10/17/08 12:35 PM ET
LaMar: 'Tremendous pride' in Rays
Organization's first GM, current Phils scout on hand for Game 5
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
"[There is a] tremendous amount of pride," LaMar told TBS during an in-game interview Thursday. "People forget that it was 10 years, we had a low payroll and we were in the toughest division in baseball. I probably take as much pride on the staff members -- the coaches that are still here, the people in the front office and the players on that field.
"It wasn't me, frankly; we had a great organization and they advanced those people within the organization. When you're the general manager, you're blessed to have that position, but there's a tremendous amount of people in scouts and player development that go into that. They're reaping the benefits."
One night after LaMar's Phillies became the 35th Major League club to win a League Championship Series in five games, he was perched on the field level at Fenway Park, observing his former franchise suffer an 8-7 defeat to the Red Sox, sending the ALCS back to St. Petersburg for Game 6 on Saturday.
LaMar was at the trigger of conducting one of the best deals in recent baseball history, acquiring left-hander Scott Kazmir from the Mets in July 2004 for pitchers Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.
As Kazmir stepped up to the task of silencing Boston's bats with six strong innings on Thursday, LaMar reflected on how strong an acquisition the Kazmir trade -- lauded as a steal at the time and only growing in scope as each year passes -- has proven to be.
"He's real good," LaMar said. "He has been good and he's always been a great competitor. We were fortunate enough to make a trade that turned out very well for us, and Scott actually has pitched better tonight, in our opinion, than he has over the last two or three starts. He's truly one of the premier left-handers in the game."
|"This is a very balanced team. ... They're just a young athletic, energetic club."|
|-- Chuck LaMar, on the Rays|
LaMar drafted six of the players on the current Rays roster, including B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, James Shields and Andy Sonnanstine. Also included on LaMar's list of selections is Delmon Young, who was swapped to the Twins for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett last offseason.
Though he offers platitudes to executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon, LaMar said he is not completely surprised by the Rays' run of success. The parts were there to bring winning baseball to St. Petersburg, but even LaMar didn't expect this many victories this soon.
"I thought in Spring Training they would have the best year that they would ever have," LaMar said. "I thought they could possibly challenge for .500 baseball this year. To say that they were going to have this kind of success this quick, I don't think anyone would say that.
"It's a credit to Andrew and Joe Maddon and the players on the field. They believed it, they bought into what they were doing, and it's amazing what momentum can do when you've got talented players."
No one will need to brush LaMar up on the task at hand if the Phillies and Rays meet in the World Series. The city of Philadelphia is hungry for a champion, having not achieved a title in any major sport since the 76ers beat the Lakers in the 1983 NBA Finals.
But with the road to a championship for the Phillies possibly running through St. Petersburg, LaMar knows better than most that those streets no longer promise such a smooth path to victory.
"This is a very balanced team," LaMar said. "Their defensive ability is superior -- it might be the best defensive team in baseball. They run the bases, they steal bases, a combination of foot speed and power, they beat you in so many different ways. They're just a young athletic, energetic club."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.