Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads is now available on e-book!



I am super happy to announce that Curveball at the Crossroads is finally available on ebook!

Curveball at the Crossroads is available wherever ebooks are available, to include Barnes and Noble and Amazon. There is currently a slight discount at Barnes and Noble, so you can save 50 cents. But at most, the Curveball at the Crossroads ebook is $10.

Only $10 for a book named runner-up Best Book by a Local Author in Tampa Bay 2021.

Check it out here:

Curveball at the Crossroads ebook - Barnes and Noble

Curveball at the Crossroads ebook - Amazon

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Why Jane Castor and other Tampa Politicians Support the Rays Sister City Plan


Ever since the Tampa Bay Rays have announced their idea to split the baseball season with Montreal, few Tampa politicians have come out and opposed the plan, despite St Petersburg politicians calling out the Rays and opposing their plan.

As I have mentioned before, the Rays have three audiences they are appealing to. They are, in order:

1A) Local politicians - important to pass funding

1B) Local businesses - important to buy ads, corporate season tickets, and other cooperation

3) Fans - irrelevant to funding. Important only for one revenue stream and visuals.

The Rays plan currently is a stadium in Tampa, more specifically in Ybor City. There are several plots in Ybor in which a stadium can be built - many of which are in tax-break funded redevelopment zones. These zones are in the Rays advantage, as they will have to pay less for the stadium.

(Although they are trying to pay nothing as it is, but if they have to pay, they want to be in an area that will give them a tax-break for "redevelopment". How a sports stadium is the best use of land ear-marked for redevelopment is beyond me but that's not the political perspective I want to address today.)

So why are Tampa politicians, led by Mayor Jane Castor, so supportive of the Rays Sister City plan?

Because Jane Castor and other local politicians don't care how many games the Rays play in Tampa as long as Tampa is in the name and the cost is acceptable.

Let me explain:

Economists like to say that local sporting events are not economic engines and are predominantly only a reshuffling of local money. For example, if they are was no sports in a city, people would go to the movies, go to dinner, go bowling, go to the beach, etc. They would still spend, but on other leisure activities. Local sports doesn't rely on tourists for existence and local economies don't rely on sports for existence.

Tampa politicians aren't supporting the Sister City plan for economic reasons. They are supporting it for marketing reasons.

"Champa Bay" is very catchy. Being a "City of Champions" is a great pitch to tourists, businesses, and people looking to move. Everyone wants to be near a winner and sports is a great community unifier. I guarantee people of differing political, religious, and other demographic persuasions attended the championship river parades of the Lightning and Buccaneers. 

As long as the name "Tampa" is on a team, Tampa can reap the benefits of a team's success. The bubbles of COVID-19 seasons proved this. The Lightning didn't play a single home playoff game in the COVID-19 2020, yet politicians were quick to claim them. The team still "belonged" to Tampa, despite playing thousands of miles away.

If a Rays team splitting time with Montreal won the World Series, they would still contribute to Champa Bay. They can play 40 games or 4. It doesn't matter to politicians. They are rarely seen at games anyway for more than political appearances.

I have always estimated that 50% of people are baseball fans. 50% of City Council, 50% of the County Commissioners, and 50% of other legislators are baseball fans. A small percentage of that 50% are hardcore fans, most are casual. The non-baseball fan segment are looking at political decisions from a non-fan perspective. They are looking at costs and benefits.

I have outlined the benefit, now let's look at the cost.

The Rays don't want to pay for a stadium. They have balked whenever asked about cost. They claim "they don't want to start in the red" in a new home. They want to increase their revenue while paying the same cost for a building that they pay now. From their business perspective, that makes sense.

So the Rays devised a plan that will only cost two cities $300-500 million each to reap the benefits of claiming a winning team in their regional marketing material. Tampa politicians may balk at a billion dollar cost, but half of that might be acceptable if Visit Tampa Bay and other local tourist groups can mention the team in their pitches to people looking to visit and businesses looking for new home.

