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Rothschild may know fate today

Manager to talk with GM; Rays win finale 3-2.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 2, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Devil Rays' season ended Sunday with a 3-2 extra-inning victory against Boston. Larry Rothschild's managerial reign could end today.

Rothschild, who has one year remaining on his contract, is scheduled to meet with general manager Chuck LaMar this morning to learn his fate. If the sounds of silence from LaMar in recent weeks mean anything, Rothschild is not expecting the news to be good.

"I haven't talked to Chuck about it at all," Rothschild said. "It's basically the same as it was three, four days ago or three weeks ago."

Asked what he thought he would hear or when he would hear it, Rothschild said: "I don't even want to talk about this to tell you the truth. You're not asking the right person these questions."

Because Oakland clinched the American League West championship with a win Sunday, the Rays and A's don't have to make up their Sept. 17 postponed game tonight.

That means the Rays' season ended Sunday, with their seventh win in eight games, allowing them to show some progress, albeit slight.

The Rays finished with 69 wins, the same as last season, but with a better winning percentage -- .429 to .426 -- since they played one less game. That made them the fifth of the 14 expansion teams to improve their winning percentage through their first three years.

Is that enough to save Rothschild's job?

Managing general partner Vince Naimoli said he would defer the decision to LaMar. "It's his call," Naimoli said.

LaMar, who was not seen on the pre-game field or in the locker room post-game, has said previously that he would evaluate Rothschild and the rest of the major-league staff at the end of the season, with the criteria being if they had gotten the most out of the talent they had and if their younger players continued to develop.

It clearly is a difficult decision for LaMar, who made a bold move to hire Rothschild, a long-time acquaintance, as the Rays' first manager even though he had no prior experience.

Rothschild, who has a 201-284 record, obviously wants to return: "We started something here; I'd like to see it through."

Asked if he felt he deserved to come back, or if he should be brought back, Rothschild said, "I really don't even want to discuss it until I know the situation. After it's been resolved I'll be more than glad to discuss it. Right now I can say whatever I want and it's not going to make a difference, so I (would) just as soon not get into it."

There were no obvious signs Sunday from Rothschild that he considered it his last game, though the uncertainty of the potential make-up game added to an already odd scene.

He made a brief post-game comment to the team about the Monday scenarios, then retreated as usual to his office to meet with the media. He visited briefly with some players and coaches afterward, but there apparently were no out-of-the-ordinary good-byes.

If you were looking for a sign, he took the lineup card to home plate during the past 10 games, a managerial privilege he had often delegated to his coaches.

Rays players didn't have much to say about Rothschild's status or what they thought should be done.

"You can't blame him for everything that's gone on," Greg Vaughn said. "We're all accountable. ... If something does happen, it's probably because we didn't do what we were supposed to do."

John Flaherty drew on the old theory that a losing team can't dismiss all the players, so the manager sometimes takes the fall. "Is it Larry Rothschild's fault that this team is as bad as it is? No," Flaherty said. "Obviously injuries have happened and guys have not had the kind of years we envisioned them having, myself included. So to hold him responsible for everything that happened here wouldn't be right. But we've seen it happen in this game before."

The coaches, who are meeting with LaMar later today, also are eager to know their fates. While Jose Cardenal is signed for next season, the other five -- Orlando Gomez, Billy Hatcher, Leon Roberts, Bill Russell and Bill Fischer -- are waiting to hear if they will be looking for work. "Basically, that's all you can do," said Russell, the bench coach.

If it was Rothschild's last game, the Rays went out with a dramatic victory, twice rallying to tie, on a Steve Cox homer in the fifth and a Vaughn sacrifice fly in the seventh, then winning in the 10th on a run-scoring groundout by Fred McGriff.

Ozzie Timmons started the winning rally with a single to left. Pinch-runner Jason Tyner stole second as Russ Johnson tried to get a bunt down, then went to third when Johnson did sacrifice. Rick Croushore, the sixth Boston pitcher, walked Bobby Smith unintentionally and Flaherty intentionally to load the bases.

Rothschild sent up McGriff, the team's leading run-producer and No. 1 Bucs fan, to pinch hit, and he delivered, bouncing a ball to just the right spot on the right side. Mike Lansing forced Flaherty at second, but there was no chance for a return throw as Tyner scored the winning run, the Rays' 11th walk-off victory.

Rothschild, it turns out, had a hunch: "I told (McGriff),"I knew you were going to win it because the Bucs were on.' "

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