Yesterday we worried that Stuart Sternberg’s comments about the 2011 payroll would lead to unfair comparisons to the 1997 Marlins, a team that won the World Series and then completely gutted their roster. The 1998 Marlins lost 108 games.

Big League Stew thought we were overreacting (us? overreact? never!).

Well, it didn’t take long for somebody at ESPN to make the stomach-punching comparison. Enter “Pardon the Interruption” with hosts Tony Kornheiser and Bill Simmons (yes, the same Bill Simmons we roasted earlier this week).

(Ed. note: you will want to sit down before reading this and make sure there are no sharp objects nearby. You may also want to prepare a stiff drink. You will need it.)

Bill Simmons: Tampa’s (sic) owner admitted during this week’s Yankees series – a strange time to admit this – that the Rays will be broken up after the season. They almost definitely can’t afford to keep Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza (Ed. note: they can afford Bartlett and Garza, but the Rays have much cheaper options in-house, so those two may be traded). Tony, if you were a Rays fan, why would you consider rooting for this team?
Tony Kornheiser: You mean if I am one of the 450 Rays fans that exist?
BS: 600.
TK: They have one of the eight best teams in baseball?
BS: And no fans.
TK: Right. And nobody ever goes to their games. If I am management, I am certainly not going to consider what the fans have to say about this. We saw, in the same state – another team that should be contracted by the way – the Florida Marlins, win a World Series, dump their team completely, but five years later win it again. So if the Rays use that as a model, they can win.
BS: Well, I think they have an even better set up than the Marlins did…

At this point, Simmons starts talking about his fantasy baseball team and references Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson and how they will be able to contribute next season. Then there is some rumbling back and forth about teams being able to win without a high payroll. There wasn’t a clear conclusion, but it did seem as though Simmons defended the Rays a bit, at least as far as his fantasy team was concerned.

And while we don’t expect Uncle Tony to understand the bigger picture in the Raysiverse, it is disheartening that such a prominent voice would be so quick to make the segue from 2010 Rays to 1997 Marlins.

We can only hope that the announcers and analysts in October will be better versed. But we are not holding our breath.

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43 Comments

  1. "And nobody ever goes to their games." - I have a pile of used tickets I'd like to shove up Kornheiser's a**.

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  2. Gus says:

    It is in ESPN's corporate interests for the Rays to be a doormat. When Boston and NYY are both in the playoffs, their ratings increase. When the Rays are beating those teams, it hurts them. To expect the talking heads to not be taking the party line on this is unreasonable.

    The sooner Rays Nation all realizes that, the better off we'll all be. I'm sure people in the Obama adminsitration don't expect a fair shake from Fox News ot the Bush Administration expected one from MSNBC.

    MLB Network is far better anyway.

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    • hellrayser says:

      "It is in ESPN’s corporate interests for the Rays to be a doormat. When Boston and NYY are both in the playoffs, their ratings increase."

      Maybe so, but isn't this just another way of saying the Rays don't have enough fans?

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  3. J says:

    He's right about Stu. This is the same jerk-wad who claimed he had lost between 10 and 100 million on the Rays.... right, and then the financial documents came out... whoops!

    Just a note on the 10 and 100 million range--there is no way that a fiscally aware owner would be that confused/uncertain about how much he had lost on an investment. That range is HUGE, and complete BS. If, IF, Stu has lost any money on the Rays, it's a known quantity (within a few million not ten or a hundred million dollars), and he's just screwing with Tampa/St. Pete with those numbers.

    Maybe the team will move, and we won't have to deal with Stu anymore.

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    • Beth says:

      And that would be just great, because of course then we would immediately get a different MLB team with MUCH better owners. Can't wait.

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      • J says:

        Beth, when did I ever suggest we were getting new owners or a new team?

        Hey if you want to be lied to, stick with Stu and the Rays. I'd rather not be jerked around period.

        There is immense national media pressure on the Rays to move or get a new stadium. I do not think a new stadium will draw out the fans. Rather not sink my tax dollars into a lost cause. Am I happy it turned out this way? No. But this is the status quo.

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        • Beth says:

          Well, the what does "maybe the team will move and we won't have to deal with Stu anymore" mean other than a hope that the team will move out of the area? And if that's the case, Tampa Bay area baseball fans will be left with nothing, unless the area could attract a different team (unlikely) with better owners (even more unlikely). So what exactly am I misunderstanding?

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          • J says:

            Everything? Stu and the team leaving means just that. This isn't Newton's Third Law here, I'm not assuming us getting another team, nor did I suggest that in my first or second posts.

            "Tampa Bay area baseball fans will be left with nothing" This is absurd. So you're arguing that Tampa fans won't be able to watch other major league teams, not to mention the numerous minor league teams in the area?

