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Tampa Bay Times columnists who mail it in: Daniel Ruth Edition

Hey, did you know newspapers are dying?

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We here at DRaysBay have been closely following the Rays Stadium Saga, at times writing critically about the lack of financial planning or political cooperation that has gone along with the Saga in Hillsborough County.

Our work often draws from the reporting of our region’s daily newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times. Reporters like Richard Danielson and Charlie Frago are among those who have filed stories from both sides of the Bay, and John Romano, sports writer turned general columnist, has added to the conversation with solid reporting and style.

But one thing we really hate seeing is column space wasted on lazy writing.

The following are excerpts from an Op-Ed in the Tampa Bay Times by Daniel Ruth regarding County Commissioner Ken Hagan’s proposed Rays Stadium site, which exemplifies the worst of professional journalism, and for which I have provided commentary.

The article — titled No parking at Rays stadium in Ybor? So what? No, fans either — begins as follows:

From all the hub-bub you might well have thought Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan had alighted on a new home for the Tampa Bay Rays that rivaled the Roman Coliseum meets Carnegie Hall meets Augusta National.

First point of clarification: The “hub-bub” was Commissioner Hagan leaking the 14-acre site selected for a new Rays stadium to the local NBC News Affiliate.

This was big! Very big! Indeed the site Hagan announced in Ybor City had everything you could possibly want in a baseball stadium. It had dirt. And then it had ... well, it had dirt. And at least that’s a start. Dirt. Very important.

Fascinating, go on.

With Hagan, who has sort of become the Branch Rickey of The Big Guava, as the point man for the effort to lure the Rays to this side of Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg, officials announced they had reached an agreement to purchase a 14-acre site bordered by the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, North 15th Street, East 4th Avenue and Channelside Drive.

And there was great joy in Yborville.

Ok. No one actually says The Big Guava or Yborville. However, I will relent that The Big Guava is kind of a fun name for Tampa, and we should probably bring it back from The 70’s. As for the rest of Mr. Ruth’s vernacular...

It is probably true if you plopped a stadium into the Ybor footprint, it would likely be a spiffy new place for the Rays lads to play baseball. And let’s face it, don’t all lads just love to play baseball?

Spiffy? What is he talking about? Who are lads? Does he mean Mad Lads?

Yet, as earnest as the Hagan announcement was, there are just a few teeny-weeny little issues associated with the Ybor City location. Probably nothing of any consequence.

For starters, the site proposed for the new Rays ballpark made no mention of where everyone is supposed to park. Not that, given current attendance figures for the team, you really need all that much space.

Oh, so now the call is coming from inside the house?

Attendance is literally the problem a new stadium is trying to address. Why kick the Rays when they are down? What is the purpose of this long introduction?

I’ll bet this will go on to be a thoughtful article that looks for ways to address parking questions and raises provocative ideas about contemporary urban design and Tampa’s streetscapes, right?

The presumption seems to be fans will be able to park at nearby city parking garages, and since Ybor is such a haven of public safety at night, what could possibly go wrong?

Now we are getting somewhere!

Spoiler Alert: the parking conversation (for which this op-ed was named) ends with that statement. Everything else is off-topic.

The sarcastic “a haven of public safety” is not substantiated, and there’s no discussion of new construction, or how the revitalization of a neighborhood could help the problem he appears to be afraid of. And again, no further discussion of parking.

Alas, he moves on.

Then there is the little matter that even if the Rays decide to settle in Ybor, it is estimated a new facility could cost as much as $600 million. It seems everyone keeps whistling past the graveyard whenever the subject of who foots the bill for a new stadium comes up, sort of like diplomatically ignoring crazy Uncle Claude who lives up in the attic and thinks he’s really Teddy Roosevelt.

Does this guy think he’s Mark Twain? Who says any of this nonsense? If you squint there’s a valid point in there somewhere, but I can’t see past the bull moose.

But any facility that is going to cost well into the nine figures better well be addressed while Ken Hagan awaits the honor of throwing out the first pitch on opening day — someday.

So the assertion is that Commissioner Hagan is not publicly discussing financing plans because he’s blinded by glory?

There appears to be precious little appetite for the public to pay very much toward a new stadium that will only accrue to the financial benefit of Rays owner Stu Sternberg and his multi-millionaire roster of players.

Baseball Players do not directly benefit from stadium revenues.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn isn’t onboard to commit taxpayer dollars for a stadium. And let us not forget in his euphoria to announce the Ybor site, neither Hagan nor anyone else from the county ever bothered to give Buckhorn a courtesy heads up. Buckhorn probably wasn’t amused.

We also took issue with this, Mr. Ruth. But I take bigger issue with everything you’ve said before this statement. Sure Commissioner Hagan let the cat out of the bag, but respectfully, your substance-free snark seems just as irresponsible.

Indeed, not even the Rays could summon up much enthusiasm for the Ybor location, offering a sort of tepid, "That’s very nice, thanks for the effort," boilerplate response.

Incorrect. Were the Rays supposed to give up the game and say “Yes! This is what we want, goodbye St. Pete!” Here’s the actual statement, which takes a neutral tone in deference to the ongoing bidding process:

Think of this as baseball’s answer to the wife who asks her spouse, "Does this dress make me look fat?" No, not at all.

I’m not sure how to decipher this anachronism, but let’s just say Mr. Ruth may hail from an older generation.

It might very well turn out the proposed Ybor site will come to fruition and all will be wonderful, all questions about financing resolved without public money, all parking concerns put to rest.

And you helped?

But in the meantime, you have to suspect the Rays will continue to cast about for other land throughout Tampa Bay for a new home. It ain’t over until it’s over.

That’s exactly why the statement above, which you criticized, was neutral Mr. Ruth.

There is one possible overlooked option to be considered.

Do tell, professor.

Have the Rays pondered the possibility of relocating to Helloooooo Sucker Stadium? After all, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t seem to be using it very much these days.

As helpful as you are clever, sir.


Daniel Ruth and fellow journalist Tim Nickens received the Pulitzer Prize for their work in 2013, which helped reverse a decision to end fluoridation of the water supply for the 700,000 residents of Pinellas County.