Cool Websites 2005: Blogs
SBNation makes the list.
Also, I was quoted in a recent article on the Devil Rays:
bleeding Rays dry
ST. PETERSBURG · Baseball purgatory has a sale on
Looking for a five-piece bedroom set? How about an ottoman
from the Montego Bay collection? Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place
— a Devil Rays baseball game.
Welcome to Major League Baseball’s Bizarro
World, where the Devil (Double-A) Rays continue to sink into the abyss, manager
Lou Piniella screams until he gets red in the face and, frankly, no one seems to
How tacky is the world of Devil Rays managing partner Vince Naimoli
when, in the entrance that leads to the clubhouses at Tropicana Field, a local
furniture store has set up a showroom with price tags dangling from the arms of
chairs and dressers.
(By the way, the ottoman is going for $599 and an
area rug for $199).
No wonder why the Devil Rays are professional sport’s
most embarassing franchise, one led by an ownership group that has spent nothing
on trying to bring a respectable team to its fans. Then again, who can pay
attention to baseball when there’s furniture to sell.
The motto for the
Devil Rays: Go to a baseball game and watch a furniture store break out. The
answer to the question "How low can you go" is right here in this domed, bleak
building incarcerating one miserable franchise. Welcome to the end of the world
"I’ve conceded to losing, which is pretty sad when you think
about it," said Devil Rays fan Dustin Staggers of Tampa. "I’ve given up
And who can blame him when you consider the Devil Rays are in the
same division as the free-spending Yankees and Red Sox. Who can blame him when
there’s no hope in sight.
There are only two great moments in the history
of the Devil Rays — the first game played (March 31, 1998) and Wade Boggs
getting his 3,000th hit. That’s it. There are no divisional titles or memorable
games for ESPN Classic. The Rays’ best finish: 21 games under .500. Their goal
this year: Not to break a franchise record of 106 losses.
and David Letterman have poked fun at them. Fans have stopped coming to the
games and others, like Staggers, have started Web sites asking for Naimoli’s
departure (oustnaimoli.com). Staggers, a local businessman, also tried to stage
a walk-out recently in the middle of a game at Tropicana Field.
wants to keep going to a crappy stadium to see a crappy team," Staggers
It’s hard to believe professional baseball could come to this with
its history in St. Petersburg. The St. Louis Browns came here in 1914 for spring
training, and the city spent $138 million building the Dome in an attempt to
lure a team. They flirted with the White Sox, Giants and Twins before finally
being awarded the Devils Rays in 1995.
"I realized we were going to lose
those first few years," Staggers said.
"You knew there were going
to be growing pains," said Devil Rays fan David Bloom, a Tampa native who keeps
a daily blog from North Carolina.
But no one could foresee
Naimoli bleeding this team dry. Their payroll of $29.8 million is the lowest in
the majors, and only the Pirates ($38.1 million) and Royals ($36.8 million) also
have payrolls under $40 million.
It’s a shame because these fans will
support a team. They proved that while suffering for years with the NFL’s
Buccaneers and NHL’s Lightning. Marlins reliever Jim Mecir played for the Devil
Rays their inaugural season. "It was awesome," he recalled. "There was nothing
but potential, like everytime someone gets a new team."
But Naimoli, who
has one of baseball’s most profitable franchises because he reinvests no money
in the team, has done nothing to move the franchise forward. It’s a shame when
you consider that, when the Devil Rays won 20 games last June, this town was
excited. There was talk of making a run at the wild card and there was even a
pep rally. At the end of the year, the Devil Rays had won 70 games for the first
"It looked like we were headed in the right direction and
maybe they’d make a few trades at the winter meetings," Bloom said.
Instead, the Devil Rays signed Roberto Alomar and Hideo Nomo. "Washed up old
guys," Staggers added.
Before Friday’s game against the Marlins, Devil
Rays fan Robert Bradley, a 42-year resident of St. Petersburg, was the only
person in Section 126 watching batting practice. Bradley says he’s learned
patience watching the Lightning and Buccaneers and still considers the Devil
Rays "a new franchise."
But Staggers and Bloom believe Naimoli
should reinvest in the Devil Rays or get out. "Basically, Naimoli is responsible
for everything going on right now," said Bloom, who thinks the Devil Rays’ only
hope is new general partner Stu Sternberg, who wants to increase the payroll to
$40 or $50 million.
"Listen, I know we’re not going to have the
payroll of the Yankees or the Red Sox," Staggers said. "But look at the Twins
and A’s. They don’t have a huge payroll but they still compete. If the franchise
is trying to win but doesn’t, I can deal with that. I know they’re trying. But
this barrage of losing … it eats away at you."
attends games played by the Devil Rays’ Triple-A affiliate in Durham, N.C.,
said, "You’ve got to give fans a bright spot. You want them looking forward to
going to the park."
And not for furniture.
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2005, South
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