Maybe the strangest part of the 2004 empty Trop photo splashed on ESPN.com this morning and the accompanying article “Rays need to get out of Tampa Bay,”  was that it ran on the same day as one of the best columns we have ever read concerning the Rays and their stadium situation…

If you are going to read one column on the true story of the Rays and their tortured relationship with Tropicana Field, please read “Problem for Rays and A’s? MLB greed” by Howard Bryant at ESPN.com. This is the best read on the subject that we have come across.

Here are a few of our favorite highlights….

On MLB:

Yet to baseball, Oakland and Tampa Bay — not the financially challenged New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers — are the game’s two most troubled franchises [and yet, for some reason, Bud Selig only threatens to get involved in the local stadium debate, and never actually does anything]

On the Giants failed move to Tampa-St. Pete:

The romantic tale behind that blocked move to St. Pete in ’92 is that the NL preserved the Giants in San Francisco for posterity and gastronomy…The actual story is that baseball’s owners were fighting among themselves over money…and they wanted to keep the Tampa Bay market open to expansion and the lucrative fees that followed. [This is the part that most baseball fans don’t understand. The Trop is really the fault of Major League Baseball. This area was blackmailed into building a stadium on spec. And in some respects, they owe the Tampa Bay area another shot to do this right]

On the failings of the Trop:

Landing the Giants might have resonated with the aging, nostalgic New York transplant element in Florida; but it wouldn’t have mattered in the long run. Playing in that ballpark would have been as much of a disaster for the Giants as it has been for the Rays [Hey, Vince Naimoli was a colossal failure. But in the end, it didn’t really matter. Anybody would have failed in the Trop].

On what makes a stadium work:

Three years after Tampa Bay debuted, an executive summary written by HOK, baseball’s exclusive architecture firm, declared, “We believe site location is the most critical issue to the success of a ballpark,” in reference to a potential new ballpark for the A’s. Tropicana Field (then the Suncoast Dome) had — and has — the worst ambience in baseball and is situated in the worst location in baseball…Baseball knew this, and still took the money.

On what the Rays need to do:

When the Giants foundered in Candlestick Park, executives pointed to weak attendance but strong television ratings as proof that the problem was not the market but the ballpark. The Rays’ television data suggests, too, that the problem might not be the market, after all, but the lack of a nice place to watch a game. The Giants took a risk and built their own ballpark. If the Rays are to be taken seriously, they might need to do the same [when the Rays proposed the waterfront park in downtown St. Pete, they were ready to contribute a good chunk of their own money. Would they do the same in Tampa?]

Somebody at ESPN actually did some, you know, research. And as a result, somebody at ESPN finally gets it.

We think we have a new favorite talking head at ESPN. And his name is Howard Bryant.

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20 Comments

  1. Blake says:

    Won't be with ESPN very long. Intelligence is not welcomed at the four-letter network.

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  2. pete says:

    Howard Bryant always writes quality pieces. ESPN will probably fire him for actually doing his job well.

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  3. Jeff says:

    When the Giants foundered in Candlestick Park, executives pointed to weak attendance but strong television ratings as proof that the problem was not the market but the ballpark. The Rays’ television data suggests, too, that the problem might not be the market, after all, but the lack of a nice place to watch a game.

    Amen. Good grief, as I've said numerous times, it's not that difficult given all of the metrics (i.e., research, actual factual evidence). I would add "nice place to watch a game in a central, easily accessible location". Isn't it ironic that the Rays are currently playing in Milwaukee and Houston--when the camera follows Todd Kalas around these beauties, doesn't it seem obvious that people do go just because of the amazing venue? Of course they do, and tourists want to visit, etc. etc.

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    • Beth says:

      The Rays visits to Milwaukee and Houston seem designed to show Tampa Bay fans that "domed stadium" does not need to be synonymous with "bunker." I have to admit I enjoyed watching this series on TV just to get views of the stadium.

      Surprisingly (to me) the same firm that designed Tropicana Field also designed Minute Maid Park in Houston. And they are even both named for orange juices! So why is our park so lame? Did HOK send their worst architects to St. Pete? Or do we have to blame the city officials who set the parameters for the architects for giving us a cellar-like ballpark?

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      • Carey says:

        10 years to early - and short on budget.

        Watch tonight and Imagine that beauty down in channelside. Keeping my fingers crossed.

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  4. Zack says:

    Downtown Tampa *clap clap**clap clap clap*!

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  5. Build it in Channelside.

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  6. pete says:

    Build it by the Casino. To me this is the logical choice as it opens up markets to us that we have never had.

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    • Carey says:

      No offense Pete, but it's a stupid choice. All you do then is take the current situation and flip it around (cutting off Pinellas). And PLEASE do not bring up the "it's easier for people from Orlando" thing. While I think tapping the state north of I-4 and West of I-75 is critical for our future success (TV footprint more than anything), we do not build stadiums in Tampa Bay with Orlando's needs in mind.

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      • pete says:

        My thought had very little to do with Orlando. More to do with Polk County and the people in Wesley Chapel and Land O Lakes. It also would keep the people in manatee and sarasota counties happy (myself included).

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        • Gregg says:

          Who lives in Wesley Chapel and Polk County? Certainly not as many as in Pinellas.

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          • Sarah says:

            The Pasco and Polk County populations, combined, are slightly larger than the Pinellas county population. Also, Pinellas county is built out and will not see any future population growth, whereas these other areas have been growing rapidly (well, nothing's growing right now but you get my point). But the point of the Fairgrounds area would be mostly increasing accessibility to Hillsborough County. So the idea wouldn't be just trading off Pinellas for Polk/Pasco, but doing that while increasing the Hillsborough numbers. I'm not saying the fairgrounds would be the way to go, but the attractiveness of that location would be accessibility to growing population centers in Hillsborough and beyond.

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  7. Jeff says:

    Channelside Park with Downtown views and home run water splashes in the channel or Ybor City Stadium built in old brick 1920's style. Both could be amazing and instant classics.

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  8. Carey says:

    Lastly. Any stadium must pay tribute (prominently, IMO) to the rich history of MLB Baseball in Tampa Bay, specifically the talent we've produced through the years. I'd like to "educate" some folks from up north.

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  9. Zach says:

    As a St. Pete resident I have just one thing to say: we travel to Tampa to see the Lightning, and the Bucs and occasionally the Storm and you folks in Tampa don't hear us complaining.

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    • Amanda says:

      According to the Rays, 60 percent of season ticket holders live in Hillsborough County.

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    • Amanda says:

      Oh yeah, and only 28.8 percent of Rays fans live in Pinellas County according to the Rays. That means 71.2 percent of fans cross the bridges to see them play.

      http://tampabay.rays.mlb.com/tb/sponsorship/demographics_index.jsp

      Put that in your cigar and smoke it. (On second thought, don't ... the Rays aren't fans of the Bay area's heritage.)

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