I recieved this email the other day from a Devil Ray fan and I thought it would be best if the community addressed him with a response.
I am sending this out as help and maybe you can be of assistance to me or you could just comment back to me. I care greatly about the success of major league baseball here in the Tampa Bay area, but I am starting to feel that the current landscape, the collective bargaining agreement, the unbalanced schedule and the lack of motivation from baseball to the people here in this market illustrate that the Devil Rays may never be able to compete. I know this is long and winded, but I hope you could shed some light and be of assistance and comment back to me. I don't think it can ever work here without Mr. Sternberg, Mr. Friedman and Mr. Silverman admitting they want to win, and will combine their "prime prospects" with a solid veteran presence both in the rotation, pen and preferably 1B. Again, my thanks to you. Please comment back if you can. I know the position that the organization is that of an unenviable one, however, I would hope that it is the goal, the mission and the vision of Mr. Sternberg to win a World Series, period. Maybe you can shed some light here and correct me where I am wrong, I would love to exchange some civil discourse. Again, I apologize for the length, but I feel this is of great importance. It will take impact players from beyond the organization, of a veteran ilk to work with our young talent to begin to have a chance to compete, let alone win a World Series. I thank you very much.
Thanks, Joe Dobrowski
Hi again. I waited a bit, but now with the explosion taking place with what the Toronto organization is going to try to do, this puts the Rays in a perilous position. To me, its quite obvious they (the Rays ownership) has the financial coffers. If Rogers Communications (Ted Rogers) has the passion and commitment to take a big gob and raise their payroll, (they will be over $100M) next year) where will it put the Rays? This team is going to die a slow agonizing death! They will get steamrolled if they do not reconsider their plan and the amount of "impact players" they have in their system. It will take more, and it will take some shrewdness and some smart acumen to do so, but they have to do something.
Major league baseball is in horrible shape bottom line. This is going to cripple the market. You will never hear that from the ownership of the club because they are proud and think that their plan can work. Its like a game of roulette though. All of the spots on the board are being bought up and the Rays are the 1 in a million longshot. I hold the Commissioner, the MLBPA and the previous ownership group responsible and accountable for what could happen here. I have forwarded to you a letter I wrote to the Rays yesterday. A lot of it was what I wrote you before, plus some other insight. This ownership group has the duty and the responsibility to find out if this is truly a major league market. Put a team on the field and not just the game itself! I have waited since I moved here as a boy 20 years ago!
I hope you can call out your peers in the media and put pressure on the Commissioner's Office, the offices of the MLBPA (Mr. Fehr and Mr. Orza), and the ownership group of the Devil Rays to do whatever it takes to get this sport fixed before it is gone in 30 years! I care greatly for this community and what you are doing, but this is a very serious time and place for this franchise right now. I hope you can do as much as you said, but the odds are getting longer by the day. I know we are getting into Bucs' season and I wish you all the best. Again thanks to you, I appreciate it and my best to you.
----------------- Forwarded Message: Subj: Constructive Criticism and a Challenge Date: 9/5/2006 11:56:55 P.M. Eastern Standard Time From: JoeDobr9977 To: firstname.lastname@example.org Good day to you. My name is Joe, and I am 28 years old. I am a resident of Oldsmar. I have lived here I was 10 years old with the exception of 6 years in the U.S. Navy and a year of college in Long Island. I was originally from the Attleboro and Plainville, Mass. and I still have family up and around the greater Boston area. Baseball has been a game that has been like an heirloom to me; passed down from love from my father, vistiting McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket and Fenway Park in Boston as a youngster. Ever since I was a young boy moving to this area, I have dreamed of having a major league baseball team here in the Tampa Bay area. I can remember the sadness and the anger over the failure of receiving the National League expansion club in 1991 and the incredible sadness of the failed relocation bid of the San Francisco Giants in 1993 I am currently working on my Master's Degree (specifically MBA) from Argosy University in Tampa where I plan on majoring in Public Administration. However, the main reason I wanted to write you, a matter that I am highly passionate about is the Devil Rays and the state of "smaller-sized, lower revenue" markets in comparison to Boston or Atlanta or even Minnesota for that matter. This area prior to earning the expansion bid in 1998 tried vigorously to land MLB and even had a season ticket waiting list of 20,000 fans prior to the poorly run operation that Vince Naimoli presided over. I somewhat agree that some time should be given to allow the new ownership and baseball operations people time to execute their plan of reinvigorating the minor league system as well as the lack of international scouting and player development before judgement is made. However, without contradicting that notion, I can not help but to note how foolish and short-sighted your plan appears to be. Major league baseball championship teams are not all built on straight up home grown minor league talent. I fear that the organization is too much in love with the talent already in the system The new general manager, Andrew