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For the last damn time: the Tampa Bay Rays are not going to be contracted

Apr 5, 2011, 1:05 PM EDT

Tropicana Field

In Forbes, Mike Ozanian writes about how a “groundswell is building” to contract the Tampa Bay Rays. Read it if you want, but it’s a load of horse hockey.

The arguments are not new. The counterarguments — which I offered here, here and here in the last month and which Maury Brown sharply offers again today — put lie to the notion.  As we’ve said time and again, contraction is not happening. Not now. Not unless or until there is a severe financial crisis in baseball, and we’re on another planet from that right now.  It would cost MLB owners over a billion dollars to pull it off in order to, what, save a few million here or there? It would lead to a knock-down-drag-out fight with both the MLBPA and multiple governments, all of which would severely impact the brand and potentially the cash flow of baseball at a time when everyone — even the people who run the poor teams — are getting rich. To suggest that the Lords of the Game would subject themselves to this now is beyond ridiculous.

The Forbes piece is echo chamber nonsense. It is being perpetuated either by someone who does not understand the economics and politics of baseball or someone who is willingly carrying water for Major League owners looking to get some sort of a negotiating edge in the current round of CBA talks.  There is no way it’s happening now.

Please bookmark this and re-read it in the next 48 hours as other news sources pounce on the Forbes piece and pass it along with little if any critical thought.

  1. Professor Longnose - Apr 5, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    I’ll be you it ISN’T for the last time.

  2. jamie54 - Apr 5, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    Wow, someone who makes the statement,”…from what I’m hearing……” that’s quite a stretch to say the Rays will be contracted. Gee, ‘from what I’m hearing’ there will be catastrophe in 2012 so why bother contracting since most of us will be gone anyway? Croc of BS, no credibility whatsoever.

  3. florida76 - Apr 5, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Contraction no, but relocation is a definite possibility by the end of this decade. The Rays actually had a decline in attendance in 2010 from the mediocre season of 2009. 2011 is shaping up to be the worst sttendance since 2007, since the Rays don’t appear to be contenders. With revenues decreasing, that will speed up the process to leave the Tampa Bay area. Who knows, Orlando may get the franchise.

    Anybody who thinks the Rays are locked into Tropicana Field until 2027 is dreaming, one of the local media outlets covered this subject in a feature a while back. The prospects for a new, quality, stadium are grim.

    • purdueman - Apr 5, 2011 at 6:43 PM

      The last time I read about the Rays lease on the Trop it ran through the 2019 season; if that’s not a pair of handcuffs on the team being able to relocate to a new market (not that there are many viable alternatives), or get a new stadium without any leverage I don’t know what is.

      The Trop has very good site lines and I love the well laid out free parking (assuming it still is free since the last time I was there to see a game), and the relocated Ted Williams museum under the stadium is a jewel, but the stadium has a “half baked” feel to it (like they ran out of money while building it). The sloping roof in left field and the resulting low catwalks being in play certainly aren’t major league.

      The biggest (and unsolvable), problem though is the stadiums location (too close to St. Pete, too far from downtown Tampa). I think that original idea must have been to make it a two city franchise (being in between St. Pete and Tampa Bay), but anyone who’s ever spent any time in St. Pete should realize that all those old people aren’t going to go tooling down to the Trop in their motorized wheel chairs.

      Just getting from one end of St. Pete by car or bus to the other is a nightmare (it seems as if you catch a new long red light every two blocks; try to out speed the lights and they have a motorcycle cop stationed at every intersection waiting to ticket you if you try).

      I think that Orlando is too transient, has too many low paying jobs and isn’t big enough to support a major league team. The best solution is one that’s already been proposed, and that’s to put up a new ballpark with a retractable roof right downtown Tampa Bay on the waterfront and fund a good portion of it through the sale and reuse of the land that the Trop currently occupies, but right now isn’t a good time to go to the Florida State Legislature looking for financial assistance when a still “serviceable” facility that still hasn’t been paid off is still in place.

      Relocation? To where? The only viable MLB markets left are Charlotte (which is very regional because of the population split between Raleigh and Charlotte), and Las Vegas (which will likely always remain taboo for MLB due to the long standing wounds imposed by the 1919 Black Sox scandal).

      No one wants to hear it, but the most viable market would be to relocate to the New Jersey Meadowlands. Sure, the Yankees and Mets would cry about “territorial rights”, but a new team in New Jersey wouldn’t adversely affect either team as if you’re a Mets or Yankees fan you’re still going to take the train into New York to see their games.

      If you’ve ever been to New Jersey, you’d also know that very few are going to go through the traffic gridlock in order to drive to either the Bronx or Queens, much less for a weeknight game, but there are enough more than enough people there to support an MLB team.

      Odd as it may seem, the best option may be for the Rays to file bankruptcy in order to get out from underneath their lease at the Trop, then “financially reorganize” and use the newfound leverage to push for a new downtown stadium.

      After all, the Marlins are in the same state and they found a way despite the hard economic times to get a new $535M playpen built, didn’t they?

      The best thing that could happed to the Rays would be for the A’s owner (who’s stuck in an even worse home stadium), aged owner pulling a power play to either force baseball to relinquish the rediculous territorial rights granted to the Giants as an incentive not to vacate old Candlestick Park and relocate years ago, or fold.

      Baseball doesn’t want an odd number of teams. If the A’s folded, the Rays could be folded with them. If the A’s are allowed to move to downtown San Jose and put up a new stadium (where private funding is mostly all in place), then the Rays could pressure baseball to come up with a solution for a new yard for Tampa.

