By MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2001
THE CANDY MAN CAN: It seems like child's play, but it can be one of the most important and, until now, least known duties of being a Rays reliever: handling the candy bag.
The responsibility falls to the reliever with the least major-league service time, and it is a duty -- picking the candy and keeping the bag full -- that must be taken seriously.
"I love it," said Travis Phelps, the current bag man. "Like you take pride in your pitching, I take pride in my candy bag. You have to figure out what everyone enjoys, and make sure you have it."
The key, Phelps said, is stocking up on seeds (sunflower and pumpkin) and gum, plus some chocolate and some gummy things. There was one game, he admitted, when they ran out of seeds, a particularly serious problem because bullpen coach Darren Daulton is a big seeds guy. "I really felt bad," Phelps said. "I let the guys down."
Overall, Phelps thinks he has done well since taking over for Dan Wheeler, who had relieved Mike Judd of the duties.
"I've gotten a lot of comments," Phelps said, "that it's never been done as good as it is now."
THE REAL CAPITOL HILL: New Rays pitcher Joe Kennedy has heard the questions and the jokes all his life, but he says there are no genealogical connections to the politically famous Kennedys. "None at all," he said. This Joe Kennedy is named, it turns out, after his late maternal grandfather. And, he's a registered Republican.
HOME BOY: Ben Grieve played more than three seasons in Oakland for the A's, but being a visitor, and riding the BART subway to the stadium, was different. "I just followed the guys I came over with," Grieve said. "They knew where they were going better than I did."
Jayson Stark, writing on ESPN.com about John McHale Jr. and the possibility that the Rays franchise still could be folded: "One prominent baseball man says contraction is still high on ownership's agenda and that McHale "went there with his eyes open.' Speculation is that baseball officials haven't made a final decision yet whether Tampa Bay is a franchise they would target for contraction. So they would like McHale's help in evaluating whether the franchise can survive."
"It's funner when it takes five innings to get blown out than when it takes two." -- BEN GRIEVE, Rays OF after Thursday's 10-1 defeat
15: Pitches Paul Wilson threw before falling behind 3-0 Thursday.
42: Runs scored by Rays in first and second innings.
95: Runs given up by Rays in first and second innings.
After 54 games (Year,W-L,Pct.,P-GB)
2001 15-39 .278 5-161/2
2000 18-36 .333 5-12.5
1999 24-30 .444 4-9.5
1998 24-30 .444 5-15
2001 45-117* .278* ?-??
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
In its simplest form, baseball comes down to scoring more than you give up. The Rays haven't done very well in either category. Here's a look at the differences, through Friday:
(Team, For, Against, Diff.)