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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2001


LESSON PLANNER: Before John McHale Jr. became COO of the Rays, before he was president of the Tigers, before he was vice president of the Rockies, before he was a lawyer, before he was a lot of other things, he was an English teacher at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach.

And one of his students -- sophomore English, 1972 -- was Rick Williams, the former Rays pitching coach and current Marlins farm director.

Over the years, McHale has remained friendly with Williams -- never once lecturing him about his syntax or grammar -- even if he didn't make much of an impression in the classroom.

"I don't really remember him as my English teacher," Williams said. "And English was one of my better subjects."

FAMOUS INTERN: One of McHale's first "jobs" in baseball was to spend the summer of 1972 in Newport News, Va., with the Peninsula Whips. His father, John Sr., was running the Expos, and John Jr. went off to get experience with the Triple-A team.

McHale ended up doing a bit of everything, working everywhere from the concession stands to the ticket office to the clubhouse. In other words, he was to learn everything he could from Carlos Ledezma, who was the assistant trainer, equipment manager, clubhouse director and assorted other things. "I was his intern," McHale said.

Nearly 30 years later, the two are working together again for the Rays. Ledezma is the Rays home clubhouse manager, and he's still impressed by McHale efforts from that long ago summer. "He was very involved and anxious to learn," Ledezma said.

WISE GUY: Scott Miller of CBS Sportsline.com apparently is concerned about the Rays' financial situation. So much so that, in a column for America Online, he offered a handful of fundraising suggestions:

Dunk-The-Owner Booth: "Scorned business leaders throughout the Tampa Bay area bid to be first in line to take their pitch to dunk Vince Naimoli. ... Is there anybody out there who wouldn't pay big bucks for the opportunity?"

General Manager for a Day: "Bid to become Chuck LaMar for a day ... and then see if you can do the job better than him!"

The Wilson Alvarez Memorial Bake Sale: "Cupcakes! Creme cakes! Double takes! Injured/failed Devil Rays pitchers preside over a bake sale to rival any church group's, anywhere!"

The Vinny Castilla Memorial Car Wash: "While Castilla tools around Houston in his expensive sports car, join the Devil Rays in the parking lot of the local Publix grocery store for a car wash in Vroomin' Vinny's memory!"

Positioning themselves

Does it matter who starts for the Rays? Here is the team record with different starters at each position:

C: Flaherty 13-23, DiFelice 0-12

1B: McGriff 10-31, Cox 3-4

2B: Johnson 9-19, Rolls 3-11 (Smith 1-5)

SS: Martinez 11-27, Sheets 2-7, Johnson 0-1

3B: Huff 5-17, Rolls 0-1 (Castilla 8-16)

LF: Grieve 9-22, Vaughn 4-7, Cox 0-6

CF: Williams 12-32, Winn 1-3

RF: Guillen 7-20, Grieve 3-7, Winn 3-7, Tyner 0-1

DH: Vaughn 9-26, Cox 2-2, Grieve 1-5, McGriff 1-2

What they're saying

Lynn Henning, writing about John McHale Jr. in the Detroit News: "McHale's decision to leave the Tigers is being portrayed as something of a rescue mission -- a charitable job transfer orchestrated by no less than commissioner Bud Selig. ... Selig's motivation for bringing McHale to Tampa Bay was inspired, he said, by two factors: First, Tampa Bay's consortium of owners, which has created a haphazard management system and public-relations disaster, needs streamlined leadership. That, Selig and others believe, can be best handled by a man of McHale's style and diverse skills. And those qualities are what has distinguished McHale."

Quote of the week

"I just got tired of a job that only took 10 or 12 hours a day." -- JOHN McHALE JR., new Rays COO explaining why he left the Tigers

By the numbers

28: Bases stolen by the Rays.

35: Wild pitches thrown by the Rays.

48: Double plays grounded into by the Rays.

Rays vs. Rays vs. Rays vs. Rays

After 48 games (Year,W-L,Pct.,P-GB)

2001, 13-35, .271, 5-14

2000, 16-32, .333, 5-13

1999, 22-26, .458, 4-6.5

1998, 22-26, .458, 4-13.5

* * *

Overall (Year,W-L,.Pct., P-GB)

2001, 44-118*, .272*, ?-??

2000, 69-92, .429, 5-18

1999, 69-93, .426, 5-29

1998, 63-99, .389, 5-51

* projected. P-GB: Place in East Division-games behind first

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