Rays and Mets ownership situations

Posted: February 6, 2011 in AL East, Bud Selig, Rays

In his latest installment, N.Y. Daily News baseball columnist Bill Madden wonders if Bud Selig will be a lame duck commissioner with the ownership problems facing baseball. The Mets, Dodgers,, Rays, and A’s are featured and this is what he says about the Tampa Bay Rays.

Meanwhile, just as vexing – and pressing – for Selig are the Tampa Bay and Oakland situations. Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg has said emphatically the Rays can not survive long-term at Tropicana Field in downtown St. Petersburg, despite an ironclad lease that binds them to the dome until 2027. He goes on to say there is no way the Rays will still be in Tropicana in 2027. But where will they be? Between the absence of any more major league-ready cities for which to re-locate, the adament stance of the city fathers of St. Petersburg regarding the lease, and the depressed economy in Florida that would seem to preclude a taxpayer-paid ballpark on the I-4 corridor east of Tampa (where most people agree is the most viable site), the Rays appear captives. After averaging just 23,000 fans – 22nd out of 30 MLB teams – last year, Sternberg cut the payroll of $72 million by nearly $20 million with the jetissoning of shortstop Jason Bartlett and righthander Matt Garza and the free-agent departures of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. To his credit, GM Andrew Friedman received eight legitimate highly-regarded prospects in the respective trades of Bartlett to the San Diego Padres and Garza to the Chicago Cubs and, with 10 picks in the first two rounds of next June’s amateur draft, he’s positioned the Rays to remain competitive for years to come. What a pity their fan base can’t support them.

I am one who thinks that the economic situation in Florida has a lot to due with the attendance numbers. It’s not so much the fans lack of support as the Rays have some of the best radio and TV numbers. I think moving to a new location won’t make that much of a difference. As we have seen with Marlins, the ownership groups just don’t have the consistent revenue streams that the big markets do. We have seen salary purging right after the Marlins won the world series. This is no different than what the Rays are faced with. They will have to let popular players walk. The Rays did turn a slight profit here the past few years. But, do you own a team to make a slight profit or to win a championship? In this case ownership will continue to work on the model that put a winner on field on a regular basis. However, the fans suffer as their favorite players won’t be around as long as they would like them to be.

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