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Mum's the word from Rays, MLB

The insiders have no comment as rumors fly about the team's future.

By JOHN ROMANO and MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- It seems everyone is willing to offer theories and conjecture about the future of the Devil Rays franchise. Everyone except the people who really matter.

On a day when the franchise was put up for sale, the Rays had no official comment, their general partners declined comment and the commissioner's office refused to comment.

That did not keep rumors from flying about possible meetings, deals and potential new faces showing up in Tampa Bay.

Among the speculation Thursday:

Days after managing general partner Vince Naimoli returned from New York, there was word general partners from the Rays ownership group met with Major League Baseball officials in New York.

Naimoli has maintained for years that he cannot be replaced as managing general partner for any reason short of a criminal conviction. An attorney specializing in employment law said it was difficult to comment without viewing the partnership agreement, but agreed that removing a managing general partner would be a difficult proposition.

"I would think they would have to have just cause, prove that he did something terrible, before they could remove him," said attorney Paul Tobias, who wrote the book Job Rights and Survival Strategies. "They could not get rid of him just because they didn't like him. I would think a managing general partner would have more rights than your typical employee."

After earlier reports that the ownership group's general partners were seeking to oust Naimoli, there was speculation in the opposite direction. The possibility was raised that Naimoli was looking for additional investors to sign on as partners.

The idea of out-of-town investors joining the ownership group, or buying the team outright, raises the possibility of franchise relocation.

Despite the team's attendance problems, moving the Rays out of Tampa Bay would be difficult, if not impossible. The team has 26 years remaining on a 30-year lease with the city. New owners would assume the lease if the team was sold.

Baseball also has been reluctant to permit franchise moves. It has been 29 years since the last relocation.

David Glazier, the vice president of business operations for the Detroit Tigers, was mentioned as a possible front office candidate for the Rays. Glazier was hired as a marketing chief in the early days of the Rockies franchise and joined the Tigers five years ago to run all business operations, including sales and marketing. Glazier is believed to be parting ways with the Tigers soon. In the face of this uncertainty, the team left Thursday afternoon for Detroit knowing questions would not be far behind. Manager Hal McRae said ownership issues should not be a distraction. "It's none of the players' business; it's none of my business. It doesn't affect me," McRae said. "My job is to win baseball games, and I'm not doing a good job of that right now. I'm under .500. That's my main concern."

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