Monday, November 3, 2014

Another Boogeyman Dance and the idea of the Rays in the National League

Although the baseball season is officially over for all 30 teams, a few national sports writers are still opining on the national pastime. And although we have put to death the Montreal Boogeyman, some writers are still digging him up.

Two articles were published last weekend that discussed the Rays situation both in their market and of course, with their stadium. Let's look at them individually:

Over at the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo not only digs up the Montreal Boogeyman, he makes him dance the congo like Weekend at Bernie's.

Dismissing the Tampa Bay market? Check.

Talking up how great Montreal would be without any economic facts on either city? Check.

Anonymous sources? Check.

Dance, Boogeyman, dance.

But Cafardo does bring up one interesting point. In particular, he mentions Florida's Latino population as a key element in the Rays future.
The Rays have never fully taken advantage of a potential Latino fan base. Twenty percent of the Tampa population is Latino, yet the biggest Latino star they’ve had is Jose Canseco? Remember when Canseco hit 31 homers by the All-Star break in 1999? But that didn’t move the attendance needle, either.

But where is Cafardo's evidence here? Where are his demographic numbers? What is he basing this on? Is that 20% of Tampa or 20% of Tampa Bay? Big difference.

I would also argue Carlos Pena was a much bigger and more relevant "Latino star" to the Rays than Jose Canseco. And I think the Rays absolutely need to bring Carlos Pena back and put him in Community Relations. The same position Orestes Destrade had before he moved to media.

Fact: In 1999, the then-Devil Rays were a 99-loss team. By the All-Star Break (Game 88), they had already lost 49 games. Does Cafardo think Latino baseball fans are that blinded by star power that they would clamor over Canseco and watch a terrible on-field product? That's seems terribly dismissive to me. Almost insulting.

Would a Cuban born star be nice for the Rays to have? Sure. Especially if he was Tampa born. Imagine if Jose Fernandez played for the Rays instead of the Marlins. But while ethnicity is nice, ganar es mas importante (winning is more important).

The second Rays-related article this weekend came from Howard Megdal of USA Today. Megdal is much smarter on baseball in Tampa Bay than Cafardo (Ed note: I've exchanged tweets with Megdal. He digs the site.). Megdal mentions the lease on the Trop, the new upcoming TV deal, and he is all for keeping baseball in Tampa Bay.

But he has a very interesting idea, one that while I don't think would never pass the MLB vote, could kick start a discussion.

Megdal proposes drastic, almost NBA-like, re-alignment in MLB. This re-alignment includes, but is not limited to, putting the Rays in an NL South Division with the Astros, Braves, and Marlins. He also juggles some of the owners around MLB to placate the haggling.
So Tampa Bay, with little tradition keeping it to the AL, gets a new stadium, new owners presumably free of area fatigue and a new start in a division with an in-state rival, the Marlins. The Braves aren't far away, either.

It is a multi-billion dollar idea with expansion teams and several new stadiums that reads almost like a 10-year plan. Which by then, the Rays stadium issue might be solved no matter who the owner is.

But moving the Rays to the National League is an interesting idea. One definitely worth exploring.