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MLB Contraction Could Be on the Horizon Pt. 1

A few weeks ago I wrote about geographic realignment in baseball and said it wouldn’t be the craziest thing to happen to Major League Baseball in the next decade.

That would be contraction, and it could be coming to a league champion near you.

The Tampa Bay Rays won the American League in 2008 and captured the American League East last season, yet draw as many fans as MLS teams, on good nights.

They play in a stadium that makes those old cookie cutter, multipurpose astroturf buildings created in the late 60′s and early 70′s look like cathedrals and the state they call home has more New York transplants and retirees than baseball fans.

Is it a coincidence that the Rays and Marlins draw less than anyone else in Major League Baseball? Of course not. Florida isn’t a baseball state. Florida isn’t a great sports state to begin with, but that’s a different column for a different day. What separates the Marlins from the Rays, however, is that that neon glow stick of a park they just opened, keeping them firmly in place for the foreseeable future.

The Rays play here:

Rays owner Stewart Sternberg tried landing a new ballpark in downtown St. Petersburg recently but was swiftly denied. He also told the Tampa Bay Times last year that his team wouldn’t be playing in Tropicana Field when the lease was up in 2027 (or 2017, when the Rays could potentially opt out.)

With fans that don’t care enough to see winning baseball every night (The Rays are currently 36-28) and a city that won’t support a new stadium, it suddenly doesn’t seem crazy that Rays ownership would accept a hefty check from 28 other owners (contraction would suffocate another franchise as well to stay with an even number of teams) and shut off the lights to that dump you see above.

9 Comments Say Something
  • I really think Sternberg should consider moving to Oklahoma City. 5 years ago, I would have said there is no way it would work, but now with a contending NBA team, bringing in an already winning MLB teams should be no problem at all.

  • Fools that write stories like this are lazy, clueless and shills for Bud Selig. Do your homework! When are you so-called reporters going to call out the real villians of this drama – namely the business community on the TAMPA side of the bay. The entire Rays organization know where the lack of support and diligent sabotage of of this franchise lies. The whiners in Tampa will do anything to get the Rays out of Downtown St. Pete, because for them, when there is anything that benefits the “Bay Area” they really mean TAMPA. They want nothing to do with anything that will benefit Downtown St. Pete. The undermining of this franchise began the day the Gas Plant site was announced as the site for the stadium. You writer/bloggers are pathetic. I do hope that the St. Pete City Council will find a way to get a new stadium downtown with or without the help of the Mayor.

  • Perhaps there actually is some vast conspiracy to “sabotage” the franchise as you say, Carlo.

     

    Or maybe it’s business. The Rays have been one of the better teams in baseball for the last 5 years and were 28th in the Majors last year with 19,000 fans a game. Nobody cares about watching good baseball in Florida and the Rays are no different. Big market teams are getting tired of sharing revenue with teams like this (yes, contrary to popular belief, there is in fact revenue sharing in baseball. And it’s growing every year.) Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels are paying the Rays millions of dollars a year and for what? So 2000 fans can come to games?

    Maybe if fans around Tampa could take off the tinfoil hats and actually go see a good baseball team they wouldn’t have to worry about contraction talks and living up to stereotypes people have of sports fans in Florida.

  • No, I have actually talked with corporate execs in Tampa and people in the Rays organization and all are well aware of  the situation. Unfortunately Sternberg plays into this by being publicly negative about the stadium thus frustrating the fans that actually support the team.  The onslaught on the stadium by jaded sportswriters has put a damper on attendance that was actually gaining traction a few years ago. But as I stated the Tampa side will never support a team in Downtown St. Pete.

  • So people don’t go to games because of an onslaught by jaded sportswriters? I’d assume that fans would want to prove them wrong and actually support their solid team, not listen to them and therefore live up to the stereotype. I’m not saying ownership is blameless here either, never have. They new what they signed up for with that dump. But fans not showing up isn’t helping things either. If they can’t show up when their team is making the postseason most years then they shouldn’t be blameless either if the team leaves.

  • Carlo, I’m just curious… Who are you, exactly? I know that sounds mean as it is typed, but I don’t mean it that way.

    I ask because you say, “Fools that write stories like this are lazy, clueless and shills for Bud Selig. Do your homework!” but you don’t include your name or a link to a website, etc.

    You also say, “I have actually talked with corporate execs in Tampa and people in the Rays organization and all are well aware of  the situation.” but you fail to mention which execs or their actual responses.

    I guess my point is… Why should anyone listen to your points, if you hide your identity and the identity of those who you have “talked with”?

    Sure, there are obviously fans who support the Ray, that is no the argument. The argument is that not enough “fans” support the team.

    As I mentioned above, the perfect place for the Rays to move would be Oklahoma City… Especially if the Thunder win the NBA championship. Winning in one sport breeds fan excitement throughout all sports teams in a city.

    Would they keep the Rays name OKC Rays?

  • I can’t say that I agree with OKC as a destination for the Rays.  Not to mention that I’d be willing to be that OK itself falls within an existing MLB team’s rights area (KC or Houston).  I also can’t say I agree with Kory that contraction appears to be an option.  They aren’t going to contract just one team and throw off the even number of 30 teams.  There is no second team to contract, either.  Contraction was never a real option-only a successful ploy to get stadiums/renovations done for more teams (Tampa is the only team that hasn’t-yet).

    Carlo is partly right, though.  There is a lot of apathy in Tampa toward that stadium and, consequently, toward the team with the looming threat of a relocation.  A bigger problem I’ve been told of is the physical location of the stadium and the geographic setup of the Tampa/St. Pete area.  Due to the bay and restricted access to these areas, traffic going in/out of that area is awful and people would rather not deal with it if possible.  The only “easy” solution is to find another place that is neither downtown St. Pete nor downtown Tampa that would be easily accessible to the majority.  They should consider putting it on the northeastern part of town where there is less ocean restriction and it also gets it closer to Orlando to help draw people from that area.

    This team is not going away-not with the revenues MLB is pulling these days for even the worst teams.  Like the NFL, TV access to MLB is getting to the point where stadium attendance has become only a portion of local revenue for a team rather than its staple source of revenue.  The Rays ARE making money despite their attendance issues.  Again, contraction is NOT happening.

  • Paul,

    There’s another team that’s facing similar stadium/location problems as Tamps. That’s why this is just Part 1.

    Regarding the location of the stadium, I’m not saying it’s entirely the fans’ fault. Disdain for ownership and a terrible stadium/location of stadium aren’t their fault. But it’s still a business and the reasons behind the lackluster attendance don’t mean much if they can’t be corrected.

    And about the revenues, in the eyes of most clubs, wouldn’t you say a team like Tampa is doing nothing much more than taking extra money from their pockets? There’s a reason other owners have voiced their displeasure with the Rays’ situation. It isn’t helping their pocketbooks. Two less teams means two less mouths to feed when the check comes in.

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