Ben ZobristJon Heyman of CBSSports.com has named his winners and losers of the off-season and the Rays top the wrong list, albeit for a weird reason.

Take it away, Jon:

“Not only did they lose beloved manager Maddon, resourceful GM Andrew Friedman, ultra versatile infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist and young power-hitting Myers, they continued to make no progress in their efforts to get out of the The Trop, one of the two worst baseball stadiums still extant. What’s more, at a St. Petersburg city hearing local politicos ripped some Rays decision makers, suggesting perceived haughtiness didn’t help their cause while rejecting the team’s request just to look around elsewhere in Tampa/St. Pete. The other sports franchises in Tampa are locally owned. Maybe it’s time for the Rays to follow suit.”

Weird. I thought this was going to be about actual, you know, baseball. And yet, 79 of the 101 words are on the stadium situation which is basically unchanged.

And I am yet to see a strong argument as to how a local owner will have better luck getting out of the Trop’s ironclad contract and financing a new stadium in an area where more fans have reasonable access to the team.

If we want to discuss the team, calling them losers for what happened this winter just depends on your point of view. I am on record as saying the team is basically sacrificing the 2015 season even if competitive games in September is not out of the question. But at the same time, the franchise is probably healthier for having done it and will keep the team competitive for another 5-6 years and beyond.

Even the losses of Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are probably being oversold. Remember, Friedman and Maddon, for the most part, were just implementing a franchise game plan that hasn’t left. While Matt Silverman and Kevin Cash will each put their own fingerprints on that plan, it is still a plan that has worked and will continue to work.

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13 Comments

  1. Gus says:

    A local owner will better understand his or her market. Sternberg and his team have many gifts, but understanding how to fill the stadium, maintain long-term season ticket relationships and make people emotionally invest in the team is not one of them.

    They grossly misunderstood the entire political and economic landsacape when they pushed for a new stadium in 2007-08, 2 years after Florida led the country into the great recession (and only 10 years after the Trop opened for baseball). The only person who made a worse hiring decision in 2008 than Stu's hiring of Michael Kalt was John McCain.

    Just how poorly they managed the lease amendment with the City of St. Pete in December illustrates how out of touch they are. Hire a lobbyist, hire some local lawyers, maybe even spend some time in the area and learn the people you are trying to make your millions off of, and then you'll see. Or just sell. For a time, Sternberg didn't even own the largest part of the team. Not sure what the current ownership composition is (I know they have a big money guy out of Chicago). But I'm sure if you went to Raymond James they'd find many Floridians interest in owning the team and let Stu and his crew buy into the Mets ownership group.

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    • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

      What is so nuanced about the people of St. Pete or Tampa that it would require spending some face-time with them in order to understand them? This is flawed logic. When referencing a large group of citizens there are wide sweeping generalizations that are made based on tons of socio-economic factors. Hitting the streets in St. Pete wouldn't enlighten Stu at all. It may make him seem more personable to the people who meet him, but it does nothing for him in terms of understanding the market.

      Market analysis is all about data not shaking hands.

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      • Gus says:

        Has Sternberg (or Kalt or anybody else on the business side) demonstrated any ability to get things done with local political or business leaders? No. They are awful at that. While I am sure it is POSSIBLE that you could live in NY and Connecticut and understand Tampa-St. Pete, it is obvious that these guys don't.

        Example #1: The open air Al Lang stadium proposal was DOA because of one simple fact: people who live in TSP know for a fact that no awning or cover is going to make it comfortable enough to enjoy any day game at that site (and many night games). Only a bunch of NE dorks who never lived in the area would even propose that. It was so tone deaf and stupid (and I loved the idea of a stadium on that site) that it killed a decent stadium proposal before it could get legs.

        They don't know their market and I think for most people the only way to really understand any market is to have boots on the ground or at least be listening to people who have boots on the ground. The top levels of ownership and management just don't have that.

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  2. Woodrow744 says:

    Wow - a national sportswriter who doesn't like the Trop. You're a little late to the party, my man. Being the brainiac sports guy that he is, I'm sure he remembers that the LAST owner was a local guy (mansion in Avila) and, coincidentally, signed the odious lease agreement for 27 years. He did that, in part, because even back then, the media vultures were circling overhead and he felt a concrete lease agreement would keep the team in town. I guess the under-inflated football scandal is over, so the "elite sportswriters" can go back to crapping on St. Pete.

