shot mattered more to the fans.

"Both of them were to win the game, but (Tuesday's) one probably because it was against the Yankees and everyone knows the Yankees and Devil Rays have a little thing in the city of Tampa, " Crawford said. "I think the city probably got a better feeling from me hitting a grand slam against the Yankees than the walkoff against Boston. Whichever one the city got the best feeling from, that was the best one."

Do you have a preference? Send it to sptsnews@sptimes.com