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Q & A with Sarasota Herald Tribune Beat Reporter

Dennis Maffezzoli covers the Rays for the Herald Tribune.  I recently had a chance to ask Dennis some questions about the Rays. I put a few of the questions on the DRays Bay Diaries on the right sidebar or click on the links here:

Players to build franchise around
Delmon : DRay or Biscuit
Carl & Rocco
Splashy Moves

The rest of the Q&A follows:

LaMar went into the winter meetings saying that this would be a busy offseason in the number of moves, and he came away with only signing players that basically no other teams wanted, what happened?

Chuck said at the pre-spring press conference that he was surprised by the amount of money and number of years No. 3 starters that would have been top-of-the rotation guys with the Rays were getting. Guys like Eric Milton, Jon Lieber, Paul Wilson, Brad Radke, Russ Ortiz all received too much money and too many years for the Rays to be players. And like Lou Piniella says, "Power costs money."

Why is it that Vince and LaMar brought this experienced manager in Lou and he has yet to really expand the payroll. What is the rationale here? Is it that he can't or won't spend the money?

Naimoli has linked payroll with attendance. He said when the Rays draw, the payroll will go up. Piniella brings credibility to an organization in desperate need of it.

What do you think was promised to Lou as far as payroll expectations? Do you think he was misled in any way?

Not sure. Lou says he wasn't misled. He might have heard something at the end of last season and something different during the winter.

How has Chuck managed to stay in his job as GM given that they really have yet to really accomplish anything significant on the field? Is Vince just too loyal or is Chuck just executing Vince's vision?

Good question. There's a good chance Chuck will finish his contract, which I believe runs through next season after the recent extension. I don't think there's any way Naimoli pays two GMs at the same time.

I tend to agree that if the Devil Rays put a winner on the field, people will come. It tooks the Tampa Bay Bucs to a have a regime change in order for the perception to change, what do you think is neccessary here for Tampa to be viewed as a legitimate franchise?

Winning. Winning cures all. But it has to be done on a consistent basis, not a 12-game winning streak in the middle of a 70-win season. They need to prove they can at least play with the big teams, i.e., the Yankees and Red Sox, and finish close to .500 before being taken seriously.

Do you see Lou getting an extension on his contract or has he seen enough of the Lou and Chuck Show?

I think Lou will be offered an extension. I don't know if he will accept it. He might want to take one more shot at winning before he retires. It depends on how close he thinks the Rays are.

How will the Rays integrate the bats of Upton and Young? Does this mean Huff and Lugo are moved to new positions, or should they 'rent but not own' ?

Huff doesn't have a position. He plays anywhere there's an opening. Upton has to play defense before he is recalled. If Upton is playing well enough and the Rays think they can get something for Lugo, who has been one of their top players since he arrived, I think they might move Lugo for a good piece.

On most teams, there are leaders, who are the leaders on this team?

Good question. Last year, it was Tino, no doubt. Eduardo Perez is a presence in the clubhouse, since he has been around. Danys Baez is a guy for the Latin American players to look up to. Carl Crawford has a great work ethic and leads by example. Probably the true leader on the team is Piniella.

With the Tampa Bay Bucs, the former GM McKay got tired of telling the coach Gruden 'no' and left, how do these two guys work together. Are they on the same page or do they have different visions?

I think they are on the same page, but the payroll column is in a different book. I'm sure Chuck would like to give Lou everything he wants. And Lou had a pretty good say in who they bring in. But they are handcuffed by the budget.

If Aubrey Huff played for a big market team,would be talking about one of the great young players in the game? What is it going to take for him to become an all-star?

Not much. A steady position wouldn't hurt. A first half like his second halves would be better. He's a slow starter and his numbers after the all-star game are much better than his numbers before. I'm sure that makes a difference in the voting.

Are the reason the young guys are not up this year due to money reasons (where the organization does not want to start their MLB clock to free agency) or developmental reasons?

No, they're just not ready. They're close, but they're not ready. Some of them haven't even played a game at Triple A, not that players haven't jumped from Double A to the majors. But the players who have been around said the biggest jump is from Triple A to the majors. With the exception of right field, not a problem had Danny Bautista not retired, the Rays have major league players everywhere. There's not a need to rush right now. Their time is coming. Remember, too, the team isn't going to hit on every one, no matter how good they look right now or how good their potential is.