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Why Should the A’s and Rays Be Saved?



By Mike Silva ~ March 22nd, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva.

The Joe Mauer agreement has put the fans of Minnesota in a complete 180 degree situation from the days of contraction. It wasn’t that long ago fans of big market teams were contemplating which stars they could “pick” from the dispersal draft when Montreal and Minnesota were contracted. Today the Twins are not only alive, but they are a viable contender in the American League. Buster Olney of ESPN examines two franchises in similar situations, Tampa and Oakland, and how MLB could save them from a similar situation.

The Oakland scenario is pretty cut and dry: they need to leave Oakland. Playing in a rundown ballpark just a “stones throw” from beautiful AT&T Park is a recipe for disaster. When you factor in a city with 18% unemployment, you just don’t have the economic infrastructure to draw consistently. Remember, this is a town that allowed their beloved Oakland Raiders to leave for Los Angeles. Do you think they are going to save the A’s? As Olney explains, a deal with San Francisco owner Bill Neukom wont’ be easy and, quite frankly, doesn’t seem likely. However, if MLB could negotiate with the obtuse Peter Angelos and land a team in Washington, D.C., then anything is possible.

Tampa is a different situation. They are a team that has turned years of losing into the best farm system in baseball. They very well may lose both Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena after this year and not miss a beat. After further review this spring, I believe that Tampa, not the Red Sox, is the biggest threat to the Yankees superiority. With that said, all the winning, marketing, and good will has not done very much in terms of attendance. In 2009, the year after they went to the World Series, the Rays drew less than the Toronto Blue Jays. I have my doubts about the viability of big league baseball in Florida. Personally I see it as a spring training community and college state. I see nothing the league can do long term to change this situation. Could a Rays dynasty bring the paying customers to the turnstiles? New ballpark? Saturday night disco? I am not sure the old “if you build it they will come” mentality works in Florida.

What should MLB do? My answer is nothing. There already are too many teams and either these two organizations move to more viable cities or be contracted. I am not sure if either is in the same situation as Montreal but, if they are, the solution is already there. Is baseball in Oakland and Tampa really worth saving? Oakland, maybe, they draw when the team wins, but Tampa seems like a waste of time to me. Perhaps this year will tell a story about fan support.

If you are thinking about more economic parity answer this question: Why should the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, etc. prop up losing situations? If the fans don’t care why should we? Why should fans in New York and Boston see their hard earned money given away to these teams?

Yes, the Twins are a blueprint on how to become part of baseballs “middle class,” as Olney puts it, but I just don’t see how Oakland and Tampa are going to be able to achieve that without the support of the fan base. In other words, time to consider the Montreal blueprint and figure out what city will allow them to reach that status.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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9 Responses to Why Should the A’s and Rays Be Saved?

  1. The Common Man

    Remember that the fan base support wasn’t there for the Twins in the mid-Nineties (hence the contraction talk). I remember going to games with 10,000 people in the stands. Maybe less. It was at once miserable (those were miserable teams) and great (because 18 guys were staging a ball game just for me). It took the Twins a while to recover. In 2001, even with their first winning year in a while, the club was 11th in attendence in the AL. The next year, they were 9th even though they won the division. 8th in ’03, and another 1st place finish. 10th in ’04, 1st in division, but they finally drew more than 2,000,000 fans. Finally, last year, they finished 5th in the AL in attendance. Rebuilding (or in Tampa’s case, building) fan trust takes a while.

  2. Mike Silva

    Common Man

    Since it appears you know a great deal about the Twins situation, if they had gone to the World Series in 2008 could you see them drawing miserably like Tampa did?

    I think I know the answer and that is my greater point.

  3. Steve

    Life works in cycles. Oakland has been a powerhouse several times but has been down of late. Do you kick a team when they are down? In the 1950s, the “golden age of baseball” as some say, the Phillies, St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia A’s and Senators all were going through 20 or 30 consecutive years of extreme losing baseball averaging like 1,000 fans a game. Yet they and baseball survived without contraction.

    The real question is how Billy Beane can keep his job after all the losing seasons and disappointments. If he was the Mets GM he would have been gone after 2 seasons, yet has there ever been one fan complaining about him in Oakland?

    As for Tampa Bay, they (like the Marlins) play in a horrible stadium, and stadiums seem to matter to fans more than the ballgame today. However, it was their choice in 1998 to join the league in an outdated stadium so why should they be demanding a change?

  4. jon moorhouse

    it is all baseballs fault. they spent a ton of money looking all over florida long before the marlins and rays were in existence, for the place that would draw fans and make the clubs profitable. their findings, ORLANDO. so of course they give the franchises to miami and tampa. they were trying to cover the state with baseball and create an in-state rivalry, in a state where most of the residents come from somewhere else, and already have a team affiliation. stupid.

  5. Kevin M.

    Best thing that could happen to Tampa would be moving to Puerto Rico. Instant fan base, probably pay off a brand new state-of-the-art stadium in 5 years while still raking in enough money to keep the homegrown stars around, rather than losing them to a big-market team.

    And I agree with Jon, putting two teams in Florida was a terrible idea… one team, MAYBE, but not two.

  6. Mike Silva

    Kevin M.

    How about Vegas? I think PR is a brilliant move as well, but I don’t know if they have the economics for a new stadium, etc.

    Right now with the murky economic outlook I don’t know if expansion of baseball stadiums is a realistic idea.

  7. Craig

    I think a team in/near Las Vegas would be cool. What are the chances of that happening (pun intended). I don’t know enough about the geography of the area to know whether it’s feasible.

    This may sound naive, but are any of the closer Latin American islands/cities viable locations? Like, say, Puerto Rico? I’d imagine a team in one of these areas would garner a huge following. I’m just not sure if the money is there to make it worth it…or whether travel is too much of an issue. I just know how much they love the Major Leagues in these areas. It may be completely idiotic, I don’t know.

  8. Gary

    Mike,

    The big problem with the Rays is that they aren’t in Tampa. They are in St. Pete which is not really a sports town and an hour from Tampa with traffic. Plus when you consider that a large portion of the Tampa population lives in suburbs North and East of Tampa the distance becomes an even greater concern.

    Yet the rays may have one of the four best teams in baseball due to smart management. The point of Olney’s article is that the Rays franchise is worth saving. If the Rays were in a retractible roof stadium in downtown Tampa, the team would make the MLB a lot of money.

    Right now the Rays are stuck in a contract with St. Pete to stay there until 2027. They are going to need some financial help if they want to berach that contract and move to a new stadium in Tampa. The investment would be steep but I predict the payback for baseball would be tremendous.

  9. Mike Silva

    Gary

    Don’t you think the Yankees influence in Tampa will hurt them?

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