            Here's the question, Beth: would you like to give your tax dollars away to build a new stadium, even if that stadium does not attract enough fans? All the while, Stu is getting rich and lying to you..

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    • Joe says:

      >>> Maybe the team will move, and we won’t have to deal with Stu anymore. <<<

      yeah, what a "jerkwad." we need a quality owner!!!

      is vince naimoli still breathing? bring back vince!!!

      geez!

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    • Carey says:

      Yep, I do want a new stadium and I do think our (the whole area) tax dollars (some, at least) should go to it. I also think it should be in downtown Tampa, though I have lived in St. Pete my entire life.

      I also do believe Stu re. the losses. . . somewhat. The leaked documents seem to prove his point. 4-million net profit in 2008, with an 11-million bump from the WS run.

      2009 we add 30 million in payroll and no playoff bump and no attendance bump. It's pretty simple math. Also, are you forgetting the money Stu and Co put into lipstick for that pig known as the Trop.

      I also think a new stadium will bring in more fans, provided it is located properly (i.e. in the center of the population). Look, I love baseball, I'm from St. Pete and live in Seminole and I'd rather drive to Tampa to watch a baseball game in a real baseball environment. Is the trop acceptable? I guess. I also guess the Metrodome is an acceptable football venue. You have seats, you have beer and snack vendors, and you have football. Doesn't mean it is a good venue. The Trop, IMO, is awful. I actually find myself fighting off drowsieness as soon as I walk in. Florescent light, fake grass, unpainted concrete and baseball are a bad mix.

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      • J says:

        You seriously think the financial documents prove Stu correct? See this is why Tampa/St. Pete has no intellectual industries to speak of. Our citizens can't do math.

        Boston, NY, and Chicago on the other hand.

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        • Carey says:

          First off, why the f%#k do you live here? You do nothing but put down the area and the people. If you don't live here, then why the f%#k are you on this board.

          Lastly, my intellectually superior friend, why don't you enlighten us as to how those numbers don't prove him right (not saying that he's losing as much as he states, but given the neighborhood we live in MLB/AL East, we are in a challenging situation).

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          • J says:

            First, the Rays have been profitable--period. That's what the docs show. We'll see what happens this year, but Stu said he has, over his ownership, lost between 10 and 100 million bucks.

            That's a patent lie. The docs don't back that up, and they in fact show that he's made money. Even if he's only made 1 dollar, he's lying. Even if he's only lost a million, he's lying. But where he's really jerking people around is giving a BS HUGE range of 100 million to 10 million. Come on Carey!

            I didn't say everything about this area is bad, but when it comes to the things we are discussing in this thread, yes Tampa blows. It has lower taxes, great seafood, but intellectual pursuits and industries? No. It doesn't have culture or functioning public transit. It has great weather, but no real traditions. It's not all or nothing, but if we're talking about why some baseball towns are better than others, then these factors are significant.

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  4. Frank Davis says:

    Look around ,baseball is not the number one sport. It looks like most of the ballparks are half full on most games days. It is not just the Rays. Is there something special about the Red Sox and Yanks??

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    • J says:

      No, there is something special about New York and Boston. Tampa is barely a city as such.

      Same with places like Chicago, etc. These places have character. Tampa has none.

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      • Gus says:

        Because "character" fills ballparks, and that's why Charleston and Nashville have major league teams.

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        • Sean says:

          What fills ballparks? 7.5 million people within a train ride of the park (NY) or 3 million within 40 miles of a 33,000 capacity stadium.

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          • hellrayser says:

            Amen, brother. When I was living in NYC, I went to Rays games more often than I ever did when I lived in Pasco County. Why? Because it didn't take two hours to get to Yankee Stadium, and once I was there, there were other things to do than watch the game.

            Even though I want only the best for the Rays, my long-term hopes are not high for any sports infrastructure that assumes thirty thousand people driving into town on $0.89/gallon gas. The problem isn't the stadium, it's the whole terminally ****ed urban planning that Tampa epitomizes.

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          • Beth says:

            This is actually a reply to "Hellraiser" and to J: I agree with you about our area's poor planning and other deficits. But if having a full blown transit system and "tradition" were a pre-requisite for having a ball club, where would we have teams outside of about 8 northeastern and midwestern cities?

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          • hellrayser says:

            Beth, a judiciously placed stadium can spur denser growth, because it contributes to having a part of town where people gather for fun. Look at Baltimore - after Camden Yards went up, people started moving in around it, property values rose, other businesses joined. Likewise Pittsburgh.

            And then there's the Trop, which I love once I'm inside, but which some human paperweight decided looked nice sandwiched between a bunch of glorified trailer parks on one side and empty office buildings on the other. It's almost a perfect storm of stupid planning. Anyone who thought people were going to drive in from Orlando to see these games is irretrievably nuts, and has never tried to get across Hillsborough after work. But what was the best-case scenario for that neighborhood? Does it have some rare natural beauty that I'm missing? It was fatally dumb to just ignore the assets that the area DOES have, like the beach, the coast, the sunsets. THOSE are Florida's tradition.

