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Henry's Chopping Block

September 9, 2009 9:37 PM

Quick Ending, But Not Painless

By MIKE HENRY

The Rays' elimination from the American League post-season chase has been swift, but it hasn't been easy to stomach -- for management, fans or (we hope) the players.

Of course, when your bullpen loses 10 games in a 30-game stretch, no amount of hand-wringing will make a difference. The standings say the Rays' magic number for elimination is 16 games, but their season effectively ended last week when they lost five of six against the Red Sox and Tigers.

That first loss Friday against the Tigers was a pip. Detroit reliever Fernando Rodney, showing why he probably can't be trusted to close in a playoff series against the Yankees or Angels, nearly blew a 4-1 lead before getting the final out.

Rodney then heaved the game ball high above home plate and into the press box, where it rattled the cages of a couple of reporters already diligently making up their game stories. The hilarious (but almost injurious) spectacle drew a fine and suspension.

On Sunday, Brandon Inge took aim at the fans in left field with his ninth-inning, game-winning grand slam off Russ Springer, one of several Rays relievers being used fruitlessly by manager Joe Maddon.

The state of the Rays' bullpen was a joke before Nick Swisher ended the Yankees' 3-2 victory Tuesday with a homer off Dan Wheeler. Still, everyone has known for weeks Tampa Bay lacked a bona fide closer, best efforts from J.P. Howell to the contrary.

But the tattered bullpen isn't all that has gone wrong for the Rays, even before first baseman Carlos Pena had his season ended when a C.C. Sabathia pitch broke two fingers.

Last season, the Rays advanced to the postseason on the strength of a 29-18 record in one-run games. They're 17-22 this year. Center fielder B.J. Upton is on the verge of becoming more disappointment than tantalizing youngster, with a .237 average and almost three times as many strikeouts as walks.

Pat Burrell brought his World Series ring in the offseason, but he's been no help. He looks old, slow and vulnerable at the plate. And strangely, Matt Garza and James Shields -- two pitchers almost every team in the majors would love to have -- have usually pitched just well enough to lose. Somehow, they are a combined 16-19 despite a composite earned run average under 4.00.

And, while it might be hearsay to nitpick third baseman Evan Longoria, remember when he seemed a shoo-in to drive in 140 runs?

The most uncomfortable thing about the Rays collapse is the notion they cannot compete financially against teams such as the Yankees and Angels (I don't care what anyone says, the Red Sox look old to me). Baseball officials think we don't notice, just like crooked politicians.

Apologists for the modern version of the grand old game want us to forget the Yankees and Red Sox have won six of the past 13 World Series (a total that could be eight, if not for upsets by the Diamondbacks and Marlins).

That's why in these parts, Rays fans have already moved on to football with little of the angst of established baseball havens.

It's why the NFL and college football have already pushed baseball off the front page of the sports section, and why a Yankees victory is accepted in many quarters outside the Big Apple with a shrug of the shoulders.

I mean, even if the Dodgers beat the Yankees, their best player is a cheater. Some game.

September 6, 2009 10:07 PM

USF Football Needs to Get People Talking

By MIKE HENRY




You haven't heard Florida receive much criticism for its patsy non-conference football schedule. The Southeastern Conference is the best in the nation, so the Gators get a pass from the national media for playing Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International.




A 62-3 victory in Gainesville against Charleston Southern served as nothing more than a glorified exhibition, but it got people talking because of the Gators' No. 1 ranking.




On the other hand, South Florida benefits not a whit from defeating Wofford 40-7 Saturday night in front of 40,000 at Raymond James Stadium (there is speculation that by December, that might be a good turnout for the Bucs).



Despite rising as high as No. 2 in the nation two years ago, the Bulls are barely a blip on the national radar screen. And as a member of the Big East -- which this season, more than any, seems to be counting the days until basketball season -- USF can't afford to play too many Woffords if the goal is raising its profile outside the Tampa Bay area.



USF's next two games won't help. The Bulls play at Western Kentucky on Saturday and face Charleston Southern (which will be sick of the state of Florida by then) on Sept. 19.



But after that, coach Jim Leavitt's charges get down to business. In addition to their Big East schedule, the Bulls travel to Florida State on Sept. 26 and play host to Miami (the Hurricanes, not the RedHawks) on Nov. 28.


The Miami game is the start of a home-and-home series that has the Bulls playing host to the Hurricanes again in 2011 and '13. USF plays at Florida next season, travels to Notre Dame in 2011 and entertains Florida State in 2012.

For a program that started in 1997, the Bulls have made huge strides. A dozen years ago, it was almost hearsay to suggest anyone else could recruit successfully in a state dominated by the "Big Three."

