Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reading Between the Rays' Lines

The Rays’ $7.25-million signing of relief pitcher Rafael Soriano is a big step toward proving their commitment to winning in 2010...but it doesn’t come without some emotional baggage for fans.

Two quick disclaimers before I go on: my hat is to the Rays for making one of the biggest signings of the winter; also, since I wasn’t able to attend this week’s press conference, the quotes from team president Matt Silverman are from Marc Topkin’s article in the St. Pete Times.

“We're overextended heading into this year," Silverman warned of the team’s all-or-nothing attitude, which could push the 2010 preseason payroll north of $70 million for the first time.

But just 11 days earlier, VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said, “In 2010, we don't really have any flexibility...when (we overextend), you're stealing from a future year."

What that means is the Rays are saying now that they may have to cut salary in 2011. But what purpose does the warning serve when Friedman said the team doesn't disclose target payroll numbers so their "29 competitors don't know what we're working up against?"

The answer is that the warning is actually part of a plea.

"Last season we were shooting for league average in attendance and fell well short," Silverman told The Times. "This season we will be gunning again for that league-average attendance. There is that connection between the revenues that we generate and the investment we can make throughout our organization."

The Rays have been campaigning for years to get fans to support their team not just with their cheers from home, but also with their butts in seats at The Trop.

And while the latest campaign strategy doesn’t just repeat the message, it also serves as another plea for a new stadium – one that the Rays assure will increase revenue and better-help the team compete in the ultra-competitive American League East.

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