            In a way, though, you're right: there are obvious problems with promoting concentrated economic activity in low-density areas, and it's a problem a few other teams deal with, notably Kansas City and the Nationals. You can have half an acre of lawn or a baseball team, but don't whine that you can't have both.

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        • J says:

          Those places do not have the population to fill a park. Character means having traditions etc. What traditions do we have in Tampa? In Boston they have a day called "Truck Day." On this day, fans watch the Sox load up their trucks with gear to take down to spring training.

          Totally different worlds. In one, baseball is a fierce tradition. In another, it's not.

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          • Sarah says:

            So, since we don't have "traditions" we should just stay home and watch the Yankees on TV?

            You know, in 1850 people from Paris used to laugh at New York, and in 1890 people from New York used to laugh at Chicago, for many of the reasons you are citing to put down Tampa/St. Pete today. Traditions all need to start somewhere.

            And yeah, I'd be willing to put some of my tax dollars into a stadium, provided the team also had some "skin in the game" and the stadium were part of a smart redevelopment plan that would bring in increased tax revenue from the higher value of nearby properties. We won't be in this recession forever.

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          • J says:

            Sarah, THEY ALREADY STAY HOME AND WATCH BASEBALL ON TV.

            What does it really matter, if no one is going to the games?

            You don't have a stake in the Rays, not really anyway.

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    • Carey says:

      Frank. In the case of the Yankees:

      1. 30-70 million more, on average, than the second highest spending team for 11 years running.
      2. Over 100 million more than league average for 11 years running (may be more, actually).
      3. THE GREATEST COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IN ALL OF WESTERN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS!!!!! (I can’t speak to the competitive balance of the Indian and Pakistani cricket leagues).

      Which also proves that Yankee fans, despite their claims of how loyal and die-hard they are, are actually the shittiest fans in baseball. Because, without the above, that Billion dollar dump would be empty.

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      • J says:

        Is your ego seriously based on who is a "better" fan? Seriously?

        Sadness.

        Look, I like the Rays, but people here seem to be disconnected from reality. You're willing to stake their egos on a team (really a company) and care more about a stadium for this company than they do about the city spending the money to actually benefit the community.

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        • Carey says:

          It has nothing whatsoever to do with my ego, and everything to do with reality. I think the Yankees suck, on many many levels, but mostly because I believe they - and their predatory spending - are a cancer to baseball - or at least all of baseball outside of replica Yankee Stadium.

          Frankly, we aren't the ones beating our chests about being the better fan. It's the douchbags in the Northeast - and more specifically the NE-based press - that talks chit about how bad a fans we are. I think the passion for the Rays in this area is significant and real. But the stadium is a dump and I can't say that it's an appreciably better experience than watching at home or even at a local bar. And - and I think the attendence backs this up - I don't think I'm alone on this.

          Lastly, I apologize for thinking that keeping the team is a benifit to the community. I guess I'm just a dumb Florida hick. Maybe some good old northern "sophistication" would do me good.

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          • J says:

            How exactly does the baseball team benefit the community? It's not like we don't have other professional sports, so you're going to have to provide a reason why a baseball team uniquely benefits a community, opposed to say road construction (more jobs).

            I understand that you really like the Rays, but that's not a good reason for Tampa to spend my tax dollars on them. Especially since we haven't paid off Raymond James yet!

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  5. J says:

    Prof, I want to add something here: motive.

    Bill Simmons is an a-hole, no doubt, and he has no problem waging a war of ideas against the Rays. For him, he's helping the Red Sox, his favorite team, by repeating the "no fans" talking point.

    Make no mistake. To this guy, wants to hurt the Rays.

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    • hellrayser says:

      It's a little silly to be imputing Voldemort-like motives to Bill Simmons, who, after all, is only really pointing out that you can't watch a Rays game without noticing the preponderance of empty blue seats. It's really weird how everyone around here gets their panties in a twist about this - it's not like people who harp on this are calling you, personally, a bad fan. Simmons would be a pretty terrible journalist if he didn't speculate about the Rays' business plan and the long-term, corrosive effects of nonattendance on the team.

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  6. Carey says:

    FYI. Douchbag Mike Greeberg had some typically shallow and douchbag comments this morning while interviewing some other clown who had pretty much nothing to offer.

    To paraphrase: Greenberg is "annoyed" about our attendance. Now, he did qualify his idiocy by mentioning the economy, outdated stadium, location, etc. . . then makes his "annoyed" comment followed by an even more idiotic "baseball has to do something about this" comment, made even more idiotic by the fact that he had no solution. Which, BTW, is typicall, fluff, ESPN drive-by crap.

