Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer

Marc Topkin

Marc Topkin has covered baseball for the Times since 1987 — from the lengthy effort to secure a team, to the awarding of the Tampa Bay franchise in 1995, and through each of the Rays seasons starting in 1998. He has traveled throughout the United States with the team, as well as to Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan, and has covered All-Star Games and the World Series, as well as Super Bowls and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Phone: (727) 893-8801

Email: topkin@tampabay.com

Blog: The Heater

Twitter: @TBTimes_Rays


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  1. Tampa native Tony La Russa inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame

    Sports

    COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.

    Tony La Russa was doing okay until Sunday afternoon, when he gathered in a room at the Otesaga Hotel with 44 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame whom he and the five other new electees were to soon join.

    "All of a sudden you start feeling a little differently," he said.

    Worse, when they boarded a bus for the short ride to the induction ceremony site, and again when they turned into the Clark Sports Center and saw nearly 50,000 fans stretched as far as you could see....

    Tony La Russa, left, Joe Torre, center, and Bobby Cox display their Baseball Hall of Fame plaques Sunday at Clark Sports Center during their induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y. La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 2,728 victories and led his teams to six pennants and three World Series titles. Torre led the New York Yankees to six American League pennants and four World Series titles. Cox won five National League pennants and the 1995 World Series with the Atlanta Braves.
  2. Joe Torre honors Don Zimmer in Hall of Fame speech

    The Heater

    COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Joe Torre had plenty of people to thank during his Sunday Hall of Fame induction speech. And despite going on for nearly 30 minutes, he didn't get to them all, including the very large omission of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, for which he quickly apologized afterward.

    But Torre had very kind words for Don Zimmer, his former Yankees bench coach and the Rays senior adviser who died last month....

    New Hall of Famer Joe Torre says that the late Don Zimmer “made me the manager that I turned into.”
  3. Tampa upbringing crucial to La Russa's Hall of Fame career

    The Heater

    COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — It was the night before second-grade photo day at V.M. Ybor Elementary and Oliva La Russa had picked out a nice shirt and dressy pants for her son.

    But Tony wouldn't have any of it. He was going to wear his gray flannel baseball uniform and cap, and that was going to be it. They went back and forth for a few minutes, but Oliva realized then what the rest of the world would find out:...

    In 1962, Tony La Russa, left, chats with White Sox manager and fellow Tampa native and Hall of Famer Al Lopez.
  4. La Russa admits to being overwhelmed by Hall of Fame

    The Heater

    COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Riding across Cooperstown on Saturday with good buddy Jim Leyland, Tampa's Tony La Russa realized just how significant his Hall of Fame induction is.

    "Once you see what's going on, it overwhelms you," La Russa said. "You try not to get overwhelmed. But I think it's okay to be overwhelmed. It's really a big deal."

    La Russa's primary remaining task — the one still "looming there" — was refining the speech he will give at today's ceremony, fighting what sounded like a losing battle to cut it down to the requested 10 minutes....

  5. Rays rarely go for fireworks at trade deadline

    The Heater

    Andrew Friedman has never really been a big deal in July.

    The Rays executive vice president has done most of his major trades in the offseason, and he has made a few key pickups during the August waiver period. But his moves leading up to the annual July 31 trade deadline have been minimal, dumping a few veterans, picking up some future complementary pieces, filling an injury-created need in 2010 by picking up RHP Chad Qualls....

    EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN   |   Times (2012)
  6. Hall of Fame changes voting policy

    Blog

    Here is the release from the Hall of Fame on changes to the voting procedure:

    (COOPERSTOWN, NY) - The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's Board of Directors today announced changes to the rules for election for recently retired players, reducing the length of stay on the ballot for players from a maximum of 15 to 10 years, while installing a new balloting and registration process for Baseball Writers' Association of America voting members.

     The changes, effective immediately and to be reflected in 2015 Hall of Fame voting, are the first made by the Hall of Fame to the voting process since 1991 and just the second time the Baseball Hall of Fame has amended the rules for election since 1985.

