Sunday, July 22, 2007

Messengers Sports Sunday

The Yankees beat up on the Devil Rays this afternoon to the tune of a 21-4 drubbing that could have been worse. Andy Pettitte bore down and the old Yanks grew tired of rounding the bases from those 25 hits that included 4 doubles, a triple, and 6 home runs. A young and hungry team scores 30 runs on this day against those pitchers but Joe Torre teams know when to shift it to cruise control even when the opposing hurlers are all but tossing the horsehide underhand. Hey, yesterday was a doubleheader and the late afternoon game saw the Yanks bang out 20 hits so you figure the old dudes must have been tired as hell even before today's first pitch. Can't remember the last time a team had 45 hits over the course of two games but I'll be willing to wager it came against a team like Tampa Bay.

Back when the Rays were first starting out I held my breath in anticipation of some good baseball, because I traveled to Florida often enough and one more decent team to watch couldn't hurt. But they started with a crappy stadium and MLB gouged the ownership group so badly they've yet to recoup their entry-fees, and perfect sunshine be damned, people want to see GOOD sporting events or it's off to swimming, sailing and doing whatever ELSE there is to do in the land of tan.

The Tampa-St. Pete area is a terrific place to live and play and should have been a no-brainer as a place to open business. Drawing 30,000-35,000 folks per game should be child's play but to do requires one of those new, retro-friendly ball fields that'll draw the soccer moms and their sports-challenged brood. The ever so trendy residents were begging for a place to go and be seen enjoying a weekend at a glamorous little park but baseball and the original ownership configuration dropped the ball and hasn't come close to picking it back up. Even with so dismal an attendance...the Rays will be lucky to draw a million at home...the privately owned group that runs the team says it'll break even, and when you figure the top brass pay themselves hefty salaries that go into the debit side of operating expenses, that says a helluva lot about what kind of money the big owners must be raking in.

The fix? Find a billionaire owner to be who can fork over a few hundred mill to erect a fancy new ball park, and knows full well that it's going to be years before the real dough starts rolling in. With that climate and that city, only a true dunce could fail in the long run, but the bottom line with fans is giving them a winning product and in the modern free agency era all that means is spending money to make money. George Steinbrenner had to be the worst baseball mind in the universe, but his team will draw 4.2 million fans, and a $200 million payroll draws yawns from the bean counters. Maybe they can sell lousy baseball out west with glitz and fireworks, but the rest of the country will only line up to see stars being stars.

Yeah, the Yanks have always been my team but Florida is now my home and it'd be good to see the fella's compete on a regular basis.

The Yanks? I don't see them overtaking Boston but there's enough tiger in the tank to beat out the Indians for the Wild Card berth. And by then the combination of Torre's slumbering on the pine when he should be thinking and the wear and tear of 162 games will have taken its toll and they'll go quietly during the first round.

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