The alternative is Rays move and Tampa has only the Lightning, Buccaneers, and Rowdies to claim as part of Champa Bay. Which is not a bad situation to be in, but in the mind of a politicians, the more winners they can rub elbows with, the better. Even if the voters have to pay the cost.

Of course, if the Rays move and the Yankees get back on track, the Tampa mayor can claim the Yankees. 

(Spring Training has always been insurance from a political marketing perspective. If the Rays perform poorly, Tampa, Clearwater, Dunedin, and Bradenton can claim to be the Spring Home of the Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays, and Pirates, respectively. If the Rays do well, those cities and towns tie their wagon to the regional team.)

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Opposing the Sister City Plan at the Oxford Exchange

         Picture from BayNews9


Finally getting my thoughts down about the Rays Sister City presentation at the Cafe Con Tampa meeting at Oxford Exchange in downtown Tampa on October 1, 2021. This may be a long read, so you are warned. Feel free to screenshot, and use an image, but like the issue itself, my thoughts are best understood in full context.

Overall

In attendance were business leaders, politicians, fans, and media. I recognized Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times and JP Peterson of his radio show. There was also Spectrum News and other television networks. The MC of the event was Del Acosta.

Here is Rays President Brian Auld's 11 minute presentation. This was the only part of the morning that was allowed to be video recorded. As per the Cafe con Tampa rules, videoing in the Q&A was discouraged. If you haven't seen it, I recommend watching before you read on. Here is the link if you are on mobile: “One Team Two Cities --The Tampa Bay Rays Sister City Plan” Brian Auld, President, Tampa Bay Rays



I liked how Brian said this issue is not ideal for discussing on social media or in sound bytes. I agreed with that 100%. It is complicated. I have been writing about it for years.

The following is my perception and an attempt to take apart the Rays Sister City argument. For those new to my work, I have been a loud opponent of the Rays Sister City plan since Day 1.

Talking to Their Target

There are three stakeholders in the Rays stadium saga: politicians, business leaders, and fans.

Friday's presentation was for business leaders and politicians. City council members, lobbyists, lawyers, and prominent business leaders were in attendance. The presentation was geared to them. It was slick, shined, and practiced. Auld spoke about revenue streams, costs and the potential for increased business relationships and tourism. Among the supporters of the idea was Richard Gonzmart of the Colombia Restaurant Group, who added the potential for flights from Tampa to Montreal.

(If you don't know who Richard Gonzmart is, he is a BIG DEAL. Click for is his bio. That the Rays have him in their corner supporting the Montreal plan is a significant win for them.)

Many business leaders don't care about baseball games. They don't care about wins or losses on the emotional level. They don't wear Rays hats to sports bars, or bring their families for a night out at the ballpark. The only reason they go to games is to hobknob and make deals in luxury boxes. They care about how partnering with the team can make them more money.

Politicians also don't care about wins and losses on an emotional level. They are also not going to games for recreation. They care about the image of the city. Champa Bay is a huge hook to hang their marketing and sales pitch on. It doesn't matter if the team plays one or 100 games in Tampa Bay. If they are champions and the name "Tampa Bay" is attached, politicians will attach their efforts to it.

So if the business leaders are on board because they see dollars, and the politicians are on board because the Rays are asking for less money and the team might make the area more attractive, then where does that leave the fans?

The Rays Failure for Fans

The Rays don't have a pitch for the fans. The Rays seem to believe they don't need one. They think they can get the Sister City done without engaging the fans. And technically, on paper, they can. They need money and they need political support. As HeroHabit recently wrote in a post about the Oakland A's stadium/relocation situation, "The fans don’t get a vote in the matter so it doesn’t make any difference if they have five million fans or five thousand fans."

If there was a popular referendum on the Sister City plan, my guess is that it would fail spectacularly. But the Rays don't need a vote because they aren't a government entity, even if by their name they do represent the Tampa Bay region. They can do whatever they can afford. That's important to remember.

The Rays also don't understand how fans think. Under the Sister City plan, the Rays want the same amount of fans who go to 81 games in Tampa Bay to go to 40 games. Increasing attendance isn't done by decreasing games, it's done by increasing fans.

