The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have managed to follow the trend in Bay area sports up to this point. Tampa Bay is home to two other major sports franchises: the Buccaneers and the Lightning. These franchises typically haven’t had the ability to win in the early years for a variety of reasons ranging from coaching to lack of quality personnel, and the Devil Rays are no exception.
The Buccaneers still hold the record for going winless in a season. After a vast array of coaches and being turned down by Bill Parcells not once but twice, the Bucs managed to turn around their ineffectivness when they hired Tony Dungy.
The Lightning were bottom-feeders in the NHL for years, hiring coach after coach until they found the right fit with John Tortorella.
Both franchises have gone on to win championships.
The Rays have never finished a season with a winning record, and while they have accomplished great things on and off the field, the franchise is a black eye to the baseball community, having never won more than 70 games in a season.
Managing partner Vince Naimoli put a proverbial padlock on his wallet since the early spending spree that brought Wilson Alverez and Greg Vaughn to the team. These players ultimately flopped, and the Rays haven’t spent since. The organization gave up a great prospect in Randy Winn to acquire manager Lou Piniella from the Seattle Mariners.
Last week, Piniella’s contract was bought out one month shy of his three-year anniversary with the team. Pinella walks away from a team that had no shot of winning due to ownership. With the possibility of Stuart Sternberg taking over at the end of the season, the Devil Rays may be the next team in the Bay area to be on the rise.
The minute the Glazer family was willing to spend money on the Buccaneers, they became a perennial playoff team, making the playoffs four times from 1997-2002.
Given the success following the change from the other franchises, the Devil Rays may be due for a turnaround. The fans of Tampa Bay were adamant about getting a baseball team, and now that it’s been nearly a decade, the fans want to see some playoff baseball. If part-owner Stuart Sternberg opens up the pocketbook for even a slight increase, the City of Champions may add baseball to that list one day.