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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 22, 2001


BALL GAMES: Like most pitchers, Ryan Rupe thinks fondly -- and frequently -- about hitting. He hadn't gotten a hit in a real game since 1993, when he was in high school near Houston. He didn't swing the bat in college at Texas A&M or in the Rays minor-league system, and was hitless in his first six interleague at-bats, but that didn't keep him from hoping.

Monday, Rupe led off the fifth inning against Atlanta's Jason Marquis looking for a fastball -- and got one. The ball carried deep to right-center, with Andruw Jones in hot pursuit. Did Rupe think, even for a moment, it was going out? "No," Rupe said, "I thought he was going to catch it." Instead, the ball bounced off the warning track and over the fence for a ground-rule double. "I was happy," Rupe said. "My dream was to stand on a bag in a big-league baseball game."

Even better, he got the ball back, courtesy of the Braves clubhouse staff, as a keepsake.

BALL GAMES, PART II: Tanyon Sturtze apparently was too wrapped up in his battle with Atlanta ace Greg Maddux on Tuesday to think too much about the infield single that was the first hit of his big-league career.

Sturtze was standing on first when Maddux asked him if he wanted the ball, and Sturtze initially said no. "I don't know, I didn't think it was really that good of a hit to get the ball on," Sturtze said. "But I guess it's still the first hit, and all the guys in the dugout told me to get it. So when I went out there the same ball was in the game, and I flipped it in."

Triple triple

Fred McGriff is close to reaching 100 homers with his third different team. His numbers with each of his four teams:

(Team, Games,HRs,HR/G)

Toronto Blue Jays,578,125,4.62

San Diego Padres,388,84,4.62

Atlanta Braves,636,130,4.89

RAYS, 539, 97,5.56

What they're saying

Rick Morrissey, writing in the Chicago Tribune about Fred McGriff: "McGriff has invoked the revolutionary no-trade-for-now clause, meaning he doesn't want to disrupt his family life in Tampa by moving to Chicago for a pennant race, though he might change his mind about a trade if some unspecified something happens. Say if the kids start to really bug him. Or if the Atlanta Braves call."

Jay Mariotti, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times: "At the very least, Fred McGriff is a Wrigleyville villain, the sort of party-pooper who will have nasty drinks named for him in the neighborhood taverns. But I'm afraid this could be the start of something darker and sadder. In the elaborate library of Cubbie infamy, doesn't his trade rejection smack of doom waiting to happen? We know about the black cat, the billy goat, Lou Brock, Greg Maddux, the various hexes of Cubdom. Can you blame me for asking if The Curse of Fred McGriff is next? It sounds like a title for an impending book, ripe to be written if the 2001 Cubs stumble down the same path as their bedeviled forerunners. Only this voodoo-stricken club could make a superb deal for an apparent savior, a playoff-seasoned first baseman with left-handed power, then see it unravel because McGriff wants to be Father of the Year and stay in Tampa with one of the lousiest baseball teams ever."

Mark Kreidler, writing for ESPN.com: "Look. not to surrender my Professional Cynic's card prematurely, but ... what if Fred McGriff is simply telling the truth? He is a Tampa Bay native who signed with the Devil Rays near the end of his playing career on the assumption that he would finish out his baseball life at home. He is a family man, and his children are young. Tampa is where he wants to play. That's it. End of story."

Scott Miller, writing for CBSportsline.com: "McGriff surveyed the situation, spoke with his attorney, made one last phone call ... and after an agonizing week, he decided the view from his cell was better than the batting cage at Wrigley Field. What is he, nuts? Does new manager Hal McRae have some kind of hypnotic spell over him?"

Quote of the week

"I thought he would want to go from last place to first place." -- SAMMY SOSA, Cubs star, on McGriff's decision

By the numbers

1: Wins in 24 series against AL clubs.

4: wins in 6 series against NL clubs.

37: Games in which Rays have scored two or fewer runs.

Rays vs. Rays vs. Rays vs. Rays

2001,31-67, .316,5-25.5

2000,39-59, .398, 5-15.5

1999,41-57, .418,5-19

1998,36-62, .367,5-35.5

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

2001,51-111*, .315*,?-??

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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