Friedman has only been in baseball for two years as a proverbial 2 year "apprenticeship" under the unprincipled Chuck LaMar, learning the aspects of the Devil Ray organization. As mentioned by other media members locally and nationally, the club between revenue sharing, licensing, national TV contracts and the general fund get between $60-70M a year without selling a ticket to a ballpark, depending on other incoming revenue sources. You are under no obligation to agree or disagree with that numbers that I said but I have read the Forbes magazine articles and I have listened to Mr. Friedman's countless conversations with the media disagreeing with that amount. I also disagree with Mr. Friedman's current assessment of the payroll for the club, considering that the roster is now a 40 man roster and not a 25 man roster and that I view that the overall team payroll is 29th out of 30 in major league baseball. I understand the new ownership had to pay off Mr. Naimoli who I believe has caused irreparable damage to the club and the marketplace that this area may not ever fully recover from. From listening to and reading other sources, I have serious doubts that the new ownership and Andrew Friedman has the will, the courage and the fortitude to put a championship level, let alone winning product on the field. Case in point, the fiasco with Julio Lugo started almost 9 months ago at last year's Winter Meetings in Dallas when they were ready to trade him to Atlanta for Andy Marte, however, I have learned that the Rays wanted to get a closer look and inspection at Marte's medical records and wanted to put him through a full physical before even discussing the trade. The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians had no problems trading for Marte twice in the same offseason. The Braves subsequently traded Marte to Boston for Edgar Renteria. Why is this so weird? Usually minor league prospects that were not hurt or coming off of injury are not asked to take physicals of the nature the Rays wanted to ask of the Braves for Marte. I find it odd that Lugo's name was bantered about in trade discussions up until the point the club tried to negotiate a contract extension even after this flap. Up to last month, the Rays and Boston were in discussions to trade Lugo to Boston. However, for some reason, the Rays began to negotiate with Lugo for a long term deal, in my belief, knowing they were going to trade Lugo anyways. They already do not have a good rapport with the Red Sox brass and attempted to insinuate tampering charges with Lugo's agent, hence forcing them to trade Lugo to the Dodgers. It is my belief that although the Rays may have offered Lugo a contract, they already knew they were not going to give fair market pricing, knowing the Sox interest in Lugo and using the premise that the Sox tampered with Lugo's agent in the "last ditch" negotiations. If Miguel Tejada gets paid just under $12M a year and guys like Renteria and Jimmy Rollins get paid $9-10M a year, Lugo falls right in that category. I did not feel that way a year ago, but I feel that way now. All the team wanted to do is make it look like they tried, and then blame the Sox for not getting the deal done. I am of the belief Lugo will be the starting SS in Boston for the next 2-3 years eventhough Alex Gonzalez has done well. Lugo is a top of the order dynamic player who could help Boston's top of the order, or any other club for that matter. Which leads me to the $64 million dollar question. This team will NOT augment and supplement this team with pedigree level free agents with their young talent to try to compete. You will hear terms like the "farm system is our lifeblood" and "cost effective" coming from Mr. Friedman. What I am about to say is not a comment out of jealousy towards a peer but a matter of fact. I fear that Gerry Hunsicker was hired, again in my opinion, as a "networker" to introduce themselves to the world of major league general managers. Again, I believe that Gerry should have been made the GM right off the start so Andrew could have more time to acclimate himself to the realm of business. It comes from the who you know not what you know aspects of business. What Stuart Sternberg, Matt Silverman and Andrew fail to realize is that other clubs in the AL East do not take the same approach as they are. Putting 9 starters on the field less than 26 years old is a strategy doomed to fail more often than not. I do not want to see a team of Wes Bankston, Cantu, Ben Zobrist, Upton, Navarro, Crawford, Baldelli and Delmon Young. Who on this club has ever won a World Series championship or has ever competed in the postseason for that matter? All I ask for is a trade or free agent acquisition of at least a SP who can throw 200 IP, a 1B who can hit for power and average and anchor the middle of the lineup and veteran bullpen help to help shore and stabilize innings 6-8. Yes, the Red Sox and now the Blue Jays who say they will increase their payroll wish the same thing right now which complicates matters even further for the Devil Rays!! You have to crawl before you can walk. However, the ownership group and operations people seem bent over to put the kiddie corps out there. Putting kids on the field without key veterans is a horrible strategy. And I am not talking about the Greg Nortons or Ty Wiggintons, I am talking about a guy like Mark Teixeira if he becomes available to a trade or Chad Tracy in Ariz. or Nick Johnson. As evidenced by the Detroit Tigers willing to go high and overboard in signing Ivan Rodriguez or Kenny Rogers, what will the Rays do? The Rays can only go so far, which is somewhat higher than they are now but they can never win this division. By golly if the competition will stop at nothing like the Yankees and the Sox and now the Jays most of the time, then what are you going to do? Do nothing? Yes the attendance is up here 30% from last year but from where to where? Now the attendance is up 20% from