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Mizell's Mailbag

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 24, 2000

LaMar responsible for Rays' demise I've gone to 20 to 25 Devil Rays games a season, although I really can't afford what it costs. I can cut back on the beers.

Like you, a Times writer I've devotedly read since high school, I spent at least 10 years begging for a Tampa Bay big-league baseball team. I'm still hoping we can get one.

Larry Rothschild will probably be fired after another last-place finish. Can't argue with that. I wish we could also fire Vince Naimoli as owner. At least, can't we try somebody new and better as general manager?

Chuck LaMar's batting average has been worse than almost any of his signees, except maybe for the always injured Wilson Alvarez. Hit Show? What a joke that became. Vinny Castilla has lost his power, but Chuck gives him millions. Jose Canseco is gone, which is fine, because he's declining. Greg Vaughn will never again approach 50 homers, but at least he plays hard. Fred McGriff seems half asleep.

It should be the owner's job to analyze the work of his GM and manager. How can Vince, as weird as he may be, see anything but a D-minus grade for LaMar? I hear Chuck has little respect among his MLB peers.
-- Kelvin Davis, Pinellas Park

You're dead on, Kelvin. LaMar has done some strong things, like bringing in centerfielder Gerald Williams, but he's been low on luck with Alvarez, Juan Guzman, Castilla and most high-finance investments, including many draft choices.

You wonder about his homework. Naimoli is not conversing with the media, or I'd ask for an assessment of Chuck's work. From inside the Rays organization, you hear that Naimoli still has unbridled belief in his GM.
Rumors are float about Paul Olden or Charlie Slowes, or both, not being back next season in the Devil Rays radio booth. What's the story?
Jim Kelch, e-mail

I've heard the murmurs. I've asked Rays execs. All they'll say is that Dwayne Staats and Joe Magrane are in solid as Rays television announcers, but that decisions for 2001 are yet to be made on Olden and Slowes.
Are we going to lose our Devil Rays? I don't trust Vince Naimoli. I was at a game with Seattle during the past week. I almost cried. A baseball got caught in those stupid catwalks. Who's responsible for that horrible architectural error?
I recalled how excited many of us were to finally get a franchise after so many near-misses in trying to relocate one from another city. To come to what we now see, which is still the worst team in either league.
Barbara St. John, Palm Harbor

I feel your pain, Barbara. Have you noticed that three franchises that came really close to moving here, the White Sox and Mariners and Giants, are now all in first place and have new ballparks. Oh, how effectively we were used.

For now, the Rays aren't going anywhere. I mean, to another area. We can hope that in 2001 they go somewhere artistically. Catwalks are the biggest Trop embarrassment. I'm not sure what can be done, but dome designer H-O-K from Kansas City should be both ashamed and sweating even now to produce a remedy.

Tampa Bay, sadly, seems to be a locale that is proving to be shockingly light in baseball savvy. How does a game with Pedro Martinez pitching draw just 18,000? But can we truly know about our own propensities when the Rays have never provided an extended stretch of upbeat, high-pride magnetism?
I have a strong feeling Shaun King will become a great quarterback. I'll bet he continues to develop strong work habits and discipline. He has seen Tiger Woods exhibit such traits. I wouldn't be surprised if Shaun makes such efforts. I'm rooting for him.
Doug Haddock, e-mail

These Bucs are beginning to look scary. I compare their defense to the '85 Bears, another team I guaranteed would win the Super Bowl before the season started.

But there are flaws. How do you pay (Randall) McDaniel the big bucks to improve the offensive line, then waste him in the backfield on short yardage?
-- R. Stolfa, Clearwater

Agree on the defense, which has been more imposing after a Hardy Nickerson/Brad Culpepper swap for Booger McFarland/Jamie Duncan.

Not being an X's and O's wizard, my offensive yardstick is points, yardage, turnovers and ball control. Therefore, going into today's game with the Jets, considering where the Bucs offense is coming from, I'd go with a grade of B-plus. On McDaniel, I defer to Les Steckel, as long as it works.
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