(And don't get me started on Brian Auld's mention that people travel all summer and would rather go to North Carolina than a baseball game in St. Pete. Or that any significant amount of fans will travel to Montreal to see the Rays. That just shows who the presentation is geared for. Hint: not the regular fan.)

As proven by the harsh reaction to the Sister City sign the Rays planned to put in the outfield during the playoffs, the fanbase will react negatively to the idea of losing games to Montreal. Especially if all Tampa Bay gets is the beginning of the season - the Rays typically lowest attended and watched games. 

I have no doubt season ticket sales will drop. If corporations buy seats, few Rays fans will take their company's tickets. The negative feeling of betrayal may possibly negate the increased revenue of a new stadium, making a new stadium worthless to the Rays and a financial burden on the City of Tampa.

The Rays have proven to be poor at getting the Tampa Bay area excited about Rays baseball. Notice how few gigantic banners support the Rays versus how many support the Lightning or Bucs. It will take a herculean marketing effort to get fans excited in a team after taking 40 games from them. The fanbase does not buy that the Sister City plan is the only way to keep baseball in Tampa Bay. Not with NHL, NFL, four spring training teams, four minor league teams, soccer, and a successful Major League team already in the area. No one believes the Rays are not profitable. Billionaires don't continue to own assets that lose money.

Loans and Leases

Brian Auld was asked what will prevent Stu Sternberg from selling the team and the team being eventually moved to Montreal fulltime. According to Brian, there will be an lock-tight agreement between the Rays and the City of Tampa that will prevent the team from moving. 

Of course, the last time Stu Sternberg faced a legal agreement that mandated his location, he went behind everyone's back and negotiated for a move, albeit partial. Legal agreements are only as good as their enforcement and Stu Sternberg has shown he doesn't care about agreements with our region. There is nothing preventing him from selling in 2032 to the Montreal group. Then what happens?

I do believe Brian Auld, Rafaela Fink, and other Rays front office folks love Tampa Bay. I do believe they enjoy living here and enjoy being part of our community. However, I also believe Stu Sternberg does not care about this community one bit. Living here is temporary for him and once he sells the team, he is gone. He has done nothing for this community - more on that later.

Brian Auld also mentioned the Rays don't want to be in the red moving into a new home. This means they don't want to pay a mortgage - they claim this will hurt the on the field product. But shouldn't a new stadium bring in increased income? If the Rays can't maintain their same payroll and use the new park revenue to pay off the ballpark, that's not our problem. That's theirs. Again, they should be able to build more relationships with local businesses and fans. But their behavior over the years has poisoned that water. They don't see their failure to drum up corporate support in 2018 as their fault, they see it as the fault of the region. Then why don't similar sized markets have the same problem?

Yes, they will have to take out a loan. Yes, they can't leverage the value of the team to buy a stadium. But there is an expected revenue gain from new stadium ticket sales - both corporate and individual - as well as many other revenue streams that open with a new stadium. They can also steal advertisers from the Yankees and their organization.

(No one has yet mentioned how that relationship will work. If they move to Ybor, the Rays will essentially be in the Yankees market. They will have to negotiate for the Tarpons lost revenue. Perhaps the Rays know negotiating with the Yankees will not be cheap.)

Maybe the Rays don't think these streams will be enough. Maybe Stu Sternberg should open his own wallet. Maybe he is not as rich as we think.

The Stu Sternberg Perception Gap

During the presentation, Brian Auld mentioned how good of a boss Stu Sternberg is. He mentioned how Sternberg empowers his employees and encourages outside-the-box decision making. Auld said Sternberg allows the Rays to support movements and social issues and allows employees to get involved in their community. These are all good things.

But the Rays don't understand - or don't care - how Stu Sternberg is perceived by the fanbase. I can't speak for the politicians or business leaders, but the fanbase does not like Stu Sternberg. "Screw Stu", "Sell the Team", and "StuSux" are common refrains. Sternberg is often referred to as one of the worst owners in sports. I personally have written about his bad image for over 10 years. He is not customer friendly and his faux pas have added up. The fanbase thinks of him as a carpetbagging, New York investor who has no interest in Tampa Bay other than to make money and not spend his own.