last year at this point They are still 14 out of 14 in the AL!! Strong major league crowds on a nightly basis start at about 28,000 a night, which begins respectability. You are still light years away. I have attended 5 games this year, and I was there for the Kansas City game on the first Saturday of the regular season. There were 20,000 fans there, and most like me were curious. People want to see a winner here, and I am afraid and concerned the ownership sees the writing on the wall. The Buccaneers and the Lightning have won championships here by showing commitment and fortitude with the fans and their own players Yes, the new owners have to put on a good face for media and public, but they do have an obligation to the other members of the limited partnership to turn over so much for profit. I don't want to see 4 or 5 guys like Jonny Gomes, Travis Lee, Hollins or Tomas Perez struggle to hit .200 for a season?! That is a disgrace to the game, its a disgrace to the teammates and is absolutely unacceptable. I care. I care a great deal. I have a strong gut feeling that this is in vain. The ownership and braintrust of the organization is stuck and trying to prove they can do it their way. The convoluted baseball economic system coupled with the unbalanced schedule and lack of love will commit this franchise to purgatory. Its the same regard that the fans feel in Kansas City or Pittsburgh! It will take "change agents" from the OUTSIDE of the club, not in the farm system to break the malaise and help put this club into respectability. Mr. Sternberg has to know how Detroit began its run this year, and it all started with the signing 4 years ago of Ivan Rodriguez. Then they added Magglio Ordonez and Kenny Rogers. Look how important Paul Konerko was last year to Chicago?! Pudge again in Florida 3 years ago and Curt Schilling 2 years ago in Boston. Bottom line you build championship level clubs with saavy trades, free agent signings and the farm system. I do not want to see this over commitment, over dependence and the "academic" responses from what I believe to be a very nice man, yet overmatched in Andrew Friedman, who was a friend and colleague of Sternberg's in New York. This is not Wall Street where you "buy low and sell high" and build a portfolio. The economics of the game are not logical. Its kill or be killed. A degree of risk must be assumed. At least the ownership in Toronto tried this year, and hopefully they will try again next year. I can only hope you would provide a measured response to me, even though I am here and you are up there. I feel that there is a very poisoned relationship between Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman over the Lugo fiasco that can seriously harm the Devil Rays in the future, which was taken out over the Javy Lopez deal. I am worried that this team is not willing to go for broke and commit overly to the youth. In closing I ask this of you and I request to know what is the mission and vision of this organization. There is a fundamental difference to "winning baseball" and bringing a World Series championship to the Tampa Bay area. Is it the organization's goal and Mr. Sternberg's goal and mission to bring a World Series championship here to Tampa Bay? It will take a lot more than what you have done already to even to begin to think about being competitive in this sport. Nine years ago, I was happy that I realized the game and the brand of major league baseball came to Tampa Bay, but nine years later, I realize that Tampa Bay still does not have a major league team to call its own. The game is played here but we do not have the team in place. Will the organization realize that no "seed has been planted" as of yet and acquire veteran, established talent that has won in other cities to come here and show Crawford, Baldelli and Kazmir how to win? Is Mr. Sternberg fanatically passionate about winning a World Series title, is Andrew Friedman ready to assume some risk and attack and be more aggressive in pursuit of free agents and does the field manager have to be accountable to the same passion to ultimately win the big prize and instead of the same "teachings" the fans have seen for the last nine years? What I ask of you is not easy. It isn't my money, but it is my time, and my own love. 20 years later, I am still dreaming! I fear the economics of the sport and the collective bargaining agreement and the direct competition are considerable barriers the club has to breach. However, I hope its a challenge from top down is one all of you are willing to accept and make it your mission to win. To know that Tampa Bay is won of the 17 largest media markets in size and Mr. Friedman question the fan base in comparison to other markets is an excuse that I can't or shouldn't have to hear. The other clubs don't offer excuses, they just go out there and beat the Devil Rays at or about a 70% clip. Will you pay THE price for success and a pennant and a championship or are you content to pay YOUR price as you did or tried to do with Julio Lugo? There is a forest beyond the trees and I pray and implore you to alter and adjust your plan before serious alienation takes place. I have a great deal of respect and care and admiration for all of you, considering what I have said. I care for this community, as it has been my home for the last better part of 20 years. I will continue to support major league baseball here, as I feel its an indispensable tool of civic pride for a community such as ours. However, the product is atrocious and I fear the state of the game has been in decay since the 1994 strike. The challenges I ask are not easy but its more than what I have seen and read in the media. A 10-20% in payroll for me as a fan is absolutely unacceptable. The game of baseball has become Darwinistic. Are you willing to pay for it and play it? I again thank you and wish all of you the best of success. Thank you and all of my best to you, Joe Dobrowski