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The Blame Game: Enough Already!

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We don’t normally write posts responding to something another journalist wrote. Frankly, there are so many disparaging, erroneous, and misleading articles out there about the Rays that it would take far too long to respond to them all. I’m making an exception this time. FoxSports’ Tracy Ringolsby wrote the latest erroneous piece, and I have no idea what point he’s trying to make.

Mr. Ringolsby’s piece is entitled "Tampa Bay Rays just can’t please their fans". First off, if that’s some sort of weird innuendo, consider me glad they can't please me. Secondly, what does that title mean? Let’s see if he clears it up in the second paragraph line:

"That is, if you can find any – Rays fans, that is."

ZING. Talk about original.

Ringolsby just made a joke that NO ONE has EVER made before about the Tampa Bay fan base. He is the first. Watch out, Bill Simmons, Tracy Ringolsby is coming after your Sports Writer Comedian crown.

The Rays are being slowly dismantled, not by desire but, because of the economic reality that the ownership faces.

So you do understand. Whew, I was thinking your whole article was going to be a lazy attack at the Rays fan base. Glad you see it from our side. What's next?

The Rays built a franchise the way the public claims to want a franchise to be built, from the ground up. They created a team that played the way the public claims it wants a team to play, featuring flash and dash and a determination to win. They produced results that fans are supposed to endorse, advancing to the World Series two years ago, and winning the American League East this year, finishing ahead of baseball’s two big spenders, the Yankees and Red Sox. The Rays have the fourth-best record in the major leagues the past three seasons, behind only the Yankees, Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.

The fan response?

You can virtually hear a pin drop at Tropicana Field, not only this year but most every year since the Rays were created out of expansion back in 1998.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. You were so close, *sigh*. Ringolsby goes on to note how the Rays attendance hasn't been above two million since 1998. Is that the barometer now? I wasn't aware. Here's the Rays attendance over the past three seasons: 1,811,986. 1,874,962. 1,864,999. Here is what it was in 2007, their last awful season: 1,387,603. Given Tropicana Field's location and the unemployment rate in the Tampa Bay area, the near 500k jump in attendance is about the max I think you can reasonably expect. Of course, Ringolsby makes nary a mention of those two factors.

The result? As Rays players reach free agency, they become members of the Tampa Bay alumni club. If the ticket-buying public doesn’t care, why should ownership?

Does everyone in the Tampa Bay area become a member of the Tampa Bay alumni club if they move away? Is there some sort of card you get to carry, or perhaps a crest?

Getting back on topic, the public does care. We've written about it numerous times so I won't go into too much detail, but the Rays had the fifth-best local television ratings in the majors last year. That's more than the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers to name a few. Again, that's something Ringolsby fails to mention. He does, however, mention that the team has lost Carl Crawford, Joaquin Benoit, and Carlos Pena, with Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour seemingly likely to depart as well. Using Ringolsby's logic, that is somehow the fault of Rays fans not showing up to the games. That couldn't be more incorrect.

Let's play a game. Say the Rays suddenly had a $120 million payroll. That would have ranked as the seventh highest in baseball at the start of the 2010 season. Do you think the team would have given Crawford a seven year contract? How about three years at $5 million per for Benoit? $10 million for Pena? Whatever silly amount Soriano is going to sign for? I'd say no on each count. I don't believe there is a scenario in which the Rays give a seven year deal to any 29 year old, let alone Crawford. The same goes for Benoit and Pena. It doesn't jive with their philosophy. They can (and will) find better ways to allocate their money. For example, Jonah Keri suggested they sign Adrian Beltre to a bargain and play two third basemen at the same time instead. That's mostly meant in jest, but still...I could totally see Maddon five man infielding the hell out of people.

Of course, a $120 million payroll is never going to happen. Even if the Rays' attendance rises, considering the size of the Tampa Bay market, their best case scenario will always be a situation similar to the Brewers: a $75 million-$85 million payroll with attendance in the 2.5-3 million range. Gate revenue only goes so far.

And who can blame the ownership? Businessmen are in business, after all, to make money. And the Rays ownership has spent money in scouting and player development that has translated into big-league success but hasn’t translated into a growing fan base.

Once again, if Ringolsby went by just about any metric other than ticket sales he'd see that is totally false. Really, you're writing this on your laptop which is, I presume, connected to the internet. Information isn't hard to look up.

And to mend fences with what fans they do have, the Rays ownership decided to give tickets away for a late-season home game. The good news is that folks actually showed up and filled the seats at the Trop that game. The bad news is giving away tickets doesn’t help a franchise avoid having to give away its talented players.

Huh? What does giving away tickets have to do with retaining talented players? I...I can't take it anymore *headasplodes*