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Economist who is paid to consult for MLB offers pro-MLB opinions in a newspaper report

Jan 28, 2013, 5:12 PM EDT

Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays - Game 3

Andrew Zimbalist is probably the best known sports economist around.  Recently he gave an interview to the Tampa Bay Times about the viability of the Rays in St. Pete vs. in Tampa and offered some solutions to the Rays’ current quandary. Those solutions were basically in line with what MLB most wishes for the Rays. Strikingly in line, actually, with what Rays owner Stuart Sternberg was saying as he made the rounds last week arguing about the problems the Rays face, including the argument that the Rays may be eventually contracted.

Which is fine. Everyone has an opinion, and Zimbalist is an authority on the subject. But here’s the kicker: Zimbalist is currently being paid as an MLB consultant and didn’t disclose that when he was interviewed.

Noah Pransky made this discovery and susses it all out over at his Shadow of the Stadium blog.  It’s worth reading. And it’s worth remembering to be very mindful of your source, however respectable his credentials happen to be, when listening to anyone holding forth on matters relating to stadiums and economics.

Maybe most especially Andrew Zimbalist.

(thanks to Jonah Keri for finding the Pransky post and Dan Lewis for finding that last little nugget on Zimbalist)

  1. jlinatl - Jan 28, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    Not anything overly controversial in there.

    Having lived in that are for 5 years and having been to the Trop for several games, I really think:

    1. The Trop does suck… the venue and the location.
    2. Regardless of the particulars on financing and current lease, the most logical location to have a stadium must have easy access to 4 and to I-75.
    3. There is no park that can be built in St. Pete that will be consistantly filled for weeknight games.

    • nategearhart - Jan 28, 2013 at 10:04 PM

      Well, it’s controversial to weigh in on a subject as someone with the credentials to garner the respect of those listening, only to be discovered as an unbiased source through no effort of your own.

    • 18thstreet - Jan 29, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      The only parks that are consistently filled on weeknights are die-hard northeastern baseball cities when the team is also winning. The goal doesn’t have to be 3 million fans. Someone has to be the back of the bell curve.

      I think a reasonable goal, for a team as good and entertaining as the Rays, playing in a new and smallish market, is to be in the bottom 10 teams in attendance. That would require another 6 thousand fans a game. But it’s better to think of the half million fans as mostly showing up on weekends and against marquis opponents, which is what happens everywhere (except in the very best markets when the team is winning).

      http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance

      • genericcommenter - Jan 29, 2013 at 6:25 PM

        They are in the bottom 10 in attendance. I assume you mean not in the bottom 10, like 11th worst attendance?

      • 18thstreet - Jan 29, 2013 at 8:33 PM

        Well, they’re at the bottom now. And I’m saying that it’s not reasonable to think that the perfect stadium would ever bring a small-market team without much history to draw 3.5 million a year.

        I’m saying it’s reasonable think that they could hit 20th.

      • 18thstreet - Jan 29, 2013 at 8:34 PM

        One other thing — not fair of me to say “northeastern cities, because I’d definitely put SF on that list.

  2. ndnut - Jan 28, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    They can fill it in St. Pete by playing Bingo between innings ;)

    • Old Gator - Jan 28, 2013 at 6:18 PM

      They could fill it by sealing it tight all the way around, pumping seawater into it and turning it into a “swim with the killer whales” theme park.

      • Old Gator - Jan 28, 2013 at 6:23 PM

        Incidentally, look at that photo – it looks like someone shucked an oyster that had some kind of horrible fungus growing inside of it. But then, the Tropicana Tumulus also looks like it has some kind of horrible fungus growing outside of it too.

      • Rockie D. Bull - Jan 29, 2013 at 8:33 AM

        Love this comment Gator.

        Much the same could be said for the brand new Blow Hole down in Feeshville – maybe more fans would actually show up (even tho they have no where to park)?

        And paying for bait to feed those whales filling the new Blow Hole may be cheaper than actually putting a quality baseball team on the field too.

    • indaburg - Jan 28, 2013 at 10:47 PM

      Ndnut, I know you meant that as a joke, but the Rays did offer baseball bingo. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), it did not fill the stadium.

  3. bigdawg24 - Jan 28, 2013 at 6:42 PM

    The Royals should be contracted.

  4. APBA Guy - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    Except in this case MLB isn’t off base in the sense that the Rays do need a new stadium. Almost everyone agrees with this premise. The challenge, as in Oakland, is getting from today’s situation to the new stadium. In both cities there is a major, major opponent to a new stadium deal. In Oakland it’s the World Champion SF Giants. In St. Pete it’s the mayor who is enforcing the lease.

