By MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001
DETROIT -- John McHale Jr. did not say Saturday that he was coming to Tampa Bay to take over the Rays.
But he did not say he was not.
Meeting with Detroit and Tampa Bay media the day after reports that he is the top choice to be the Rays' chief operating officer, McHale declined comment on several questions but did nothing to deny the possibility.
"The only thing it seems to me that I can say is that there are no conditions under which I would ever be interested in coming to work for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and that simply is not the case," McHale said. "There obviously are conditions under which I could be interested, but until those are made known to me, until there are discussions initiated and the parameters of those discussions, especially considering confidentiality, are agreed to and laid down, it just seems to me there's really nothing there that I can talk about."
That process, however, could unfold quickly. Rays chairman Vince Naimoli was expected to arrive in Detroit on Saturday night, and the Times has learned that the Rays have received the requisite permission from the Tigers to approach McHale and that the hiring could be completed within 7-14 days.
McHale, 52, is in his seventh season as president and CEO of the Tigers, but there are indications his relationship with owner Mike Ilitch is deteriorating. Ilitch, unhappy with low attendance, has ordered cutbacks throughout the organization while giving additional power to two adult children, Denise and Chris. Several Tigers officials said they didn't know anything about McHale leaving but wouldn't be surprised if he did.
McHale declined to say if he had spoken recently with Tampa Bay officials but did say he expected to talk with Naimoli today. "I would look for him and meet with him in the normal course because we're friends and we know each other and obviously there are lots of issues, lots of life issues, from his perspective that I would like to make sure he's okay on," McHale said.