Rays Turn Coup Into Crap

It may be a “whole new ball game” from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ perspective, but there remain some hauntingly familiar signs of past failures. Lou Piniella is now on board, but the hitting still looks awful and the losses, albeit of the Grapefruit League variety, continue to mount.

Incredulously enough, General Manager Chuck LaMar continues to retain his job.

There’s also evidence that the Rays can still be ham-handed in their approach to the media and public relations. Witness the Rays’ retaliation against WFLA-TV Channel 8 for airing a clip–with audio–showing Piniella going ballistic in the dugout. The Rays claim the audio was included without authorization.

The Rays have a point, but it’s pointless to take it out on the affiliate’s reporters who had nothing to do with the third-party feed incident. The team is not expediting interviews and other courtesies to Channel 8 reporters as it does with the other affiliates. “I don’t trust their news judgment,” sniffed Rays Vice President Rick Vaughn.

As a result, WFLA has now filed a complaint with Major League Baseball about the Rays’ petulant, retaliatory actions. Moreover, the station also alleges that Vaughn threatened its sports anchor J.P. Peterson. Ironic that the Vaughn who goes on the offensive is Rick–not Greg.

Two things: First, the Rays’ need all the local media coverage they can get. They can get in the face of WFLA news director Forrest Carr without, in effect, hurting themselves. Second, the Rays apparently didn’t recognize a PR coup when it was dumped in their lap.

Showing Piniella’s well-hyphenated tirade, which became an instant ESPN SportsCenter classic, was the sort of national exposure this team needs almost as much as major league hitting. When viewers, especially locals, heard “That kind of bleeper-bleeping stuff is why you lose a 100 bleeping games a year around here,” they didn’t so much think of just a lousy team. That clip said, in no uncertain, vintage Piniella terms: “Lou’s on the case; he’ll kick some ass; and don’t expect this loser tag to last much longer.”

Leave it to the Rays to turn a coup into crap. In fact, there’s something else for Lou to address in his inimitable style.

One more thing: wouldn’t you love to see Chris Thomas back at Channel 8 right now?

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