     "The Board is committed to keeping the policies and voting procedures of the Hall of Fame relevant," said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame - player's record, contributions to the teams on which the player played, character, sportsmanship and integrity - to determine individuals who belong in the Hall of Fame by the highest threshold, a 75 percent majority. The Board believes these changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process moving forward."

     Candidates for Hall of Fame election who receive votes on at least five percent of ballots cast had previously been eligible to remain on the ballot for a maximum of 15 years of consideration by the BBWAA. Going forward, the maximum years of consideration for a player who meets that criteria is now 10 years. Candidates would then move to the Era Committee system for review in perpetuity. Three candidates presently on the BBWAA ballot in years 10-15 will be grandfathered into this system and remain under consideration by the BBWAA for up to the full 15 years. Don Mattingly (15th year in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th year in 2015) and Lee Smith (13th year in 2015) will be eligible to remain on the BBWAA ballot for a maximum of 15 years of consideration.

     BBWAA members earn a Hall of Fame vote from its organization, which is independent of the Hall of Fame, by maintaining 10 consecutive years on a baseball beat. Those Hall of Fame eligible voters will now be required to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct. The names of those BBWAA members casting Hall of Fame ballots will now be made public with the election results; however, an individual's ballot will not be revealed by the Hall of Fame.

     Ernst and Young will continue to verify the count, with added responsibilities in verifying the process. The 2015 ballot will be announced by the BBWAA in late-November and those who have completed the registration process will receive their ballot around that time. Ballots are to be postmarked by December 31. The 2015 BBWAA Hall of Fame results will be announced at a yet to be determined date in early January.

     Of the 211 players in the Hall of Fame, 115 have been elected by the BBWAA, 96 by Veterans Committees. Of the 115 BBWAA electees, 102 (89%) have been elected in years 1-10 and 13 (11%) have been elected in years 11-15.

     The BBWAA has held the exclusive voting privilege to consider recently retired players for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame since 1936. Since that time, the BBWAA has presided over 70 elections in 79 election years, with no elections being held in 1940, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1957, 1959, 1961, 1963 and 1965.

     In the nascent stages of Hall of Fame voting, election rules were not codified. By World War II, they began to take shape, with evolution over ensuing years featuring changes to the eligibility criteria and qualifications for earning election. The rules for election are maintained and governed by the Hall of Fame's Board of Directors.

     The last rule change implemented by the Hall of Fame came in 1991, formalizing a long-standing unwritten rule that anyone on baseball's ineligible list cannot be an eligible candidate for Hall of Fame election. Prior to that, in 1985, the Board made candidates eligible for future elections if they were named on five percent or more of ballots cast in preceding elections....

  7. Ortiz vs. Price, round 2? Not likely (video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Whether it was going to be a war as David Ortiz suggested or just another intense battle, tonight's anticipated rematch between still-Rays ace David Price and the Red Sox DH might not happen.

    Ortiz left Boston's Thursday loss in Toronto with what he said was a back spasm and is questionable for tonight's game, pending an afternoon exam.

    "Hopefully it's nothing serious," Ortiz said. "They want to make sure (today) I don't have the same feeling."...

    David Ortiz is questionable for tonight’s series opener at the Trop.
  8. Rays: Praise from Cardinals' Matheny; Curt Casali prepares for Trop

    The Heater

    Rays vs. Red Sox

    When/where: 7:10 tonight; Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

    Tickets: $21-300, available at Tropicana Field box office, Ticketmaster, raysbaseball.com, team Tampa store; $3 surcharge within 5 hours of game time.

    Promotion: Don Zimmer Snow Globe as part of Tampa Bay Times ticket tandem, proceeds to Rays Baseball Foundation....

    FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 23:  Jon Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during Boston Red Sox Photo Day on February 23, 2014 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  9. Rays-Red Sox preview

    The Heater

    up next

    Vs. Red Sox

    Tonight-Sunday

    What's new: After surging back into the fringe of the playoff race by winning eight of nine, the Red Sox lost three straight in Toronto, and didn't looked good in doing so. Plus, DH David Ortiz, who had been hot, left Thursday's game with a back spasm, and team officials said they have tabled contract talks with ace LHP Jon Lester until the offseason. Pitching continues to be their strength. OF Shane Victorino is back from the DL, and veteran C A.J. Pierzynski was recently cut loose....

