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….
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.