If the Rays want the fans to have an open mind on the Sister City Plan, Stu Sternberg - not the Rays - needs to fix his perception. Because right now, he is not trusted nor liked. While Jeff Vinik sets an extraordinary high bar for a local sports owner, Stu Sternberg doesn't even clear the lowest bar. The Steinbrenners do more for Tampa Bay than Stu Sternberg.

The Partial Market Argument

If you are looking for a summary, here it is: the Rays goal is to create a Top 10 market by combining two mid-sized markets. They claim Tampa Bay, in its current state, is not capable of supporting Major League Baseball. We are too spread out, we lack major corporations, and our per capita income is too low. All of these are true.

We have also voted down transportation initiatives, protested against increased density, and although small to mid-sized companies are moving here, no major corporation has decided to call Tampa home.

They claim that by adding the power of the Montreal market, the Rays will be able to compete regularly with the Red Sox and Yankees. But don't they already do that now? Their only reason to add a complete additional market is to make more money. An additional TV deal, an additional radio deal, and an additional fanbase. Yes, a combined market would have a better chance of signing Wander Franco to a 20-year, billion dollar contract. But it is not needed. What is needed is a centralized stadium and a monopoly of baseball interest. The Rays need to be the only baseball option in Tampa Bay. When I was tracking regularly, the Rays only accounted for 50% of total baseball tickets sold in Tampa Bay. 50% of ticket sales went to local spring training and local Minor League Baseball. A Major League team cannot succeed with this level of competition. Especially if it plays in a bad location.

I would also like to see how the Rays rated all available markets. Why Montreal? What makes Montreal a part-time market? Does MLB think it is unable to sustain a full-time team? How do the Rays and MLB rate other markets? 

Why not look to the east to the biggest US market without any baseball? Orlando is completely untapped. Rays fans might not mind splitting the team with a city an hour away. Granted, that would mean only one TV deal. But expanding to the Orlando market would add 2 million people to the Rays fan pool. Outside of a few exhibitions at Disney in 2008, the Rays have completely neglected Orlando.

Speaking of TV, Auld's reference to pandemic ratings as evidence fans will watch no matter where the team plays is incredibly unfair. The Rays, Lightning, and Bucs represented Tampa Bay in 2020. We were all in it together, remember? The best thing fans could do was watch as their favorite teams played in "bubbles". Watching sports was a reprieve from the drama of COVID-19. But when the Montreal Rays play on TV, Tampa fans can't attend those games because an ownership group looking for more revenue moved them from our city, not because of a public health crisis. Huge difference.

Attendance Aspirations

Brian Auld mentioned the Rays would like to have 35,000 tickets sold a night. That was the 2019 average of the Houston Astros, who play in a metropolitan area of 6.5 million, or 3.5 million more than Tampa Bay.

I like to compare Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a similar sized metro area with three major sports teams. In 2015, the Pittsburgh Pirates drew nearly 2.5 million fans (2.498). They drew over 35k thirty times. 35,000 times 81 is 2,835,000 fans per year. In 2019, an attendance of 2.8 million would be 10th in Major League Baseball. If that's their goal, that is impossible. There are few untapped metropolitan areas that will get the Rays to that goal.

In 2017, I interviewed Brian Auld for this website. He said the Rays goal was league average. In 2019, league average per game was 28,355. That's 2,296,796 for the season. The Washington Nationals were closest to the average in 2019 with 2,259,781 tickets sold. 

"I think Pittsburgh is an apt comparison. We look at the Ohio markets as well – Cleveland and Cincinnati." - Brian Auld, 2017

Also in 2017, I wrote a post for Fangraphs on whether the Rays could ever reach average attendance. I concluded that the Rays' goal should not be average among MLB, but to be average among similar sized markets - Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Seattle, and Kansas City.

