Ask Gary: Do the Rays have enough urgency?

by Gary Shelton on August 26, 2017 · 6 comments

in general

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

As I watch the Rays' season slip away, I don't sense any urgency from the players.    You actually talk to these guys: What do you see and feel when you talk to them?

 
Jim Willson

Jim, I feel the frustration of athletes who thought they were better than what they've been playing. There have been a flew flaws with the Rays lately -- hitting, for instance -- but I honestly don't think it's a lack of urgency. This streak has been tough to swallow. Heck, it should be, right?

To me, "urgency" is one of those vague accusations that a critic can throw at a team that is on the decline. How do you prove you have it? By smashing bats into the rack? By kicking the water cooler?

Remember, this team thought of itself as a good-hitting team. And it hasn't been. That's  frustrating. Everyone says the right things, about how

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much time is left, about how it still believes, but sometimes, those words seem a little hollow.

Hey, there are flaws. The team waited too long before shoring up the bullpen. The defense can be spotty at times. The late-inning  hitting hasn't been good for a while. But   from what I see, this team is still grinding. It still cares. That isn't the problem, from my viewpoint. Others may disagree.

The baseball commissioner was treated to the lowest attendance in 10 years at the Trop for a Rays game this week. He reportedly is looking for more urgency from local officials to get stadium proposals made for an “A-plus location”. Hillsborough officials have said the lack of urgency by the Rays has been detrimental in putting together a proposal at what were considered preferred locations which are now unavailable. The Rays have said they want to wait on the mayoral election in St Petersburg before making any final decisions about any site in Hillsborough. Sternberg says regarding financing “ there is only so much we can do”. He might as well have said “we are going to contribute as little as possible and it’s up to the local government to pay for the rest.” It stands to reason that the best offer financially would come from an out of town market like Montreal who would give the team the sun and the moon to relocate. The commissioner also said attendance for the Rays needs to be at league average which would be almost twice the current number. So in order to meet the requirements of the commissioner and the Rays, a site must be found that will allow attendance to double, for a facility that will be top quality (costly), with likely very little a financing coming from the team. Some of this obviously is posturing by both sides but doesn’t it seem as though we are less likely to get a new stadium deal done in this market now than just last week?

Larry Beller

I'll say this: We aren't any closer to having one than we were. I think you're right to be concerned.

But remember, we have a lot of tough months ahead of us if this thing is going to work out. We still haven't gotten to the naming of the site, the approval of the funding or the erection of the site. I've been through stadium wars before. It's never easy.

It was interesting that there seems to be more scolding going on lately. I thought most of the foot-dragging was on the part of the Rays, not the commissioners. Then again, we don't know what is being said.

I do remember when the Glazers bought the Bucs. Every potential ownership group -- including Steinbrenner's -- had talked about how important a new stadium was. But the  Glazers bought it. On the way out of the press conference, I was side-by-side with a Tampa  politician, who turned to me and said "maybe we won't need to build that stadium after all."

I was flabbergasted. At the very first opportunity, the politicians were retreating. That's where politicians are most comfortable. Taxpayers don't want to pay, and a guy doesn't get re-elected if he makes them.

But that's going to be a snarl, too. If Tampa doesn't want to pay, or if it isn't willing to put it to a vote, it should pull out now.  Otherwise, why waste our time?

Mostly, Larry, I think this was rhetoric and tone. Both were inevitable. There will be more snarling before (if) this gets done.

Albert Pujols is on pace to drive 100 runs this season, yet his WAR is -1.8.  That does not seem right to me.  What say you?

Scott Myers

I think it says more about WAR than it says about Pujols. Both are flawed, but Pujols can still hurt you even in a bad year.

I double-checked, because -1.8 just seemed too low to believe. I know Pujols is hitting only .231, and he doesn't help you in a lot of other ways. But are  you convincing me he's less help than your average replacement player? Really?

