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

by Gary Shelton on May 11, 2019 · 0 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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