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Selig wants Rays makeover taken to extreme

ARLINGTON, Texas — Commissioner Bud Selig made it very clear last week that the Rays would be better off in the new waterfront stadium.

But he acknowledged they are doing pretty well right now.

"They've done an amazing job given where they play," Selig told the St. Petersburg Times.

"These people have done an extraordinary job. The drafting has been amazing. I've watched the Rays a lot this year. The more I watch, the more impressed I am."

Selig talks all the time about the importance of increasing "competitive balance," which is a longer way of saying parity. And as much criticism as MLB takes for the huge differential in team payrolls, he has a point as increased revenue sharing and the expanded playoffs have allowed a large number of teams to be competitive.

And you get the sense the Rays, under principal owner Stuart Sternberg, are about to become one of his prime examples.

"These are the new economics. These are the new times. I'm proud of what they've done," Selig told Times colleague Aaron Sharockman on Tuesday. "We have more of what I call competitive balance than ever before. The fact that here we are, almost 60 games into the season, and the Rays are leading their division, that's remarkable. …

"Stu and his group have done a terrific job. I feel really good about where they are."

But he'd feel better if he knew they were going to the new stadium.

"There's no question in my mind the St. Petersburg/Tampa market is a major-league market," Selig said. "They have the demographics. I don't have a concern about the long-term viability of baseball there if we have the proper stadium. But we need the proper stadium. …

"No matter how smart you are, no matter what the situation is, you need a stadium that produces revenues to be competitive."

Draft rumblings

Eighth-round pick 2B Anthony Scelfo of Tulane is a quarterback, starting nine games as a sophomore. … The Rays split their 50 picks well — 25 high schoolers, 25 collegians; 27 pitchers, 23 position players. … 3B Evan Longoria said seventh-round OF Jason Corder, a former Long Beach State teammate, has a "big power bat" and 20th-rounder 2B Jason Tweedy is "an overall solid player." … ESPN.com's Keith Law liked the pick of Tim Beckham No. 1 but didn't rank the Rays in his top five drafts; he had the Giants, who took FSU C Buster Posey, first. … R.J. Harrison said having older brother 2B Jeremy Beckham, drafted 17th, in the system "certainly can't hurt" Tim's transition to the pros: "I think they'll be really good for one another." … OF Ryan Westmoreland, nephew of Rays equipment manager Chris, went 172nd overall to Boston.

Short odds

How the No. 1 shortstops have fared, with all but Bill Almon (Brown Univ.) drafted out of high school:

Year Player, team Career

1968 Tim Foli, Mets Played 16 seasons in the majors but with little impact

1974 Bill Almon, Padres Spent most of 15-season big-league career as a utility guy

1982 Shawon Dunston, Cubs Two-time All-Star played 13 of 18 seasons at short before moving

1990 Chipper Jones, Braves Shortstop thing didn't last, but he certainly has, with 400 HRs

1993 Alex Rodriguez, Mariners Might be game's best-ever player; spent first 10 seasons at short

2004 Matt Bush, Padres Hasn't made it out of Class A ball and already shifted to pitcher

2005 Justin Upton, D'backs Moved to outfield right away and is already an impact hitter

2008 Tim Beckham, Rays The path should start next week in Princeton, W.Va.

Coming up short

Tim Beckham is the eighth shortstop to be taken first overall in the 44 years of the baseball draft (and third in the past five years), and results have been mixed.

The Rays consider Beckham a five-tool player, which means he does all the basics well: hit for average, hit for power, run, throw and field.

Although his hitting is considerably more advanced than his fielding, and at 6-foot-1½ and 192 pounds he could grow out of the position, scouting director R.J. Harrison said the Rays think he has what it takes to stay at shortstop — the physical tools and the personality.

"It takes a different guy to play shortstop at the major-league level," Harrison said. "I give this kid every opportunity to do so."

Got a minute?

Shawn Riggans

Best meal you make?

Wahoo steaks. Put some lemon pepper on 'em and throw on the stove for a few minutes.

Must-see TV?

The First 48.

Guilty pleasure at the mall?

I buy shoes. (Best pair?) Louis Vuitton's, they were about $550.

Band you'd like to be on stage with?

Probably Kid Rock.

Dream date?

My mom (who died in March 2001). Definitely my mom.

Brawl rumblings

The combined eight suspensions looks to be the most since a Rangers-Angels tussle in August 2006, though that included a coach and both managers. Thirteen Tigers and White Sox were suspended in April 2000. … As now scheduled, 2B Akinori Iwamura will be suspended for two of the Cubs games, missing chances to play against fellow Japanese star Kosuke Fukudome. … Noted Boston whiner Kevin Youkilis suggested that if teammate Jon Lester got a five-game suspension for not doing "anything," then Rays RHP James Shields deserved 10. … ESPN.com's Buster Olney thought Jonny Gomes deserved a more severe suspension, 6-8 games at least, for coming off the bench and throwing punches.

Rays rumblings

Not to get too far ahead of things, but the Trop might be booked in October, with a home show tentatively set for Oct. 3-5 and an RV show Oct. 17-19. … At the online betting site Sportsbook.com, the Rays went from 100-1 to win the World Series on May 13 to 10-1 Saturday, lower odds — for what has to be the first time ever — than the Yankees (12-1). … Foxsports.com's Jeff Moore suggests the Rays fill their rightfield and leadoff spots by trading RHP Jeff Niemann, INF/OF Eric Hinske and top OF prospect Desmond Jennings to San Diego for Brian Giles, who is 37, hitting .297 and making $9.7-million. … Or maybe Rocco Baldelli, in what would be a remarkable story, comes back by the end of the summer and fills that spot.

Ex-Rays rumblings

Nationals OF Elijah Dukes has irritated someone else, as umpire Doug Eddings took exception to Dukes looking back at, then gesturing toward him (thumping his chest), after hitting a walkoff homer Thursday, and again as he neared the plate. Dukes didn't like a strike call earlier in the at-bat. … Think RHP Seth McClung has stopped talking yet about getting his first two major-league hits off Randy Johnson last week and beating the future Hall of Famer? … The Marlins come to town this week with three ex-Rays in key roles — Mark Hendrickson is 7-3 (though with a 5.33 ERA), Jorge Cantu is playing third and hitting .276 with 10 homers, and Doug Waechter has been a solid middle reliever. Plus, they have former Rays minor-leaguers Paul Hoover, Justin Miller and Joe Nelson, and Tampa's Luis Gonzalez, St. Petersburg College's Alfredo Amezaga and Ridgewood High/University of Tampa's Mike Rabelo.

Selig wants Rays makeover taken to extreme 06/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 9, 2008 10:00am]

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