The C and R Words

Ken Rosenthal, fresh off his appearance at Rays FanFest, penned an article this morning in which he mentioned the Rays and contraction.

Fans of the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays need not worry. But don’t be surprised if the “C” word — contraction — returns to the baseball lexicon soon.

I’m already hearing rumblings that certain big-market teams want to drop the A’s and Rays, even though the idea stands little chance of actually becoming reality.

The answer is to get the A’s to San Jose and help the Rays find some better alternative — be it in Tampa or Orlando, San Antonio or Charlotte, whatever market makes the most sense. Healthy franchises are in the best interests of all parties, generating greater revenues, leaving fewer teams to subsidize, raising player salaries.

As an Orlando resident, I can say confidently the Cubs stand a better of chance of winning the next three World Series titles than the Rays do of ever moving here. This market has fought every new money expenditure tooth and nail from the new Amway Arena to sprucing up the rotting corpse of a stadium that the Citrus Bowl is. The Citrus Bowl reeks of urine and the last time I was there in 2006, men still had to line up to a metal trough to relieve itself. Beyond basic upgrades, the stadium makes Tropicana Field look like a modern facility and yet it had to settle for FieldTurf as its only upgrade only because the NCAA threatened to pull the bowl games after the mud bowl debacle two years back.

There is less public funding for a baseball stadium in this market than there is in Tampa Bay and converting the stadium on Disney property to get up to MLB standards would also be an expensive undertaking. That facility seats 10,000 in seats and another 3,000 or so on grass and parking for the place is at best problematic on a busy day of Spring Training.

Joe Tetreault of The Biz of Baseball covered the top ten relocation or expansion markets in baseball back in mid-September and listed the pros and cons of each market. Charlotte ranks 23rd on the recent television market ratings with 1,116,180 households with televisions. That is a drop down from the 14th ranked Tampa Bay area that has 1,795,200 households with televisions and those are the numbers advertisers look at. Charlotte also impacts the television markets of the Braves, Nationals, and Orioles and it would not be a stretch to imagine Liberty Media fighting for a similar sweet payoff that Peter Angelos got to allow the Nationals into his backyard.

San Antonio is worse – ranked 37th in the recent television market rating with 884,910 households with television which is more than 50% less than where the Rays currently play. Drayton McLane would also be very protective of his interest in his back yard and the Texas Rangers ownership also has a good foothold in that television market. There is money in Texas, but not a stadium so the market would have to start from scratch.

The Rays are already in the 14th best television market in the country and have the 19th best television market less than 90 miles to its east. If you consider “Orlampa” a megalopolis, it would be the fourth largest television market in baseball trailing only New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. I would argue they’re already in the market that makes the most sense. Unfortunately, it is a market that is fighting both the national housing crisis and a much higher than average unemployment rate. Both of those battles are showing improvement and the former at least appears to have an end in sight in the next 18-24 months if you listen to the local experts in the field.

There is a solution in this current market and relocation is certainly an option, but a last-ditch one at that. Given the financial successes of baseball in recent years, contraction seems almost comical to bring up. Then again, the thoughts were written after hearing comments from Hank Steinbrenner talking about teams in “minor” markets. Hearing that kind of talk from a guy who was born into a genetic lottery and handed a team in a major market goes over as well as Paris Hilton talking about her struggles to make ends meet.



About Jason Collette

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4 Responses to The C and R Words

  1. ryangilliss says:

    I’m surprised when national media speculate on relocation for a team such as the Rays. They throw out places like Charlotte, Memphis, Portland and the like. Any small amount of research would show that it’s highly unlikely that the Rays would find any of the regions viable as alternatives to the Bay area. For the Rays to move, you would have to imagine that it would be for a larger market that has demonstrated an ability to support a pro sports franchise. Unfortunately (or fortunately), that market does not exist.

    • Any move out of this area is a downgrade in market exposure (which advertisers crave) unless they bring a third team back to the New York area. I cannot imagine the Steinbrenner doofuses or the Wilpons being anxious for that to happen since this franchise has a very bright future in farm talent. Farm talent, and new revenue streams would make the team quite dangerous as they’re already kicking ass despite the limitations here.

      • ryangilliss says:

        The only markets that make sense are New York / New Jersey or Southern California. None of the ownership groups there would allow that to happen. Contraction is always an option, but it requires a willing team, and I can’t imagine that the Rays would be willing to do that.
        Hank Steinbrenner’s comments lead me to believe that the “large market” squads may be steeling themselves for a protracted battle when it comes time for the next CBA (next year I believe).

      • to be fair, contraction requires 2 willing teams as an unbalanced schedule would be a nightmare logistically.

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