I have been pondering in the deepest thought -- interrupted only to take time for prayer and some nutrition -- the situation of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Whether it is precisely the worst team in baseball is beside the point. It is trying very hard to be. Wait. That isn't fair. No gaggle athletes ever tries to be bad. But this gang is going to outrival the Mets of the "Can anyone here play this game?" days.
You run some of the names through your mind -- Crawford, Huff, Baldelli (though injured), Hall -- and it is obvious that there are the makings of something here.
Fish, the learned men say, rot from the head down. So it is with the Tampa Bay franchise.
There hasn't been such consternation in these parts since Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, the ninth planet of our universe, in the summer of 1930.
Events in the environs of team offices at Tropicana Field may overtake these words. But one thing was clear as the Ides of June pleasantly passed, there are many unhappy people over the plight of the Rays.
Among them is the superior Lou Piniella, pride of Tampa, pretty fair ball player, champion manager. Lou, to minimize a serious situation, is disappointed.
Promises have not been kept. While this does not rise to the level of criminal conversation or lascivious carriage, or, Heaven forfend, gambling on baseball games (Hi, Pete!), it could leave a fellow gnawing on his knuckles and wondering about the peccadilloes of his fellow man.
Piniella got out of a contract in Seattle to come to his home territory with an eye no doubt on finishing a stellar career with the neat flourish of making winners of the new Devil Rays.
Hasn't happened. Promises were not kept.
It takes money and the Devil Rays have the lowest payroll ($29 million or so) in baseball. That's only a few more bucks than the sainted A-Rod, now cavorting in New York in pinstripes, pulls down.
And the Rays are going backward, given inflation and what else, in terms of payroll.
There are questions like where does the money go? Why is no effort (other than that of Piniella and his cohorts) being made to make the Rays winners?
Blame Vince Naimoli. Blame Stuart Sternberg.
I think it works this way -- Naimoli isn't worth a tinker's dam to begin with. And he won't spend money. Sternberg is the guy who will control the purse strings but he is not going to loosen up as long as Naimoli is the managing (that is, decision making) partner.
Players like to win. They want to be on winners. But they are pros and they do this for a living, so they are not the ones being hurt.
The fans are the victims. But given the vicissitudes of baseball historically, what else is new?
Up until the spring of 1952 this innocent boy thought baseball was locked into two leagues of eight teams each; it was always thus and would be so for eternity.
The stumblebum Braves of Boston took off for Milwaukee because no money was being spent and the echoes in Braves Field were deafening. Then the A's went to Kansas City and baseball devolved into barnstormers.
Those who promoted the idea of a big league team here have made some big bucks, but the miscalculation was that fans would weather through (a la Cubs and Red Sox aficionados) disappointment after disappointment.
Lou will go and shortly thereafter (a few years or so), the Rays will, too.
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