What would the off-season be without a discussion of the Rays leaving the Tampa Bay area, or even being contracted for that matter? This is the business side of baseball, the ugly under-pinning on what we as fans get to see on the field. And the conversation regarding what team is on the move, or who might get kicked out of the fraternity that is MLB clubs always gets to Tampa Bay quickly.
Rays owner Stu Sternberg mentioned today that Major League Baseball doesn’t believe in the Tampa Bay area any longer. With Tampa Bay fielding a competent, if not excellent product for the past five seasons, fans have stayed away from the park in great numbers. What will happen next is anyone’s guess.
As a Florida resident who knows a bit about the Bay area, I have always been concerned that the team is located in the wrong area. Nothing against St. Pete, it’s a wonderful place, but the answer to “How do you get to The Trop?” has always pretty much been “You can’t really get there from here.” It just isn’t accessible enough to the city of Tampa, and certainly doesn’t get much traffic from the Orlando area. I’m not talking down anything or anyone. I am saying that it would be a tremendous loss should the Rays end up moving out of the area completely.
As for MLB, they only drop the term “contraction” to get people’s attention. I can’t see the players’ union buying into contraction of a club. I also don’t know what area of the country could really guarantee a better spot for a major league club. And I really don’t want to think about it. I’m hoping Sternberg’s comments the Hillsborough County Commission were just his way of throwing a fastball under somebody’s chin, you know, just to get their attention. And I hope people are listening. I believe there is a way to make this thing all work out in the Tampa Bay region. Of course, MLB might need to step up and help out with the process.
Spring training is just about to get started. I don’t want to go through the season thinking the Rays are on the way out. Heck, they’re truly just getting started. And when people talk about the attendance, take a look at the population of the area. They call them a “small market team” for a reason. Maybe, if everyone works together for the good of the community at large, that market might be able to expand enough to become viable at the box office. The organization is certainly viable on the field.
In what I consider to be good news, the Rays are reported to have re-signed Kyle Farnsworth. Take a look at the bullpen the club can run out there. Not bad at all. As a matter of fact, I’d say it’s top-shelf.