My conclusion was with "a new stadium closer to the center of Tampa Bay’s population, the Rays may be able to sustain or exceed the average small-market attendance. That, along with a new TV contract, would help with revenue and in turn, aid payroll, which may add to talent depth, and possibly equal more wins making the Rays more long-term competitive."

But as mentioned, the Rays goal is not average among small to mid-sized markets. They want to be a Top 10 market by combining the power of the Tampa Bay and Montreal market. Again, they want the same amount of fans to condense their buying habits in half the time. Tampa Bay's 3 million people and Montreal's 4.2 million people does turn the Rays into a large market, if the fans cooperate, which I don't think will happen.

(Personal note, my birthday is in September. If the Rays do the beginning of the season in Tampa and the second half in Montreal, I will never again be able to go to a local ballgame on my birthday. Something I have done for over 30 years. I can't move my birthday to the beginning of the season. I am sure I am not the only one.)

Opening the Pandora's Box of Relocation

If the Rays succeed in splitting their season between Tampa and Montreal, what is preventing Major League Baseball from splitting other cities? What is preventing them from pairing up expansion markets and making a Portland/Nashville team or a Vegas/Charlotte team?

The Rays are often imitated. The Sister City idea sets a very bad precedent for sports geography. If the Rays can get out of having to try harder to make one market work, then why can't other teams move? If they can combine markets for extra revenue, why can't other teams in similar sized markets? Fans and the record books will be confused with the fluidity when other teams will start moving. Imagine the excitement when the Nashville/Pittsburgh Music Pirates play the Vegas/Cleveland Desert Guardians in a World Series that won't be local to half the applicable fanbases.

MLB needs to nip this stupid idea in the bud now before its gets even more stupid.

What Can Fans Do?

The Rays discussion at Cafe con Tampa was insightful not only to get the Rays perspective, but also to show who supports the effort. For example, I mentioned Richard Gonzmart as someone already excited to work with the Sister City plan. Gonzmart owns the Colombia and Ulele. Rays fans could boycott these restaurants or protest outside of them. If the Rays can't be convinced to drop their support for the Sister City plan, perhaps their business partners could be.

Rays fans also need to be seen. Look up these social meetings for Rays appearances. Spread the word, come in with several questions, and ask one or two. Also meet the movers and shakers. Meet Brian Auld and the Rays front office personnel. Do not give a speech that doesn't end with a question. Force the Rays to engage the fans. Be civil and be seen. The more Rays fans are seen asking the Rays tough questions, the more people will see Rays fans standing up for Major League Baseball in the area.

I have been writing about baseball in this area for over a decade. MLB can succeed here if given a chance. The Rays need to either give it a chance or leave completely.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Talking with Locked On Rays about Rays attendance

 


I had the pleasure of talking to the folks at the LockedOnRays podcast recently. I had a great time talking with host Kevin Weiss. They divided the interview into three parts. 

We talked about Rays attendance, the Rays stadium situation, and of course my novel Curveball at the Crossroads.

Interviewing Rays Stadium Expert Michael Lortz (Part 1)

Interviewing Rays Stadium Expert Michael Lortz (Part 2)

Interviewing Rays Stadium Expert Michael Lortz (Part 3)

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Letter to the Editor of the Tampa Bay Times


Recently, Tampa Bay Times sports columnist John Romano wrote a piece in which he asked several prominent Tampa Bay leaders why the Rays struggle in attendance. I have stated for years that the Tampa Bay Times has a grudge against me - I seriously don't know why, but they do - and of course, Romano didn't ask me my opinion.

Despite the fact that this website is full of facts on Rays attendance. But what do I know?

So in my frustration, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times. I typically do not like doing this as it is hard to show credibility among the other letters to the editor. Any Joe the Plumber with an opinion can write in and it incredibly hard to be seen as an expert in less than 300 words. No offense to Joe the Plumber, who I am sure is an expert in plumbing.

But I wrote the editor anyway. Here is the link: No movie ending

Pennant race and sparse crowds? Gotta be Rays | Romano column, Aug. 15

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Vote Curveball at the Crossroads for Best Book of Tampa Bay

 


I am super excited to announce that my debut novel Curveball at the Crossroads was nominated for Best Book by a Local Author on the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay contest. Creative Loafing holds this contest every year and winning it is a big deal.

