CLEARWATER — In his new job as Phillies director of pro scouting, Chuck LaMar gets a front-row view of his past. After several spring looks at the Rays, the team he spent 10 years and eight seasons building as general manager, LaMar sees the regime that replaced him headed for success.
"They're on the verge of having the best team the Tampa Bay Rays have ever had," LaMar said, "and that's a credit to what they have done."
But there should also be credit, he said, for the foundation that was built. For example, while lauding that the new brass acquired a much-needed frontline starter in Matt Garza, he notes they did so by trading Delmon Young, who was drafted under LaMar.
"They were left a good nucleus of players, and I think they've done a very good job adding to it, and that's the key," he said. "Not all the players you draft and sign are going to play in the major leagues for you."
Similarly, he said "it's a shame" the Rays weren't able to get more production or trade value out of Josh Hamilton, who was lost in the 2006 Rule 5 draft, and Rocco Baldelli, whose future is uncertain due to medical issues. And he continued to defend his philosophy of using top draft picks on position players rather than pitchers since they tend to get hurt more often.
Though almost 30 months removed from the Rays, LaMar said he still has — and always will have — an interest in how they do.
"Do I wish I would have got the job done and we would have got the job done during my tenure? Absolutely," he said. "But I'll always have pride because I know how many people worked so hard to put a winning product on the field."
And he sounds maybe just a teensy bit envious of the good times that appear to be coming
"I think they have turned the corner, and I think it is a new era in the Rays' baseball history," he said. "You can't totally separate the two because somebody had to go through building the foundation, somebody had to go through the growing pains, and I'm honored that it was me.
"But sometimes you wish you could have showed up now."
CURRENCY CONVERSION: The Rays didn't have the same issues the Red Sox did in going to Japan because the system for paying coaches and staff was different in 2004. Players voted them shares of the receipts, much as they do in the postseason, and each got around $42,000.
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels took some serious abuse from a savvy/snarky Rays fan the other day, telling the Delaware News-Journal: "One guy called me a cross between Casey Fossum and Shawn Camp. I thought that was kind of funny.'' … It sure sounded insulting when Kenny Lofton reportedly rejected the Rays' offer of more than $1-million, then said he wanted a "real offer" and dropped the R-word, "respect." … With 3B Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche both hurt, might the Dodgers — who have a surplus of outfielders — have interest in reacquiring Joel Guzman? … B.J. Upton's contract was renewed at $412,100 — a raise under the team salary structure of only $25,200 for his breakthrough 20-20 season. … Ex-Rays INF Jorge Cantu, hitting .457, and RHP Doug Waechter are making strong bids for jobs with the Marlins; LHP Mark Hendrickson looks like the opening day starter. … A sign of things to come? The Yankees will stay in Tampa, rather than in St. Petersburg, for their final Trop trip of the season. … In addition to providing essentially a full-time chaperone, the Nationals' special rules for Elijah Dukes include requiring a top team official be present for all interviews.