Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A McEwen Op-Ed on Rays

I often wondered what legendary Tampa sportswriter Tom McEwen thought about the Rays' Stadium Saga - so I interviewed him about a year before his 2011 death.  He had an interesting perspective; his old-school mentality approached stadium-building much like a fan approaches his/her favorite team.  To Tom, cheerleading a cause like a new stadium was justified because of its benefit to the community.

Today, McEwen's former daughter-in-law and Trib sportswriter, Cathy Peek McEwen, penned an op-ed in her former paper calling on MLB to step in and fix its broken system in Tampa Bay:
Simply put, MLB is as much to blame, maybe more, on the Rays’ poor attendance as St. Petersburg and Pinellas County (which lag behind Tampa in providing behinds in seats, interestingly). Accordingly, MLB itself needs to atone for the sins of the owners who voted to imprison a franchise in a place their commissioner recognized could not be a major league town.
Agree to fund a meaningful share of a new stadium in a central location, one that can be easily reached by a critical mass of fans. That critical mass together with the Rays’ talented owners and local governments that value keeping MLB in the central Gulf Coast area will do the rest.
But McEwen also blamed St. Pete Mayor Foster for "trying to reinvent history" and claim his city needs to be compensated for what its owed on its investment.  Her contention is that St. Pete built the Trop without a baseball team and its not owed a baseball team now.

Except the one flaw in the argument is that St. Pete's residents have paid millions of dollars the last few decades for the right to have a baseball team.  And MLB, Vince Naimoli, and Stu Sternberg all agreed to a contract promising baseball to St. Petersburg until 2027.

Promises may be meant to be broken, but contracts can be a stickier subject...


  1. "Pinellas County (which lag behind Tampa in providing behinds in seats, interestingly)"

    I wonder where she's getting her numbers. Could it be . . . from the Rays? Or, is she just making them up out of whole cloth.

    1. Good point - in 2008, the Rays told the ABC Coalition Pinellas residents made up 47% of their ticket-holders:

  2. If Foster continues to stick to his position, the Rays would be stuck in the Trop for another 14 years! There is no way that Sternberg can accept this - and I think Foster knows this! He'll be the one causing them to leave the area altogether!

  3. I understand we like to hate the big bad businesses of America like Wal-Mart & MLB, but MLB isn't to blame for the lack of attendance @ the Trop in Pinellas co., Pinellas co. is to blame for the lack of attendance! Though a lot of people go back up north during the baseball months, Pinellas should be doing more to get people to the door step of the Trop, especially along the coastline, and north Pinellas co..
    And I understand NO'ah that you like to use the same lame "tax payers" to try to win your point, but it's hard to feel pity for Pinellas co. when they'll get every penny back in the Suncoast Dome deal, plus interest, plus 19-20 years (bout time the Rays are ready to move) of 10k out of county people spending an average of we'll say $50, times at least 81 days a year, which is 40.5 million extra dollars spent in Pinellas county a year (times 20 puts it close to a billion dollars)(not including all the extra activities the Trop has hosted in it's existence like NHL, NCAA Football, RNC, HS sports, H&G, Monster Trucks, etc.) for a city that shouldn't even have had the opportunity to house a pro sports team. To put it in prospective, St.Pete has only more residence for a city that host a pro team then cities Salt Lake City, Green Bay, Sunrise Fla., and the likes. So again, to St.Pete, just be thankful for the 20 year shot in the arm the Rays induced into the city...
    And we know NO'ah, those same extra 10k people a day for 81 days a year would of drove from Tampa, etc. to St.Pete, and spent the money at Tyrone Square Mall anyways! lol

  4. "Except the one flaw in the argument is that St. Pete's residents have paid millions of dollars the last few decades for the right to have a baseball team. And MLB, Vince Naimoli, and Stu Sternberg all agreed to a contract promising baseball to St. Petersburg until 2027."

    This has nothing to do with the contract. The only thing that has to do with the contract are the improvements the city had to do to get the Rays to sign. If I stupidly built a stadium in my back yard because I want a team. Can I say that MLB owes me something of course not?

    One could argue the St Pete owes the Rays and MLB, otherwise they'd have built the most useless venue in history. A crappy stadium that only hosted a couple seasons of hockey.

    1. The city built a stadium. The league & team then signed a contract saying if the city keeps up its end of the bargain, they'll come here for 30 years. The city is keeping its end of the bargain and the league/team don't want to. So it's on the league/team to present agreeable terms to break the contract, no?

    2. That's right the city built the stadium. Not for the team. Not for the league. They built it too lure a team. So whatever they spent on it is meaningless to the team and league. However at the time of agreeing to sign the lease the team/league made the city make some 70 million dollars worth of improvement, to sign a 30 year lease. Anything spent to build the stadium has NOTHING to do with the team or league.

  5. There are many flaws in her assumptions...
    A. MLB has not and never will establish a stadium financing line of credit as the NFL has, MLB has preferred the franchises to put the arm on local taxpayers at varying degrees of pressure - except SF.
    B. Assuming that locals will be beating down the doors for a new mallpark - no guarantee on that one.
    C. Not bothering to acknowledge the "build it and we'll see.." stance by MLB in the early 90's after they deposed Ubberoth. MLB
    owners wanted to offset the payments that they had to make to the players association because of their collusion to hold down player costs and found willing patsies to pony up entry fees in the millions.
    D. "Stadium for Rent" shows the fragile state of the Tampa group, not "...arguably stronger bid of a Tampa operation...".
    E. There's nowhere outside of their current area that the "imprisoned" franchise can relocate to.
    C. That the Rayz should get a "get-out-of-the-Trop-free" card and let Pinellas hold the bag and leaving details like repaying the balance of the lease up to court litigation or serendipity.
    BTW - Texas Rangers situation was about irresponsible owners, not leaving the local taxpayers on the hook to enrich owners.
    She has no idea about what she is droning on about, just another fan-type who assumes the fantasy world she has conjured up about big league sports is reality.
    Just another example of a well-connected stooge of a big league sports franchise carrying their water.