      After all, the NFL owners successful help fund several new playpens with the “G3” fund (now in limbo), so why couldn’t the wealthy baseball owners do the same thing for Tampa? Unlike the NFL (where several cities would immediately put their hand out for a hand out), the only two baseball stadiums that need replacing are those of the A’s and the Rays, but until old Bud the Dud is out of the way I don’t look for any movement on the stadium problems any time soon!

  4. phukyouk - Apr 5, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Horse Hockey?

    • basiltharat - Apr 5, 2011 at 1:59 PM

      I seem to remember Col. Potter uttering that phrase once or twice.

    • psousa1 - Apr 5, 2011 at 4:12 PM

      I prefer “Balderdash!”

    • purdueman - Apr 6, 2011 at 11:03 AM

      That sounds like a heck of a lot of fun!!! Will one of you guys who’s a Rays fan please let us all know when the next horse hockey match is scheduled at the Trop? Count me in! I’ll fly cross country to see one of those match ups!!!

  5. heynerdlinger - Apr 5, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    “From what I’m hearing” – Translation: “I’m writing on a deadline and have no original ideas, so I trolled the internet for something that I could regurgitate without having to actually attribute sources.”

    See also: “Cleaning out the desk drawer of the mind…” and “Ten stories to watch this season…” columns.

    • psousa1 - Apr 5, 2011 at 4:15 PM

      and he was also thinking “Maybe if this story catches fire ESPN will hire me as their sports economic consultant!”

  6. Brian Murphy - Apr 5, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    I don’t think the adjective “damn” really captures Craig’s aggravation with this subject.

  7. jkcalhoun - Apr 5, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    “Teams in consideration for contraction” is Seligspeak for “Cities with stadiums we want its citizens to replace.” Last time around the purported contenders were the Twin Cities and Montreal, and look what happened: Target Field and au revoir mes amis.

    Looks like The Trop will be abandoned by the league, one way or another, and fairly soon.

    • hep3 - Apr 5, 2011 at 3:01 PM

      When is the lease up at the Trop?

      • jkcalhoun - Apr 5, 2011 at 3:05 PM

        As soon as it can be nullified under the law. No doubt someone is employed looking for loopholes even as we speak.

      • florida76 - Apr 5, 2011 at 6:55 PM

        The City of St. Petersburg has termed it a “use agreement” made by the original owner, to play in the Trop until 2027. However, current ownership has said they won’t do that anywhere close to that date, and have also expressed disappointment over the poor attendance. So yes, it is quite possible for the club to wiggle out of that user agreement by the end of this decade and relocate.

      • purdueman - Apr 5, 2011 at 7:03 PM

        florida… thanks for the clarification as to the length of the Rays lease. Per my earlier post, I thought it ran through 2019, but 2027? YIKES!!! That’s just not financially viable, particularly when the Rays are stuck with the reality of having to compete year in and year out with the big market, free spending Yankees and Red Sox.

        Due to the continuing decline of the US dollar, don’t over look the possibility the Blue Jays sneaking up and becoming a big spending team either. That would leave the Rays in the position of being the one legged man in the butt kicking contest. It’s bad enough that the Tampa area has so many transplanted Yankee fans, but with a team potentially doomed (due to the Trop), to be a perennial 100 game loser too? Fahgetabout it!

  8. The Rabbit - Apr 5, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    If Bud forms a committee to study it and it moves at the same pace as the Blue Ribbon Panel considering the A’s relocation, my grandkids can still read about this in their retirement years.

    • Old Gator - Apr 5, 2011 at 8:06 PM

      If Bud forms a relocation committee, global warming and continental drift will take care of the problem first. They’ll be playing baseball in scuba gear and the Tropicana Tomb will have been renamed Tethys Stadium by the time anything gets resolved.

  9. bucforever - Apr 5, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    If they do not start winning and showing some offense the Trop will be deserted pretty quick. It’s hard to fill seats for a winner here much less to watch a team thats seems not to want to win.

    • snowbirdgothic - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:45 AM

      Dude. It’s four games. And I seem to recall them winning something division-shaped fairly recently.

  10. lanflfan - Apr 5, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    I agree, less than no chance of contraction, as the loss of 25 MLB players and the corresponding MILB players, plus coaches and personnel, will never fly with the various unions representing each party. Highly likely they relocate (probably never should have been put there to begin with), and make that mayor look like the horses backside he sounds like. But Tampa still has the NFL Buccaneers…theoretically at least.

  11. ta192 - Apr 5, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    I understand the contractions are only 2 innings apart…

    • Old Gator - Apr 5, 2011 at 8:10 PM

      >Donggggg!< TA192, let's see what your winning comment nets you today! George, what's TA's heave so far? Right, Jack – so far, a set of broken cullet bars for TA's new home! Some leveled mung skis and water rollers for that funfilled open season! A standup goodbuy pre-heater with a smoked window, and now….three hundred pounds of Chef Antoine’s southern fried gligs! Toasted, reheated and returned to water before you’re ready TA, and inside, look at that, just as lovely! Two shelves where none are needed and when you close the door the light stays on!

      • ta192 - Apr 5, 2011 at 9:37 PM

        Oh, goody, I love gligs….

  12. bigtrav425 - Apr 6, 2011 at 5:34 AM

    well they should be thats the bottom line whether you like to hear it or not. you cannot deny that..not saying its going to happen but they should be

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