Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Column: Selig, MLB are Victimizing Rays, Tampa Bay

Howard Bryant from ESPN The Magazine, who penned this gem from 2011, delivers another great take on the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014:
By almost all standards, the Rays are doing it the Right Way; the only one they've failed to meet is extracting a new stadium from taxpayers, which happens to be the only one that matters on Park Avenue. Their reward for all this is being ignored by the commissioner's office, which has declined to consider a number of inventive options to sustain the Rays economically and competitively.

When Tampa Bay was granted a franchise, the other owners split up $130 million in expansion fees. The problems the Rays have now -- difficult geography, terrible stadium, transplanted fan base with allegiances to other teams -- existed from the beginning, but baseball's leadership paid no mind. The short money was available, and Bud Selig and the owners took it.
Bryant has sympathy for neither Major League Baseball nor Bud Selig. And much like I wrote in 2011, the fact that the Rays may ultimately lose guys like David Price and why they may not be able to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees in the long-term is not the fault of Rays fans, but the fault of the league.

But Bryant does have sympathy for Rays’ owner Stu Sternberg and his push to re-organize the draft order based on revenues, not records.  And the possibility of re-aligning divisions based on revenues:
Tampa Bay's owner may enjoy beating out big-money teams for a playoff spot, as the Rays did last season, but he'd much rather leave the AL East, where his team will forever be at a massive payroll disadvantage to the Red Sox ($163 million) and Yankees ($203 million). The solution is staring Selig in the face. With a $162 million payroll (fifth in MLB), Detroit is a big-spending club. Baseball could realign and move the Tigers back to the AL East, where they resided from 1969 to 1997, with the Rays shifting to the AL Central and fighting only one megamarket team, Chicago. But baseball has ignored this conversation too.

In our many discussions on this topic over the years, Selig has professed to me his interest in the future of small-market clubs, pointing out that he's a former owner of one himself. But his inaction speaks louder than his words -- the man who was able to quickly introduce instant replay and interleague play has only two stalled economic committees to show for the issues in Oakland and Tampa Bay that have existed for nearly 20 years. But it's a problem that can't be sidestepped forever. Baseball and Tampa Bay are stuck with each other, and if leadership is more than just a slogan, Selig and his office should be considering creative ways to sustain the Rays instead of the current plan: waiting for an unfair system to run a good team into the ground.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Buster Olney, who in the past has criticized anyone who criticizes Rays fans for watching on TV instead of in-person, indicated MLB is choosing to let their huge “problems” in Tampa Bay and Oakland go unresolved:
If baseball’s owners and Selig don’t feel the need to strong-arm the Giants into making the best possible territory deal they can make and carve out a home for the Athletics in San Jose, Calif., that’s their choice. Until Major League Baseball -- the teams and the central office -- places the Athletics’ status at the top of its to-do list and prepares all the necessary horse-trading, nothing will change.
Of course, he name-dropped Montreal, Portland, and Nashville too as possible future homes of the Rays, so there’s that.

By the way, for those of you claiming traffic is bad in St. Pete....

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