Albert Lyu and Carson Cistulli are overzealously reviewing colleague Jonah Keri’s forthcoming book, The Extra 2%. All those interested in L-ing OL would do well to read parts one and two of the series.
In what follows, they examine original Devil Rays owner Vincent Naimoli’s baddest behavior in a manner that critics are describing as “almost intelligible.”
Cistulli: I’m telling you something you already know, Albert Lyu, when I tell you that chapter two of Jonah Keri’s The Extra 2% is dedicated almost exclusively to the very poor behavior of the Rays’ first owner, Mr. Vincent J. Naimoli.
I don’t know for a fact, but I’ll assume, that this was a fun chapter for Jonah to write, as it’s mostly just an anthology of anecdotes — all concerning a man who, while, by all accounts, was a savant of thrift, had absolutely no concept of brand management.
With a view towards celebrating Naimoli’s exploits, allow me to propose a fantasy-type draft, Albert, wherein we select, alternately, our 10 favorite Naimoli-related events.
You find this idea amenable, Albert?
Albert: Amen, Carson. I will assume that this is neither a rotisserie, H2H, or linear weights points-based league and that the criteria is entirely up to our own personal interpretations. Your move, Cistulli.
Cistulli: As you anticipate, I’ll not only take part in, but will also judge the winner of, this faker-than-usual fantasy league (the winner of which will receive an ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s David with vodka coming out his you-know-what).
Also, because I’m the inventor of this idea, I choose myself to draft first… And with pick No.1 of this entirely make-believe draft I’ll take Naimoli Hates Internet.
According to Jonah, the Rays’ owner had a
contempt for technology. Naimoli thought email was a fad. He insisted on reading and signing off on the smallest documents. Naimoli wouldn’t buy Internet access and by extension wouldn’t arrange for email for Devil Rays employee.
Apparently, even as late as 2003, the Rays didn’t officially have Internet access — even at a time when over 60% of American households had access.
Actually, let’s change the form a little bit. Make a pick with both a description of, and comments upon, same.
2 / Albert: Pesky Raccoon
Description: Naimoli complained in a letter to Hillsborough County about a “pesky raccoon” that was intimidating his wife and daughter at his humble abode. “What I’d like to know,” wrote Naimoli, “is why when I reportedly pay the highest property taxes in Hillsborough County — I can’t get equal treatment on Raccoon Rabies Protection.”
Comment: What I’d like to know, Vincent, is whether you and your family encountered one or multiple pesky raccoons, because an answer to that question will greatly impact my chances of winning this (literally head-to-head) fantasy league. And how, might I ask, did you proper-nounisize “Raccoons Rabies Protection”? Pretentious, at the very very least.
3 / Cistulli: Demand from Dillard’s
Description: In 1998, Naimoli demanded that Dillard’s department store pay for the right to sell D-Rays gear in their Tampa-area stores. How did Dillard’s respond? Actually, by just refusing to sell D-Rays’ gear entirely, is how.
Comment: I don’t know — and am entirely unmotivated to look up — how large of a presence Dillard’s has in the Tampa Bay metro area. Regardless, it seems like it’s in the best interest of a franchise to make their merchandise available to as many potential consumers as possible. On the other hand, maybe it’s for the best. As Wade Boggs is secretly trying to tell us in the image below, the earliest Rays unis weren’t what you’d call a masterpiece of the genre.
4 / Albert: Health Department Violation
Description: In 2004, a visiting Baltimore reporter bought a small pizza from a concession stand and took it back to his seat in the press box. Except Naimoli erupted: “Bringing food into the press box is a health department violation!” Naimoli didn’t want to get fined and threatened to revoke the reporter’s credentials. Thankfully, Naimoli’s head of PR stopped him from doing so.
Comment: Not that I am some sort of expert on what food should or shouldn’t be eaten and where, but I’m very curious about where this alleged “fine” would be coming from if a Tropicana Field-bought pizza were consumed in the wrong place. I’m also flabbergasted that Naimoli didn’t proper-nounisize “health department violation,” although I do suppose that was Keri’s decision when he wrote the book and since Naimoli was speaking and not writing in this particular instance.
5 / Cistulli: Do You Know Who I Am?
Description: Yes, he actually said that. Yes, to a police officer. Yes, after his wife had just run a red light.
Comment: NotGraphs’ own Eno Sarris anticipated my thoughts on the matter last week. I’ll get you, Sarris!
6 / Albert: Mayoral Threat
Description: A few weeks into the Devil Rays’ second season, Naimoli had a meeting with St. Petersburg’s mayor and other city officials to talk about a $65M renovation of the Trop. Out of nowhere, Naimoli threatened that if the Devil Rays didn’t get better attendance soon, he would move the team out of town.
Comment: You took my sleeper pick, Carson, but I’ll one-up your Carmelo Anthony with my Deron Williams. Usually, such threats are made less quickly and less defiantly, but Naimoli outdid even the worst of the worst of the worst Lords of Baseball by threatening a franchise move when the franchise hadn’t played 100 home games yet. It’s almost as if 99 losses had nothing to do with the attendance, and Naimoli pushed the blame to the mayor and the city in order to produce fans.
7 / Cistulli: Free Advertising = Bad
Description: Writes Keri: “In the summer before the Rays’ first season, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitors Bureau printed a visitor’s guide showing the Devil Rays logo and promoting the future team” — essentially providing free advertising. Naimoli’s reaction? To demand $750 thousand for the right to use said logo.
Comment: This is similar to the Dillard’s situation so far as short-sightedness is concerned, and another example of how little sense Naimoli had of creating a brand — or, if “brand” is too cynical for the reader, just how to create a sense of excitement about the team. An expansion team is, by definition, one destined for a couple-few terrible seasons. Why exacerbate the problem by displaying zero percent in the way of goodwill, too? (Hint: there’s no reasonable answer to that question.)
8 / Albert: St. Petersburg High School Band
Description: The team had invited the band to play the national anthem at a game — only to be told at the last minute that they would have to pay to get into the ballpark. The appearance was subsequently canceled.
Comment: This was perhaps one of the Devil Rays’, as Jonah puts it, “biggest Naimolified public relations disasters.” First, props to Jonah for adjectivizing words. Second, you have to feel for the kids — it’s an honor to perform in front of a sports audience, but I would think that sports teams paying performers made more common sense in a service-for-pay capitalist society than the other way around. Naimoli burned a lot of bridges with this particular event, and I’m surprised this pick dropped so late in this draft.
9 / Cistulli: Free Airport Parking
Description: At one point during his reign, Naimoli — according to Keri — “sent a letter to the city of Tampa asking why he didn’t have a free, reserved parking space at the airport.”
Comment: On the one hand, yes, it’s a little bit of a crazy thing to do. On the other hand, Albert/reader, you don’t complete the passes you don’t throw, right?
10 / Albert: Tony Soprano
Description: A St. Petersburg Times issue depicted Naimoli as Tony Soprano. Naimoli countered by pulling all Times papers from the Trop, momentarily cutting ties with one of the region’s biggest providers of Devil Rays coverage. He then threatened to sue and contacted the American Italian Anti-Defamation League.
Comment: I’ve never seen the Sopranos, but I hear it’s one of the best shows out there. Needless to say, if I were Naimoli, I would be flattered to be represented as the mob leader in one of HBO’s most successful shows in their history. Whether or not the incident was offensive enough to warrant contacting the American Italian Anti-Defamation League remains to be seen. I’ll have to point to the work of Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times though as one must-follow on Twitter for all of your Tampa Bay Rays-related news. For Naimoli to sever ties with that paper, even for a moment, would have been quite counterproductive for the organization.
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