Lou Piniella must be thinking of his new managerial job as a form of Floridian retirement, a time for him to putter around the house, or rather the clubhouse. Or maybe there's something in the Florida water that makes men of Piniella's years senile. Otherwise how does one reconcile his plan to bat Greg Vaughn leadoff and Rey Ordonez second?
"You're going to laugh at this one," explains the skipper. "We'll try it out in spring training and see what it looks like. It seems to me he [Ordonez] can handle the bat. Put some speed in front of him and a good hitter behind him and he'll get a lot better selection than he did when he was with the Mets.
"He should be able to bunt, we should be able to hit and run with him, hit the ball behind the runner. And what that will do is allow us to keep some left-handed hitting stacked up a little deeper into the lineup. I like balance throughout the lineup. To me, balance is the most important thing."
Well if by balance he means posting a lineup with your worst hitters in the most prominent positions than he's done it. Pitch selection? Ordonez has never broken 50 walks, he only once had an on-base percentage over .300, and his adjusted OPS has never broken 70% of average. He's a horrible hitter. He can apparently bunt (double digits in sacs on four occassions), but should that be the basis of his batting second? Piniella should be toying with whether Ordonez can start any longer (or ever should have) on a major-league team. There's no way he should bat higher than ninth.
Vaughn leading off?:
"The reason being he has a good on-base percentage, he can steal a base, he's going to get good fastballs to hit in the leadoff spot," Piniella said. "It's just something that runs through my mind, nothing more, nothing less."
Vaughn has stolen more than 11 bases twice (15 in 1992 and 1999). His stolen base percentage is average, 67%. He stole three bases in five attempts last year. And he is 37.
Good OBP? His OBP was under .300 last year. It has been in the .360s as late as 2000, but if it ever gets that high again, the Rays are going to need him in the middle of the lineup.
Basically, there is more casue to believe that Vaughn and Ordonez are no longer major-league caliber players than top-of-the-order men. If Piniella does not see that, then the Rays fans (or is it fan?) may look back on 2002 as those halcyon days when the Rays could win 55 games a season.