Ask Gary: What’s the future of the Tampa Bay Rays?

by Gary Shelton on May 11, 2019 · 6 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

The miserable attendance at the Trop has been the subject of considerable attention in the media again this week. The Rays are at the top of the standings after a 90 win season just last year. Yet they can't draw more than 9,000 people for home games other than the random Red Sox or Yankee game. Clearly baseball is not working in St Petersburg and an attempt to find funding for a new stadium in Tampa has already failed. Stu Sternberg is supposed to make a decision about baseball's future in this market by summer. Sternberg is obviously a very smart businessman. With that in mind, do you expect him to state the obvious and say that baseball can't survive in this market?
Larry Beller
No, I don't. It doesn't increase Stu's leverage to come out and announce he has given up on the market. Now, he may well believe it; heck, the evidence all points out that the Tampa Bay market hasn't supported professional baseball. But what does Sternberg gain by saying it? It isn't like fans will come streaming to the park if he says it. The TV money won't improve. Tampa won't call him back and say they've decided to build him a stadium, after all.

If Sternberg were to throw up his hands and say the sport can't survive in this market, what would it gain him? The few customers you have

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would feel as if the door was slammed in their faces. The non-customers would shrug and say they had told you so. And both sides would be ticked off.

I've said it a lot. If I was one of Stu's partners, I would be pleading for him to move the team. I simply don't see a reason to stay. You're always going to be the little team that could trying to compete.
I think that's the main reason that people weren't especially fired up about the prospect of a new stadium. Baseball here doesn't make sense to most of us, either. We've all played "if you and I owned the team..." with each other. When the team has won, it hasn't affected attendance. When there have been interesting players, it hasn't affected attendance. Larry, I've been to most other parks, and this one has one of the easiest accesses of them all. The prices are low. Still, people do not come.
I've felt for a long time that the Rays' future was not in Tampa Bay. I could see the Stu ownership group selling out so the team can relocate. After all, that's when a baseball owners sees his profits. It's when he sells.
Until then, why let the customers know what you're thinking?
There are 14 MLB starting pitchers who currently have contracts in the $50 million to $100 million range.

As of 5/7/2019 the season is a little over 1/5 of the way (average of 35.5 games played per team). This fairly elite group is on pace to have these results at years end:

-- 6.5 wins  / 7.5 losses / 116 ip / 4.50 ERA

The average salary for 2019 of this fairly elite group is $14.3 million.

Is this predicted performance level good value?

Scott Myers

Scott, you would have to do some persuading to make me think it is. If those 6.5 wins included the World Series, then maybe.

We arrive here at a lot of your wonderful salary breakdowns. Owners continue to pay players for past performances instead of future ones. They feed their own egos with fat contracts for players who are on the downslide of their careers. When you bring this stuff up, I always think about David Price, the ex-Ray. He's a good pitcher, but he's not worth $30 million a year. The blunt fact is that his best year was when he was in Tampa Bay.

Yet, owners continue to give out bloated contracts to stroke their own egos. Look at me. I'm trying to win. And they don't.

What's with the slow prognosis on Jason Pierre-Paul?

Scott Walker

I think the team is looking everywhere for a bit of good news. I read one preliminary report that suggested Pierre-Paul might be out for the year. I think that's probably premature, but it certainly sounds worse than we first thought. Pierre-Paul will work to get back (remember his hand injury), but the neck is important for a pass rusher. It's a twist-and-reach position.

Hey, we all know  that the Bucs need Pierre-Paul. He was their best defender last year.

But think about the guy, too. Pierre-Paul has had it tougher than  a lot of defensive ends. The guy deserves a break.

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller May 11, 2019 at 7:31 am

The fans have already checked out in so far as supporting this team at the gate. There is precious little leverage left to be gained. The stadium failure in Tampa could be a big part of the reason but to have such low attendance after fielding a competitive team, one of the better teams in baseball, is completely embarrassing for this area.

I think a lot of people may be surprised as to how blunt Sternberg will be when he delivers his message. Why sugar coat it at this point? We can all see where this is headed. Only the politicians have their heads in the sand and won’t admit the obvious.

Nobody is going to build a stadium for the Rays in this market. The money isn’t here to do that. It’s not happening. The Rays will have to write a big check and there’s no way that’s happening either. So we are at an impasse and if not for the ironclad lease at the Trop moves would have already been made to get this team out of Dodge.

I don’t know how Sternberg will handle the exit strategy but it’s not going to be all sunshine and roses. You can take that to the bank.

Reply

Gary Shelton May 11, 2019 at 8:51 am

Of course not. There will be dinners and meetings with out-of-towners. There will be a lease to be signed. But until he is forced to, I just don’t think there is any advantage to such an announcement. I could be wrong. I usually am.

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Rick Martin May 11, 2019 at 5:57 am

How can at team put a player back on the field with a vertebral fracture, even if healed? Seems like a tragedy waiting to happen (Dennis Byrd). I’m hoping JPP the sense to call it quits and has saved and invested wisely so he’ll have a happy life after football. Risking paralysis isn’t the way to go, especially for a chronic 5-11 team.

Re: Rays. I’ve been a 20+ season ticket pkg customer of the Rays since moving here a decade ago. I keep going with the thought and motivation that it might be gone soon. The days that we can drive over to STP or Tampa to see a regular season MLB are dwindling. At least we’ll have a month of area Spring Training games and a Single-A team (or maybe MLB will offer the area a AA/AAA in return, but even those teams likely won’t draw – who knows?).

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Gary Shelton May 11, 2019 at 7:23 am

If a team leaves our area, any team, I no longer will follow them. Not out of spite. But the players will turn over, and I’ll lose interest.

Hard to fault you with your logic on JPP. When I was very young in this business, there was an area player who coaches sent back into the game when he had a neck injury. It turned out his neck was fractured. The father, out of misguided loyalty, called me and threatened to kill me if I ran the story. I did, and the local weekly paper ran it in full (ignorning copyrights). I was a 20-year old kid in the rural south. I was about to wet myself. Things turned out okay, though.

I certainly can’t know the extent of JPP’s injury, but I agree with you. Any risk of health outweighs what he can bring to a bad football team.

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BILL MYERS May 10, 2019 at 5:42 pm

So when does the NFL season start again? Can’t wait!

Reply

Gary Shelton May 10, 2019 at 9:30 pm

Preseason games start August 1. Regular season games start Sept. 5.

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