Again, I use WAR with a lot of other statistics. But I talked to another writer the other night who hates it, who thinks that the "average replacement player" is a fictional player who doesn't really exist. Add in the different numbers you get for WAR (you don't get two different ERAs no matter who figures it), and you get an idea of why it drives some people crazy.

Put it this way: If the Rays could made a trade today for either Pujols or an average replacement player, who would you pick?

That's what I thought.

What do you think of the new rules for getting into the high school playoffs this season?

 Jim Willson

I think someone is going to need a calculator to figure it out.

I assume you're talking about the new points system. And I understand that things were out of whack. I read in the Times that Gibbs made the playoffs despite winning two games, losing six, losing five times by 20 points or more and beating one three-win team and one winless team. That's absurd.

The problem, of course, is that schedules are so varied from one school to the other. You should get more credit for beating a team that is 8-2 instead of a team that is 2-8. It's going to take some getting used to for players to be yelling "this is a 50-point game!" in the halls on Friday.

In the end, anything that helps the better teams get into the playoffs, and makes the lesser teams stay home, is okay by me.

An aside: I learned a lot about sports all over again when my second-oldest son played for Gibbs a few years ago. He didn't get to play nearly as much as he thought he should, but seeing with how he carried himself and what the sport did for his self-esteem reaffirmed my belief in sports.

To me, high school football is about a lot of kids named Kevin. And if those kids deserve to be in the post-season, I'm all for it. Math and all.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

scott myers August 26, 2017 at 10:22 am

The math does not work for getting a new stadium. Let’s assume the new stadium yields an increase of 10,000 fans per game, which is what Brian Auld said about 2 years ago, was needed for the Rays to be viable. Brian also said that would translate into about $20 million per year in additional revenue. Per http://www.stevetheump.com/Payrolls.htm , the Rays opening day payroll for the 2017 MLB season was $70 million, and MLB average team salary is $138 million. So the Rays are $68 million below the MLB average. Adding $20 million revenue is not going to make the Rays more competitive, especially when you consider that it will cost $34 million per year (30 years/4%) to build the $600 million stadium. The only way the Rays can get near an average team payroll is for MLB to be much more aggressive in revenue sharing. So the premise that a new stadium will make the Rays more competitive is fallacious. And for the Rays to average 25,000 year after year is by no means a slam dunk, IMHO.

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Larry Beller August 26, 2017 at 8:16 am

I wasn’t optimistic about getting a stadium deal done in this area before the commissioner’s visit and I’m less so now. The kill shot from the commissioner for me was the statement about needing to nearly double the average attendance. Anyone with any sense would know that just moving to Tampa is not going to accomplish that. Also the commissioner’s comments about how the other owners are tired of subsidizing the Rays failures through profit sharing agreements showed MLB is tired of the excuses for lack of attendance for this market. I happened to read in the TBT yesterday that the city of Tampa is going to start paying something like $13 million per year for several years for old debt starting next year. They can’t afford to finance a new stadium any more than St Pete or Pinellas can. The Rays certainly won’t pay much so where is the money coming from? I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to hear what was said in the private meetings between the commissioner and Sternberg.

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Gary Shelton August 26, 2017 at 8:42 am

Both were damning statements. Again, the rhetoric is just now beginning.

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Jim Willson August 26, 2017 at 1:42 pm

I agree with Larry…..all very good points. I know that a lot of posturing goes on…..but I felt a shift. Ken Hagan says he needs more urgency from the team.
Didn’t they beg….for years…for the right to look around? They finally get permission, and now there is no great urgency from the team? I truly feel that the team and MLB are setting up the relocation arguments Manfred coming in the dog days of summer and seeing 8000 people will not be forgotten.

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scott myers August 27, 2017 at 7:44 am

If the Rays want to relocate than by all means go – and pay up with St. Pete on the lease that runs through 2027.

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Gary Shelton August 27, 2017 at 8:04 am

I know you feel that way,and I respect that. I disagree. I don’t think you pay any price, but there is a price where keeping baseball is worth it.

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