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Rays tales

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 26, 2001


QUITE A CATCH: The movie Summer Catch, which opened Friday, is sure to generate interest in the Cape Cod League, where top college players annually congregate, living with host families, doing odd jobs during the day and playing serious games at night.

For several Rays, the movie will bring back some awful good memories.

For Greg Vaughn, playing for the Cotuit Kettleers in 1984-85 gave him a chance to impress the scouts with his ability to use a wood bat as he won league MVP honors. "I considered it a great experience," Vaughn said.

He also found out he would never make it as a roofer, quitting after one day climbing the ladder. "The roofs up there, they have snow so they're steep, and we were carrying shingles and stuff," Vaughn said. "I wasn't doing that. After that they let me drive around in the truck, bringing the materials place to place."

For Doug Creek, who played for Cotuit in 1989, it was a perfect way to spend a summer, working baseball camps in the mornings, taking care of the fields in the afternoons, playing games at night and fishing whenever he could. "It was awesome," Creek said.

For John Flaherty, who attended George Washington University, filling in at the end of the summer for the Harwich Mariners allowed him to realize he could compete with big-time prospects such as Joey (soon-to-be Albert) Belle, Robin Ventura and Charles Nagy. "I think it was the first time in my career that I actually said, "You know what? I might be able to play with the big boys,' " Flaherty said. "It was a big three weeks for me confidencewise."

NO ASTERISK REQUIRED: Technically, Greg Maddux's bid to topple Rays pitching coach Bill Fischer's record of 841/3 straight innings without a walk ended Aug. 12. That's when Maddux, who'd gone 721/3 walk-free innings, intentionally walked Steve Finley and issued another intentional pass later in that game. Maddux, however, didn't issue an "unintentional" walk until Wednesday, when he put San Diego's Ben Davis on base. His streak at that time -- 84 innings.

ALL CAL, ALL THE TIME: Give credit to the Rays event productions staff for some appropriate tunes played before Cal Ripken's Florida farewell Thursday. Among them: The Best, Forever Man, Still the One, Time Won't Let Me, I'm a Survivor, Lean On Me, The Time of My Life and Last Dance.

Circle this date -- July 21

It was, by most standards, a normal day, the Rays beating the Rangers 2-1. But the stars must have been aligned for something special. Since then the Rays have been one of the league's more competitive teams (totals through Friday):

(Through July 20, since July 21)

Mariners,69-27,Mariners, 24-9

Twins,58-38,A's,22-11

Red Sox,56-40,Angels,21-13

Yankees,56-40,Yankees,19-14

Indians,54-40,Chisox, 18-15

A's,51-45,Indians,18-16

Angels,47-48,RAYS,16-16

Chisox,46-48,Blue Jays, 16-16

Blue Jays,46-51,Red Sox,15-16

Tigers, 43-51,Rangers,16-18

Orioles, 41-53,Royals, 14-19

Rangers,40-55,Orioles,13-21

Royals,37-59,Tigers,10-23

RAYS,30-67, Twins, 9-24

What they're saying

Ken Rosenthal, writing in The Sporting News: "The latest contraction rumor has the Devil Rays folding and the Expos moving to Tampa Bay. If it happened -- what's French for "fat chance?' -- the Devil Rays dispersal draft would be the baseball equivalent of the California gold rush. Any team would love to have catcher Toby Hall and pitchers Joe Kennedy, Victor Zambrano, and Jesus Colome, not to mention minor-league outfielders Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford. And those are just some of the Rays' outstanding young talents."

Quote of the week

"The beer tastes better. And it goes down smoother." -- HAL McRAE, Rays manager, on the benefits of winning

By the numbers

16: Wins in 28 games decided by one run.

19: Errors in 19 games against Baltimore.

22: Consecutive games, starting Tuesday, against the contending Mariners, A's, Red Sox and Yankees.

Rays vs. Rays vs. Rays vs. Rays

2001,47-83, .362, 5-29

2000,57-73, .438, 5-17

1999,57-73, .438, 5-23

1998,49-81, .377, 5-45.5

* * *

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

2001,59-103*, .364*, ?-??

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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