There is some stiff competition for Best Book of Tampa Bay but I am sure I can gather the votes to win. After all, how many of the books on the ballot have to do with a pitcher from a St Petersburg baseball team making a deal with the Devil?

One. Mine

So please take a moment and vote Curveball at the Crossroads for Best Book by a Local Author. Thank you and I appreciate your support!



Friday, August 6, 2021

Selling Curveball at the Crossroads at Fergs Sports Bar


Last Saturday, 7/31/2021, I had the opportunity to set up shop and sell some books outside Ferg's Sports Bar in St. Petersburg, FL. I have set up there before, but have never had the success I had last Saturday.

I walked away with over $150 and sold over 10 books. I sold 6 copies of Curveball at the Crossroads and 7 copies of my previous joke book, The Man Makes You Work, written under the alias Jordi Scrubbings (Long story. See my creative blog The Serious Tip for an explanation.)

Saturday was a long day. I started by chatting on the radio with my friend Mike Rickard on the St Pete Sports Connection. I followed former Major League pitcher Anthony Telford on air, which was really cool. Mike and I talked baseball current events and of course Curveball at the Crossroads.

After I get off the air with Mike, I went to visit my friend Nick Major in his inpatient care facility. Shout out to Nick Major. Always good to visit friends who can't make it out to see you, especially for health reasons.

When I returned to Ferg's, it was slammed with people. Only an hour and a half remained before game time and people were flocking to Fergs for fermented hops and barley and fine pre-game cuisine. I slide back in my spot outside the bar and set up my book array.

I decided to bring copies of my first book, The Man Makes You Work, this time. This is the first time I brought The Man Makes You Work, but I figured I had a box of copies and for $5 each, maybe I'll make some extra money. I was right.

Marketing The Man Makes You Work as "the funniest book you've never read", more people bought my first book than bought Curveball at the Crossroads. Albeit Curveball at the Crossroads is $20 and The Man is only $5, but I thought people's interest in the latter over the former was interesting. People don't mind supporting for a few dollars, but if you get into their beer money, then you may sell less books.

Perhaps the most interesting patron I talked to during the game was a man who appeared to be homeless. He wore rough clothes and wasn't carrying himself well. He looked through my books and then dug into his pocket and gave me a dollar. Then he walked away. I can't give books away for a dollar, but he also didn't give me the opportunity to give it back to him. So appreciate the support.

Sales slowed down dramatically once the game started. From first pitch to the final out, I think I might have sold one copy of Curveball at the Crossroads and one copy of The Man Makes You Work. But that is to be expected when most baseball fans are inside the bar or inside the adjacent stadium. But this is when I had lunch, a few beers, and watched the game on an outside TV, all of which is what I would be doing anyway when the Rays game is on.

After the game ended, I knew I had to be ready. Rays fans were in a good mood, there was alcohol in many people's bloodstreams and a generally good mood was in the air.

Soon after the final out, folks started gathering at the long bar where I was stationed. I immediately made a few sales of The Man Makes You Work. Then I sold a few more copies of Curveball at the Crossroads. One group of patrons sat by me and were reading The Man Makes You Work aloud, laughing amongst themselves. Awesome advertising.

All in all, Saturday was a fantastic day for book selling. I walked away with over $150, after buying a few beers, lunch, and parking. It was the best day I have ever had for book sales. That makes me feel like this endeavor is worth it. Creative writing and selling books is so much different from my day job that it is a fun and welcome hobby. When it pays decent, it is even more fun.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Talking with the St Pete Sports Connection Again

Once again I was on the St Pete Sports Connection with my friend Mike Rickard outside of Ferg's Sports Bar in St Pete. I was on last Saturday, 7/31/2021. We talked Rays, baseball, and of course my book, Curveball at the Crossroads.