    With Sternberg’s comment, this interview, and Selig’s recent comment, MLB is turning up the heat on the mayor to get him to name his price to break the lease. So far, that’s more than has been done publicly for the A’s.

    • Old Gator - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      Come on now – do you really want to have to drive all the way to San Jose?

      • Rockie D. Bull - Jan 29, 2013 at 8:43 AM

        Sort of like Feesh fans driving all the way to no where to go to a Blow Fish game?

        Oh wait… the Miami Blow Fish do have a brand new stadium (although it has no fan parking places) and the fans still won’t go to the games – even though they did build it at the urging of Uncle Bud.

        No thank you to a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area!

        Unless Stu and Uncle Bud are kicking in ALL of their money to get it done. At least that way, those 2 will be on the hook for the whole debacle when it turns into the same situation (minus that outfield monstrosity of ugliness) as the new Blow Hole in Miami.

        As long as those dumps named Wrigley and Fenway stand, the Trop will always be a great baseball venue!

    • paperlions - Jan 29, 2013 at 7:25 AM

      Except there is no reason for the mayor to name a price and the Rays are not trying to build their own stadium but to convince the public to give a billionaire their hard earned tax dollars to support his hobby.

      • Rockie D. Bull - Jan 29, 2013 at 8:46 AM

        Well said Lions – if Stu and Uncle Bud want a new stadium here – they can use their own money to build it.

        I find it amazing that the Commissioner is giving a pass to the dumps in Chicago and Boston while calling for the demolition of a facility (the Trop) that is at least 50 years newer than either of those places.

  5. steelers88 - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Common Rays fans start showing up to the games. Rays fans are pretty fortunate since 2008 the Rays have Been in a lot of pennant races. I would love for my Pirates to start playing like that.

    • Old Gator - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:34 PM

      Razed fans may be many things, but “common” is not one of them.

      • indaburg - Jan 28, 2013 at 10:48 PM

        We are anything but common, A rare species, we are.

    • mrredlegz - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:43 AM

      Do you mean ‘Come on, Rays fans. Start showing up to the games,’ ?

  6. Rockie D. Bull - Jan 29, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Having lived in the St Pete area for 20 years and having gone to the Trop for 20 – 30 games each year the Rays have existed since 1998, I actually know:

    1. The Trop does NOT suck… that is a fallacy created by Uncle Bud Selig, the Rays owner and all those Tampa based fans who refuse to drive across a bridge to watch a game. The venue has a roof (never been a rain out there) and air conditioning that is necessary from mid April to mid October. To me, the location is also perfect – right down the street from my house.
    2. Sternberg knew the particulars of the team financing and the current lease before he bought the team. Maybe a better location would be on the Toy Town dump site, IF they NEEDED a new stadium which they don’t, just because Uncle Bud says they do.
    3. As evidenced by the new Blow Hole in Miami – just because they build it, that does not mean the new park will be consistently filled for weeknight games or weekend games.
    4. Staying put and not selling the community soul (St Pete or Tampa) because a greedy owner and an idiot commissioner say we should is a much better plan than building a second “Blow Hole” like facility in this area – only to have the same or less attendance numbers.

    • mckludge - Jan 29, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      As an Orlando resident who has been to the Trop about a dozen time, IMO:

      “Suck” might be too strong, but it’s not an appealing place to see a game. It is inconvenient unless you do live “right down the street.” It is a bit too small for baseball (If you need ground rules for what happens when you hit the catwalks, it’s too small). Yes, you need domed or retractable roof facility to play baseball in Florida in the summer (95 degrees with 90% chance of afternoon showers, and violent thunderstorms that can appear in 20 minutes.). But the trop is not aesthetically pleasing, and that does matter.

      Look, baseball, like any sport, is entertainment. And when marketing entertainment, you not only have to make it appealling to watch, you have to make it as convenient to your audience as possible, while balancing that with your profit motive. I’m fine with the team staying in the Tampa/St. Pete area, but I think the long term solution is a new park on the Tampa side of the bay. That would draw more weekday fans from Tampa and more weekend fans from the metro Orlando area, maybe even Disney tourists (Disney to Tampa Amphitheater (for example) is right about an hour drive, to Raymond James about 15 minutes more).

      And I never understood why Disney would not want to get involved with a sports team. There might be TV rights issues seeing as how they own ABC and ESPN, but Disney has a built-in marketing machine with very loyal fans.

      • umrguy42 - Jan 29, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        I’m assuming you know that Disney has actually gotten OUT of owning a couple sports teams – they previously owned the Angels *and* the (formerly Mighty) Ducks out there in Anaheim.

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