We were fortunate to witness maybe the most magical week in the history of the game last week. Dramatic endings in late innings had people glued to TVs across America, as a team from a city in need of a distraction and some entertainment battled a group of baseball veterans in search of the sports holy grail, a World Series ring. It was nothing short of riveting and showed all the magic the American pastime has to offer.
And then there is baseball in Tampa Bay. Which begs a paraphrase from the Vietnam protest era … “What if they gave a game, and nobody came?”
Today, Commissioner Bud Selig is expected to announce his plans for the potential retraction of two teams. And as part of a larger portrait of a new collective bargaining agreement with the union and revenue sharing among owners, it is projected that soon the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins might be no more. Unfortunately, one of the retracted franchises should be here in Tampa.
As anyone who has attended a game at the big, circular, library known as Tropicana Field last season can tell you, this area has embraced baseball like a heroin addict welcomes an intervention. The pantheon of empty seats in the building would seem to indicate a headlining act like Vanilla Ice instead of Major League Baseball.
You can’t really complain about the price of the tickets, as $3 to enjoy a game is a pretty good bargain. But the list of excuses given by “fans” in this region is too long to mention.
The big ones seem to be: It’s too far to drive. The food costs too much. The team stinks (This one is somewhat valid, and I would go so far to say this team is horrible.) Parking costs too much. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Guess what? It’s less than an hour drive. You can bring your own food. You can park for a dollar and take the trolley. And you still get to see the other team, which in most cases is a pretty good baseball club.
Any true fan of the game will pay to see not just his or her team, but the game played on the highest level. So, paying $3 to watch Pedro Martinez, the Yankee dynasty or Ichiro is quite a sports bargain in my book.
The reality is that Tampa Bay just doesn’t deserve a Major League franchise. Cities that beg for teams and are willing to build them free stadiums just to call themselves Major League towns deserve this disgrace of an expansion team much more than we do.
And, don’t tell me that if the team was on this side of the Bay they would succeed any more, because the Lightning barely scrape by, too.
Has there been mismanagement of the club? Absolutely. Owner Vince Naimoli and General Manager Chuck Lamar appear to have built this team on a foundation as stable as the San Andreas fault.
But, there are signs of potential quality players lurking in the system, and they do have nights where they show that there is some quality talent here. But, even if this team was winning 100 games a year, no one would come.
So, Mr. Selig, please send this team to a town that can use it. Because unless they start wearing face masks and hitting each other, no one in West Central Florida is going to care.
- Collin Sherwin is a senior majoring in political firstname.lastname@example.org