Check it out!
 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Disrespected Rays Fans


(This was submitted to the Tampa Bay Times Editorial page on July 7th, 2021. After 3 weeks of no response, I decided to publish it here. I don't have 1% of the Times reach. I do like to think I have an informed opinion on these matters. After all, I have been writing about the Rays and baseball in Tampa Bay for over 10 years. But for whatever reason, the Tampa Bay Times didn't feel the need to print this.)

Over the last two years, all Tampa Bay sports has done is win. No matter the sport, we’ve made championships, won trophies, and been the talk of the sports world. And our fans have enjoyed every minute of it. Most of them.
 
While Lightning fans get boat parades and Bucs fans get the glory of the greatest of all time, Rays fans are living with the idea that they won’t have a team to see in the summer and fall of 2027. Or maybe sooner if Rays owner Stu Sternberg gets his way. 

And while outgoing St Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman pushes back on the Rays and calls their plan a non-starter, several St Pete mayoral candidates as well as Tampa Mayor Jane Castor support this plan. Who do you think the Rays will want to negotiate with? 

The Rays need a new stadium. That is unequivocally true. The where and how to pay for it has been debated for over 10 years and it is wearing down the fanbase. It is hard for more than diehards to care when the finger pointing and relocation rumors take more headlines than the team’s success. 

The Rays’ Sister City plan of “sharing” a team with Montreal makes no sense for the people of Tampa Bay. It is disrespectful to our fanbase and will lead to the team eventually moving to Montreal for good when Stu Sternberg sells the team. Despite front office claims they want the Rays here for generations, there is no doubt selling the team is Sternberg’s final goal. He wants to maximize his profits first. Two new stadiums in two markets would do that. And when he does sell, what is preventing the new owner from completing the move, leaving Tampa Bay with a useless stadium, too small for a new full-time team and too big for another Minor League team? 

“Never trade with the Rays” is an axiom well known in baseball. They have one of the smartest front offices ever. With over 10 years to prepare and a staff working night and day on metrics, our politicians have no chance negotiating a winning deal for taxpayers unless they play hardball. The current proposal of 40 games of Rays baseball, Spring Training, and a new home of the Rowdies if Tampa Bay builds a new stadium is like trading an all-star pitcher for two benchwarmers and a punter. Local baseball fans know the late season pennant race is the best part of the season, Spring Training is for tourists, and Rowdies soccer, while fun, isn’t baseball. 

Not only will this deal turn off what remains of the Rays fanbase – why support a team that moves midseason? – it will also foster unhealthy debate as to which city supports the team more. Not to mention moments in which the fanbase shows appreciation to players such as jersey retiring ceremonies, statues, or other banners. Will they be held in both locations? Or just the most deserving location? 

Prior to the Stanley Cup Championship, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said she would discuss sharing a baseball team with the Mayor of Montreal, but she wouldn’t discuss sharing the Stanley Cup. If this was a joke, it wasn’t funny. Tampa Bay area baseball fans were disrespected and blasted the mayor on social media. Unfortunately, Jane Castor has yet to apologize. She has no reason to, even if the Rays leave town, she can still wear a Yankees hat. 

We hope our politicians don’t bend to the whimsical desires of billionaire sports owners. We should not “share” a baseball team. What the Rays need is a centralized stadium and a monopoly of baseball interest in Tampa Bay, even if that means getting rid of regional Spring Training. The Rays are right, no other Major League market has the difficulties of Tampa Bay. But disrespecting the fans is not a step in the right direction.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Curveball at the Crossroads on the LockedOnMLB podcast


I had the pleasure of talking with my longtime friend Sully on his podcast on the LockedOn network. Comedian, TV producer and creator of the Sully Baseball Podcast Paul Francis "Sully" Sullivan is the host of LockedOnMLB, a podcast that covers all of Major League Baseball. 

Of course, we talked about Curveball at the Crossroads, then we discussed the Tampa Bay Rays, both on the field and off the field statuses.

I highly recommend Sully's podcast. He has a passion for the game and such a wide array of interests - check out how our conversation veered to Star Wars - and amazing knowledge of baseball. 

Here is the link: Locked On MLB - Daily Podcast On Major League Baseball