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Vaughn lays into umps after another loss

After striking out to end an 8-4 defeat, slugger vents, saying umpires have been biased against the Rays.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 4, 2001


SEATTLE -- Greg Vaughn has kept quiet a long time. All season, and for a good part of last season, he has suggested privately that he felt many umpires don't treat the Rays fairly because of their poor record. Sunday, at the risk of retribution and perhaps discipline, he spoke out after the Rays' 8-4 loss to Seattle.

"They take care of the good teams, and we're the ones who get f-----, every day, every f------ day," Vaughn said. "Some of (the umpires) take it seriously, but there's a lot of them that just say, "They're in last place, it doesn't matter.' That s--- ain't right."

The comments were triggered by what Vaughn felt were two blatantly incorrect calls by home plate umpire Scott Higgins during a potentially critical ninth-inning at-bat.

The Rays, having left the bases loaded in the eighth after scoring three to get back into the game, had another chance against the best-in-baseball Mariners, who won their 11th straight.

A one-out single by Jason Tyner and a walk to Russ Johnson got them to the middle of their order, and after Ben Grieve went down swinging against Seattle lefty Arthur Rhodes, Fred McGriff worked a full-count walk to load the bases.

That brought Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki to the mound and Vaughn to the plate as the potential tying run.

Sasaki's first two pitches missed. His third, which Vaughn thought was inside, was called a strike. The next one looked low -- Rays manager Hal McRae thought so as well -- but Higgins called it a strike, too.

"Balls," Vaughn said. "Both of them. He didn't throw me one strike. Not even one."

The 2-and-2 count put Vaughn on the defensive, and after squibbing two balls foul to stay alive, he managed a popup foul of third for the final out.

Vaughn stood at the plate, shaking his head, a look of disbelief on his face, and he trudged back to the dugout, dragging his bat. A half hour later, he stood at his locker and accused some umpires of being biased against the Rays.

Others in the organization have made similar observations, but Vaughn is the first to go public.

"You try not to say anything, but every day it's the same s---. ... I'm going to be wrong for even talking about it, but the tapes don't lie. Watch our tapes. They don't lie. This ain't right," Vaughn said.

"I take my job too seriously for someone to say we're in last place so it doesn't matter. We're supposed to have blank uniforms on. But somehow our check swings don't need any help."

The frustrating loss leaves the Rays with a 15-41 record that puts them on pace for an American League-record 119 losses. They headed to Toronto riding a five-game losing streak, having been outscored 48-15.

"We can't seem to jell," McRae said. "And today was a good example."

Tanyon Sturtze made a strong start, holding the Mariners to three runs on five hits -- "An outstanding job," McRae said -- but worked just six innings because he has been throwing too many pitches: 116 Sunday after 128 in seven innings Tuesday.

"That's a little disappointing letting my pitch count get up a little too high," Sturtze said. "I thought maybe I could have been out there a little bit longer for our team."

The Rays followed Sturtze's good start with bad relief. Rookie Travis Phelps, who had allowed seven baserunners (and one run) over his past seven appearances, had major problems in the seventh. Three walks (one intentional) and a pair of two-out hits sparked a five-run Seattle rally and extended the lead to 8-1.

The Rays, though, came back. They had one run and the bases loaded after three singles and a walk to McGriff, then got some help. Freddy Garcia walked Vaughn to force in a run and rookie reliever Brian Fuentes did the same to Aubrey Huff.

Jeff Nelson came on to strike out Gerald Williams, who flailed at an outside pitch, setting off a series of moves. McRae sent up Steve Cox to pinch-hit for John Flaherty. The Mariners switched to Rhodes. McRae countered with switch-hitter Randy Winn, who battled for eight pitches before striking out.

"I only had one question in spring training when (the umpires) came around: Are they going to call it the same for everybody," Vaughn said. "That's all I said. And you watch our games. It's not even close."

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