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McHale set to join Rays

He's expected to be named COO at a news conference today after a protracted negotiation.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays appear set to finally announce the hiring of John McHale Jr. as chief operating officer.

McHale, 52, has been president and chief executive officer of the Tigers for 6 1/2 years and previously was an executive vice president with the Rockies for 3 1/2 years.

McHale's hiring seemed to be on the fast track when the Rays announced April 27 they would hire their first COO. But the talks stalled over issues apparently related to the restructuring of the ownership group and financial guarantees related to McHale's potential deal.

McHale, whose father, John, was a longtime executive, comes to the Rays with strong references and the blessing -- if not guiding hand -- of Major League Baseball officials.

He will assume control of the day-to-day operations of the team and essentially will be in charge of all departments.

McHale's hiring, expected to be announced at a news conference today, comes at a crucial time for the franchise, which appears to have problems in all departments: on the field, at the gate and in the executive offices.

When Vince Naimoli announced April 27 he was moving from managing general partner to chairman, it was widely reported that the change was forced by his disgruntled partners and would result in a significantly reduced role in team operations. But Naimoli has repeatedly told people he still is in charge of the team.

Though McHale's hiring may signal a truce in the ownership dispute, it does not necessarily mean the dispute between Naimoli and the partners has been resolved.

There also have been reports, since denied, of financial problems so severe that the team might not have enough money to pay its players and other employees.

Attendance is down considerably, with the per-game average of 15,830 ranking 27th among the 30 teams, ahead of Florida and Montreal.

And on the field, the Rays have the worst record (12-31) in the majors and are on pace to at least threaten the sport's all-time marks of futility.

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