    1. Where are you going to move the Rays where it would be any better than this area with a new stadium? First 5 years (honeymoon phase) doesn't count unless you plan to move them every 5 years. Answer: Nowhere. There is no other market that's any better, unless TB dicks them on the new stadium. Period.

    Lastly, WTF does a Yankee fan have to be annoyed about in baseball. I mean, it's not like your favorite team doesn't . . .
    1. Spends 30-70 million more, on average, than the second highest spending team for 11 years running.
    2. Spends over 100 million more than league average for 11 years running (may be more, actually).
    3. Has THE GREATEST COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IN ALL OF WESTERN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS!!!!! (I can't speak to the competitive balance of the Indian and Pakistani cricket leagues).

    So, really, Mike. Are you that "annoyed." Maybe it's because, given the above, your precious Yankees should win a minimum of 120 games a year, which means that they've actually been miserable failures for all this time. Maybe that's it.

    Dickhead.

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  7. Danny says:

    Carey - great post!!!

    But seriously, this team isn't going anywhere - and who cares what the people at ESPN think - their monopoly on baseball news (Baseball Tonight) is the crappiest program ever with their lame personalities and teleprompter driven talking points. COMPLETELY UNWATCHABLE!!!

    MLB Network on the other hand is a much more off the cuff production with commentators/analysts who just give their opinions - sure, there are a few Yankee honks here and there but the overwhelming majority of their analysts give the Rays more than their share of attention/praise/etc....

    Lastly, WHO CARES!!! We're going to the playoffs!!! Boston isn't - Chicago isn't - the Mets are hopeless and let's not forget to throw the Dodgers into that hopeless category as well....We've got a great team w/ a chance to bring home the trophy - let's enjoy this run as you never know when they'll be back to the playoffs!!! GO RAYS!!!

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    • Carey says:

      I've been down with MLB since the beginning. No comparison. Night and Day difference. And, it's actually funny. I mean, Harold Reynolds is an idiot, but it's great. He's a great foil for the other guys. I love it when they bust his ass.

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      • J says:

        Reynolds is an idiot? He's the only guy who ever challenges the status quo on that show. Otherwise everyone is in complete idiot agreement with each other.

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  8. Gatorbuc15 says:

    LOL! I saw this show yesterday. Kornhieser is a know nothing dick. He only acts like he knows a lot about sports.

    I don't pay any attention to him.

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  9. d-money says:

    The sooner everyone stops watching Tmz errrr....I mean ESPN the better we will all be.

    MLB TV is way better and you don't have to put up with all the tabloid garbage that ESPN spews out on a daily basis.

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  10. Hal says:

    How did Simmons let that go? He goes on and on about his minor league fantasy keeper league and how good some of the Rays prospects are, but he continues to roll with the Marlins comparrison. We'll miss CC something fierce, but am I the only one who thinks we are a better team next year? Briggy at short full time, Rodriguez at 2nd full time makes us better instantly. Replacing Soriano will be the biggest challange - Jake McGee anyone? Matt Bush??????

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    • Sarah says:

      Maybe Rays losing CC like Twins losing Torii Hunter? He was important to them, but here they are back in first place. Or am I giving Hunter too much credit by comparing him to CC?

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      • Amanda says:

        It's a slight possibility that it could happen that way, but it's not just CC that the Rays will probably lose. Also Soriano and Benoit. I'm not sure if Pena is going to be worth what everyone thinks he is on the open market now that he had a terrible contract year, so he may be back. But the Twins lost Hunter, but still had Mauer, Pavano, Liriano, Morneau, et al.

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  11. Stephen says:

    Am I crazy for thinking we can be really good at 44.8 million?

    Please correct my mistakes in some of my estimates...

    C Jaso 500K
    1B Johnson 500K
    2B Rodriguez 500K
    SS Brignac 500K
    3B Longoria 2MM
    LF Jennings 500K
    CF Upton 4MM
    RF Zobrist 4.5MM
    DH Joyce 500K

    Bench
    C Shoppach 3MM
    IF 500K
    OF 500K
    DH Baldelli 500K

    SP Price 2.183MM
    SP Garza 5MM
    SP Neimann 2MM
    SP Davis 500K
    SP Hellickson 500K
    CL Benoit 3MM
    RP Howell 1.8MM
    RP Balfour 2.5MM
    RP Choat 800K
    RP McGee 500K
    RP Sonnanstine 500K
    RP 500K

    This adds up to 44.8 million. Would I rather have us re-sign Crawford and Soriano?...duh...But, it is what it is, and this team doesn't look like the 1998 Marlins.

    I have guessed on some arbitration numbers, and put all the minimum guys at 500K. It still looks like a team that can get under 50 million and not trade Garza.

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