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  3. Juggy says:

    Rays lose beloved manager Joe Madden.
    Beloved by whom?.
    Some of us began to see through him before the season even started. I LOVE being a Rays fan. I have been since I left NY in 96, but I was not in love with Joe. When I grumbled not so quietly from my season long seat at the Trop on Joe's approach I got some rebuttal in the stands in the beginning, but by summer time everyone around me groaned every time Forsythe or Molina came to the plate, or an obviously out of gas Peralta came to the mound in a tight game.
    Beloved by whom?
    The players who just went through the motions all year? (Its not hard to spot a demoralized team)Nor the new GM who pointed out to Joe that he had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave..

    The Maddon run was amazing. No doubt he made a big impact on how Managers approach the game these days, but I for one, am extremely excited to see the direction things are going. It is great to see a bunch of old Devil Ray faces back at a time and calling when they can bring success back to the Bay!

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    • FortMyersDave says:

      Juggy, I was listening to WDAE a few days ago and the hosts started discussing Chris Archer and how he is now becoming a vocal leader for the rays and he basically said in a roundabout way what you just said about Joe M; that his act was beginning to wear out thin with some of the rays.... He basically said that a lot of the current Rays will embrace Kevin Cash, that Silverman discussed a lot of these changes with the Rays as they went down and kept an open dialogue with the guys on the current roster. Archer also said that it will be good to have a manager that will take a conventional approach to the game among other things that alluded to Joe M perhaps getting a bit too dicey with his sabermetrics, playing musical chairs with the batting order, simply going off the reservation with the use of the bullpen among other mind boggling decisions this past season.... From what you hear from Archer; they will miss Zorilla but are not too unhappy about all the other changes.....

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  4. Mr. Smith 1980 says:

    The horse has been dead for years, but I'll keep beating it; the Trop is a great place to see a baseball game!
    Is it the same as hanging out outside, smelling fresh cut grass and feeling the summer breeze a la Fenway or The Jake... no! But none of those things happen in a stadium in Tampa/St. Pete anyways. You wanna feel Tampa's "summer breeze" in August? Be my guest!
    The Trop has great seats from every angle and is always a nice comfy 72 even when it's 90 outside. Too bad if it looks bad on TV, which is, I'm sure, the only way half of the 'pundits' have seen it.

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    • Rob says:

      I have to respectfully disagree. I love the Rays, but I hate the Trop (I attend 25+ games a year). You are correct that there are some good views, but everything else about it just stinks. Obviously I don't expect an open air experience, but I went to Wrigley last year (my first visit) to watch the Rays play the Cubs and I had a seat in right field for one game and one behind first base for another. Both of them seemed to be so close to the field that the players looked larger than life. At the Trop I always feel so far away from the action. MIami has done a spectacular job of letting in natural light in their stadium. Even when the roof is closed it feels like you are outside. The Trop feels like a basement covered in 70s paneling.

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    • Geoff Peterson says:

      I have no problem with the Trop either although a retractable roof would be nice and some natural lighting a la Houston would help too. Also it really should be on the water given that this is Florida and water is all around. There's something special about that San Fran stadium, I think I'd contact the designer. Do it once and do it right. Don't cheap out and make it tacky like Miami. They still can't draw flies.

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    • Political_Man says:

      I'm a simple man. The Tropical has air conditioning, easy parking, good food and a good team playing in it. I like the Tropical but the sight lines are average at best, the catwalks interfere with the panoramic view of the outfield from the infield, and the seats are rather small in the outfield.

      It's time to move on from Tropicana Field To A Stadium that is closer to the fans and with more modern amenities.

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      • Mr. Smith 1980 says:

        I agree with all your points (I may have overstated the great view from all seats). I wasn't saying that I wouldn't LOVE a new stadium. I was just saying that it's not an eighth as bad as they try to make it seem.

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      • Bobby Jones says:

        I will be glad when the Rays move to Tampa and the Tampa Yankees move to St Pete. I can't believe the Yankees will be kicked out of Tampa without an effort to block the move. If the Boss was still here, he would . Tampa is a Yankee Town. St Pete is a minor league and spring training city. Let the moves happen quickly.

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  5. Les Parker says:

    The Trop is a disgrace to baseball. This is the Big Leagues and we have a stadium that has balls hitting the roof numerous times during the season. For that reason alone we are the laughing stock of baseball. The Rays have made many mistakes but building that joke of a Stadium in that location will forever haunt them. It will be a miracle if we keep our team.

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