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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Get ready for the drama
Things could get interesting in the 2nd half of the year
By MARC TOPKIN
Published July 1, 2007
Consider all that has gone wrong thus far this season for the Devil Rays. Then consider that they haven't yet played the Red Sox, who have been pretty much the best team in the American League all season.
Through a scheduling quirk, the Rays on Tuesday will finally play their first game against the Sox. And then it will seem like they will keep playing them, 18 times in a 75-game span (24 percent of the time).
"Usually we've played them two or three times by now, " LF Carl Crawford said. "It's scary. Who wants to play the Red Sox 18 times from this point on? It's odd."
And not only do the Red Sox usually beat the Rays - 98 times in 151 games overall - the teams have been known to beat each other up.
The bad blood started with the ugly August 2000 Pedro Martinez-Gerald Williams brawl (leading to the ejection of eight Rays) and has resurfaced in some form just about every year since.
Highlights include Trot Nixon's flying bat in May 2002, a bench-clearing to-do after four hit batters in September 2004, a full-scale brawl in April 2005 followed by a running verbal battle between Lou Piniella and Curt Schilling and a vicious brawl during spring training 2006.
Add in all the hit batters, frequent accusations and low tolerance by the umpires, and it could be a long, hot summer.
"We're going to get our fill of the Red Sox, " said Tuesday starter Scott Kazmir, whose 5-2 record against Boston makes him a central figure in the drama. "I don't know for what reason but it's ended up being a little bit of a rivalry. ... It seems like there's always something, and it's usually right at the beginning, the first time we see them."
The Rays also have 14 games left against the Yankees, but the Sox - who make their first visit to the Trop July 27-29 - are the bigger concern right now.
"It seems like there's always something happening, " Crawford said. "I don't know why that is. Hopefully we can stop that from happening. Because there's going to be a bunch of chances with all those games we play them."
MORE THAN A GAME: Despite marketing efforts and stadium renovations, the Rays are last in the majors in attendance: 610, 486 total through 43 games for an overall home average of 14, 197, and 14, 589 at the Trop (excluding the Disney games).
Perhaps more concerning in Year 2 of the Stuart Sternberg regime, they are drawing fewer than last season, when they averaged 16, 901 and totaled 1, 368, 950, according to Major League Baseball. They've only had, however, two games with the Yankees thus far and none with Boston.
WORDS FROM OZ: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who finished his playing career with the Rays in 2000, is impressed with their progress: "Now they're going in the right direction. When I was here they didn't know what direction they were going. They'd get up in the morning and say we're going this direction, the next day in the afternoon they'd say they're going the wrong way."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: How rough has it been for ex-Rays SS Julio Lugo in Boston? His .190 average is the lowest for a regular this deep into a season since 2002 - when Greg Vaughn hit .163 for the Rays. ... Crawford is among the players on the cover of a new DVD, Baseball's Most Unbreakable Feats, suggesting he could challenge stolen base king Rickey Henderson's marks. ... Monday was the first time in 34 days Elijah Dukes' name wasn't in the paper. ... During the White Sox visit, Jonny Gomes got an interesting T-shirt: Team Pierzynski - World's Most Hated Athletes. ... Manager Joe Maddon said he'll check out the new Red Sox-branded wines that benefit charity: Manny Being Merlot, Schilling Schardonnay and (Tim Wakefield's) CaberKnuckle. ... Ex-Ray Toby Hall, who is with the struggling Sox, recently called former teammate Aubrey Huff, who is with the struggling Orioles: "I asked him what he did to that team and he said he brought it with him. Then he asked me what I did to this team."