© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Hal McRae can feel your pain.
He knows there are those who shudder and shake their heads every time he brings struggling closer Esteban Yan into a game. He knows there are people who wonder whether he knows what he's doing, just as when he seemingly has different standards in determining when to remove starting pitchers, or how he tolerates more mistakes from some than others.
But McRae has his reasons.
And they're pretty hard to quibble with.
"I don't want to be associated with a horse---- club all my life," McRae said. "That's not my intent. I don't want instead of winning, say, 60-some games, to win 70-some games. I want to win 90-some games.
"I've been a part of winning all my life. My intent is not to keep my head above water. And my intent is not to have a decent club, but an exceptional club. Players that can get us there are the kind of players we have to concentrate on."
Yan is one of the guys who McRae thinks has the potential to be an impact player, someone who is young enough, and talented enough, to make a difference when it matters.
"Long term, I think he's going to work out. Short term? Who knows? I think we've got to think longer term than short. It's disappointing to lose, but in the long view we've got too far to go to be worried about one game," McRae said.
"A concern to me is players who can get you out of the cellar, and I think he's one player that can get us out. Although he's inconsistent and although he's blown a lot of saves, I would prefer to go about it that way than to try and win a game here and there with someone who's not going to get you out of the cellar.
"And then in two or three years you're right back where you where. I don't think that's the best way to do it."
COLLECT CALL-UPS? It seemed surprising when the Rays added just three players to the roster last week, declining to call up promising prospects such as Jason Conti, Jason Smith, Delvin James and Cedrick Bowers.
Chief operating officer John McHale Jr. said the decision was made for several reasons, including, but not primarily, concerns about the financial ramifications both in terms of current pay and service time accrued.
"Those issues did not play a direct role in those decisions but they color everything we do to a greater extent or a lesser extent," McHale said. "We have a bunch of players with very little experience, and in that situation it didn't make sense to simply bring up and carry additional players who were not going to get innings or at-bats or the opportunity to audition in the big-league environment when we're still trying to do that with players we have."
NO MINOR MATTER: Triple-A manager Bill Evers had positive reports on Conti, the outfielder acquired from Arizona in the Albie Lopez deal, and Smith, the shortstop who came over from the Cubs.
Conti has the speed and defensive smoothness to play centerfield, an arm as strong as Jose Guillen's and "some pop in his bat."
Smith has good hands and range, and has "some sting" in his bat.
"I liked what I saw, without a doubt," Evers said.
ALBIE OKAY: Despite the dubious honor of giving up Barry Bonds' 60th homer Thursday, Lopez is enjoying life in Arizona -- and in a pennant race.
"It's everything I expected," Lopez said. "Every game counts, every inning. A win is such a high and a loss is such a low. Everything is so meaningful. Over there (in Tampa Bay), I felt like we were playing like we were going to get better one day. Here, we have to win now. We don't have time for anything else."
OFFENSIVE MATERIAL: Jason Tyner and Brent Abernathy were lying on the ground in pain after colliding in pursuit of a fly ball Monday in Seattle as Safeco Field officials showed at least four replays of the incident. "That was tasteless," Tyner said. "Kind of low class."
HOO-RAYS: Pitcher Josh Beckett, who made a stunning debut for the Marlins last week, was the second pick of the 1999 draft, right after the Rays chose Josh Hamilton. ... The U.S. champion Apopka Little League team will be honored before the Sept. 16 game. ... The Rays are also billing that game New Year's Eve 5762, noting the Sept. 17 start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. ... McHale and managing general partner Vince Naimoli will represent the team at the quarterly owners meeting Tuesday in Milwaukee.