We know we shouldn’t take anything Rick Reilly says too seriously. His legend is still cashing checks that he can’t live up to. But this is not the first time we have heard somebody say the “Rays are bad for baseball.”

From Signal to Noise (via Fanhouse)…

The Four-Letter’s $3 million a year poaching, Rick Reilly, subbed for Tony Kornheiser on PTI yesterday, via satellite from Denver with Michael Wilbon in-studio in D.C., and parroted what I’m fairly sure may be a common impulse among a certain segment of sportswriters regarding the current state of the baseball playoffs: he stated his preference for a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series, proclaiming the Tampa Bay Rays “bad for baseball.”

Often times we hear the same sentiment in the form of “if you could get Bud Selig off the record I bet he is rooting against the Rays.” Even Signal To Noise says an LA-Boston World Series is one “Bud Selig would love to see.”

Signal To Noise points out that a “worst-to-first” story is “not only good for the sport, but also compelling.” However, they agree with Reilly when they consider the business of the sport.

However, if you look at Reilly’s comment in the business sense, it fits. Tampa was 12th out of 14 AL teams in attendance this year, not helped by the reported shittiness of Tropicana Field, and locals are right to ignore a lousy team in a bad park for a while.

This is exactly why the Rays in the World Series is very good for the sport and it is good for the business of baseball.

The Tampa/St. Pete area is still an untapped market. While attendance improved this season and is likely to increase greatly next season, it is still lagging behind many ball clubs. The only way that the Rays and baseball will attract crowds is to give them a team worth supporting.

If the Rays go on to win the World Series, the RAYSHEAD ARMY will grow exponentially. More fans means more tickets sold, more merchandise purchased and more eyes watching on TV. How is that bad for baseball?

Consider another Red Sox World Series. Certainly this would be preferred by FOX, with larger ratings. But there is no benefit to baseball in terms of growth of the sport. Red Sox Nation has already reached saturation*. How many more fans can jump on that bandwagon? Will the Red Sox sell more tickets next season? Will they sell more jerseys and pink hats?

And certainly we cannot ignore the increased TV ratings that would be generated by a Red Sox World Series. The ratings impact how much revenue is generated the next time baseball sells the TV rights. But in the grand scheme of things, we think baseball will find a way to survive. As long as owners are still handing out $100 million contracts to players that will never even sniff the Hall of Fame without an admission ticket, the sport will be just fine.

In the end it is a simple question of what is more important to the health of the sport. A few more million dollars on the next TV contract? Or bringing more fans to the ballparks and more eyes to the TV sets. Anybody that thinks it is the former is just not thinking that one through.

*The part-time ecologist in us kinda wants Red Sox Nation to grow past what we call “carrying capacity”. Because when that happens chaos breaks out, starvation ensues, they start eating their young and destroying crops. And we all know what happens then. The hunters come.

Pushing The Narratives [Signal To Noise]
Are The Rays Bad For Baseball [Fanhouse]



  1. James says:

    Reilly is an idiot. Much like Bill Simmons. He used to be great. I remember 5 years ago, the first thing i did was open the back page of SI.

    in the end, maybe 1 out of every 5 or 6 columns was worth reading and he just isnt funny anymore

  2. Joe D, says:

    One thing that is great about the Rays is they are a "Fun Brand of Baseball" to watch. Even last year, the team had the worst record in baseball, I went to about a dozen Devil Rays games, and had a blast even in losing efforts.

    It’s fun to watch the team speed, come-from-behind wins, and the team still has some power hitters, and strikeout pitchers. Not to mention they also play fairly fundamentally sound baseball. Then you add in team youth and energy; all the love that the media is giving Joe Maddon. They are proverbial 'Cinderella Story' that sports loves. I can't see how anyone thinks that they are bad for baseball.

  3. Matthew says:

    I see it from both sides. It's definitely a great story, but a Rays World Series does little for baseball OUTSIDE of the St Pete area. while that doesn't mean anything to anyone living there, it does to the owner in Minnesota and San Diego. They're greedy, and don't care about the Rays, only about what helps them. Anyway, being born and raised and still residing in Mass, I was born a Sox fan, and will always be a sox fan - yet I agree with your wish for the "nation." I hate that term more than anything...nation. bullshit. Anyway, I'm sick of the pink hats and the fake fans and the dudes who call umpires refs and managers coaches. go back to watching wrestling, please. I want it to be only those truly dedicated watching - actually, i'm sure, a lot like you guys have it down there. nobody jumps on the bandwago (well before this year) of an awful team - you only watch and talk about it BECUASE YOU CARE. I envy you...

  4. The Professor says:

    i agree that the short term gain for other owners is negligible, but there is a gain. There are people from the Tampa/St. Pete are in other cities and they will be more likely to go to games.

    but really my point of view is from the business of baseball as a whole. remember there are two different levels here. in one aspect, teams compete against each other, but in another aspect they are partners and what is good for one is good for the whole. More baseball fans is still more baseball fans no matter where they live.

  5. Signal to Noise says:

    Thanks for linking.

    I believe the real test is what happens after the Rays' playoff run; we all are aware of how the Marlins blew any momentum by having fire sales after winning titles in 1997 and 2003.

    I should have differentiated between short and long-term when it comes to the business end: Dodgers-Red Sox is much better as a short term model and in the TV game; any two power teams from major media markets for a World Series will get better ratings thanks to the very casual fan.

    Long-term, Rays success is better for the league, not only because of the possibility of baseball in Tampa/St. Pete becoming a regular attraction and bigger draw, but because this particular model gives even less of an excuse to owners and GMs who cry poverty every year as an excuse for regular underachievement and poor system development (Pirates, Orioles, Royals.)

    That ultimate outcome is better for baseball as a whole; short of instituting parity a la the NFL, this is the best way to ensure perennial underachievers in baseball will have shorter ropes when it comes to not winning and developing talent well.


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