  10. Trade Price? Tough call awaits Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — By winning as much as they have recently — 25 of 36 games, 16 of 20 and seven straight — the Rays have played themselves back into at least the conversation if not contention for a playoff spot.

    And their bosses into a bind.

    What six weeks ago seemed like a near certainty to trade ace David Price and possibly other veterans for young players has become a fascinating — and potentially excruciatingly difficult — decision to be made before next Thursday's trade deadline....

    David Price, who says he hopes to stay in Tampa Bay, is 6-1 with a 1.45 ERA in past seven starts.
  11. Alex Cobb, Rays shut out Cardinals for two-game sweep

    The Heater

    ST. LOUIS — What happened at the plate made Wednesday night memorable for Alex Cobb, as he dealt with the joy of doubling in a run on his first big-league hit and the agony of thinking his elbow was broken when hit by a pitch.

    But what he did on the mound was most significant, making a slight adjustment in pregame warmups that led back to his old form over seven sterling innings, and leading the Rays to a seventh straight win, 3-0 over the Cardinals....

    Alex Cobb’s first hit in the majors is a big one, an RBI double that gives the Rays a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
  12. Rays: Some brotherly love between Molinas

    The Heater

    Today: Off

    Next game: 7:10 p.m. Friday, vs. Red Sox

    Probable pitchers: Rays — LH David Price (10-7, 3.06); Red Sox — LH Jon Lester (10-7, 2.50)

    On deck

    Saturday: vs. Red Sox, 7:10. Rays — RH Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 2.08); Red Sox — RH John Lackey (11-6, 3.66)

    Sunday: vs. Red Sox, 1:40. Rays — RH Chris Archer (6-5, 3.31); Red Sox — RH Jake Peavy (1-9, 4.72)...

  13. Rays shut out in lottery for extra draft picks

    The Heater

    ST. LOUIS — Major League Baseball instituted a competitive balance lottery in 2012 to award additional draft picks to help small-market and low-revenue teams.

    And for the second time in three years, the Rays — who rank among the smallest and the lowest — were shut out while teams that don't seem to be either, such as the Cardinals, Orioles and Rockies, won extra picks.

    "There are obvious flaws with this draft lottery,'' Rays president Matt Silverman said. "If it were better constructed, it would only scratch at the surface of the competitive balance issues plaguing baseball. For the long-term health of our game, we must confront these issues. We have been and will continue to be vocal advocates for meaningful change.''...

  14. For starters, Rays at Cardinals, seeking another sweep

    Blog

    UPDATE, 6:11: Maddon said RHP Jeremy Hellickson will rejoin the rotation on Saturday, with RHP Chris Archer making his next start on Sunday. ... The Rays will have to make a roster move to accomodate Hellickson's return, with LHP Erik Bedard seemingly most likely to go. ... With a win tonight the Rays would have their first undefeated multi-city road trip in team history.

    Cardinals lineup:
    Carpenter 3b
    Wong 2b
    Holliday lf
    Adams 1b
    Peralta ss
    Taveras rf
    Jay cf
    Cruz c
    Lynn p

    UPDATE, 3:46: The Rays were shutout in MLB's Competitive Balance Lottery, which is designed to help smaller-market/lower revenue teams by giving them extra draft picks. The Cardinals, Rockies and Orioles were among the teams that did get extra picks for 2015....

    Rays manager Joe Maddon is sticking with his plan of having the pitcher bat eighth, sliding Alex Cobb into that spot and RF Kevin Kiermaier into the ninth position.
  15. Rays' Joel Peralta heads to DL

    The Heater

    ST. LOUIS — Veteran reliever Joel Peralta was placed on the disabled list and sent back to St. Petersburg for blood work testing to confirm that he has the chikungunya virus as his symptoms indicate.

    Peralta returned from spending the All-Star break in his native Dominican Republic with a fever, achiness in his joints and a rash, leading to the initial diagnosis of the virus, which is contracted via mosquitoes in Caribbean countries....

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Joel Peralta (62) throwing in the eighth inning of the Kansas City Royals at the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.