But when the Bulls were knocked from their No. 2 perch two seasons ago by Rutgers, much of the nation viewed USF's meteoric rise as a fluke.

USF is still looking for its first Big East title, but two seniors much of the nation have never heard of make it a distinct possibility.

Quarterback Matt Grothe, a mere 6-footer, has exceeded expectations the past three seasons and is on the verge of eclipsing former West Virginia star Pat White as the conference's total-yardage leader (Grothe has 10,428 yards, 101 behind White).

Defensive end George Selvie, hampered by injuries last season, is one of the nation's top sack specialists and could be a first-round draft pick next spring.

Grothe and Selvie have emerged as the faces of a program that has no qualms about seeing where it stands among the nation's elite.
Keep an eye on the Bulls' game Oct. 24 at Pittsburgh. In the parity-plagued Big East, that could be the first step toward an elusive conference championship for USF and the notice that comes from playing in a Bowl Championship Series game.

September 4, 2009 11:23 PM

Bucs Keep a Lid on Thinking

By MIKE HENRY






Anyone expecting a direct answer from Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris on the firing of offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski hasn't spent much time around the NFL.






Tampa Bay's passing offense has been next to abysmal during the preseason, with quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown performing their best Alphonse and Gaston act during the first three games wrestling for the starting job.





It's been bad enough to kindle memories of the Vinny Testaverde era. Entering Friday's game against Houston, the Bucs were averaging 154.7 passing yards a game, with a league-worst 4.7 per passing attempt.





Did that ineptitude lead to the dismissal of former Boston College coach Jagodzinski, who reportedly had moved into a new Tampa home with his wife and will be paid for the duration of his two-year contract? Or was the situation related more to a clash of personalities?





Morris, who collaborated with general manager Mark Dominik on the decision, did a lot of talking during an awkward press conference Thursday without revealing much of substance. Morris did let on the offense needs to be more "precised" and "detailed" and "have more direction" than it did under Jagodzinski's supervision.





Quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, who was hired last season by former Bucs coach Jon Gruden, was named to replace Jagodzinski. Olson, who tutored Drew Brees at Purdue, enjoyed success last season with current Oakland quarterback Jeff Garcia, who he'd coached in 2001 when Garcia threw 32 touchdown passes for San Francisco.




While reports have surfaced that Jagodzinski was slow communicating plays from the press box to the sidelines, it's noteworthy he turned down a chance to stay on as quarterbacks coach, according to a prepared statement from Jagodzinski released by the Bucs. In this economy, even pro sports franchises want contract holders to earn their pay.




Somehow, a failure to communicate keeps cropping up as the likely reason Jagodzinski was asked to give up the play-calling duties. He certainly appeared to have trouble getting along with his bosses at Boston College when he entered into negotations with the Jets for their head job without permission.



If you can't communicate with your players in the NFL, passion and commitment have a tough time winning out.
Regardless, 10 days from the opener against Dallas, the Bucs felt they had no choice but to relieve Jagodzinski of his responsibilities. Morris and Dominik did so knowing they would open themselves to second-guessing and ridicule, but grasping the need to keep the confidence of the guys in uniform.



In the close-knit universe that is an NFL team, Morris had no need to badmouth Jagodzinski beyond giving the local media enough pablum to send them back to their word processors, guessing what really happened.


The whole thing came across as sloppy, even amateurish, but the fact remains the Bucs' chances to approach a .500 record in 2009 still rest on a fast, swarming defense and the stifling heat and humidity that enhances their home-field advantage.

No matter how well Morris and Olson communicate within the locker room, they can't change the fact Gruden isn't around any more to spot mismatches quickly and keep the Bucs a step ahead of the competition. That comes from experience.

September 2, 2009 6:08 PM

Rays Dying on the Vine

By MIKE HENRY


Maybe the idea germinated Saturday night, when I watched The Kingston Trio on an episode of The Jack Benny Program on public television.



Wherever it sprang from, I haven't been able to banish the song "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" from my head since.



It seemed to apply in a couple of ways during Tuesday night's 8-4 Red Sox victory against the Rays that pushed the defending American League champions a step closer to October spectator status.



First was in the stands, where 19,000 of Tampa Bay's notorious front-running fans showed up as vacant seats (making me wonder what happened to the area's hordes of Red Sox fans who normally outnumber their Rays' counterparts).



With the economy being what it is, I'm not going to blame folks for staying home and watching the game on TV (especially with an option to switch to The Big Lebowski on Versus between innings). But 17,692 was a surprise.



Then, as the Red Sox kept piling on runs, the song got to me again. Where, indeed, have destiny's darlings gone, less than a year after their meteoric rise to a pennant and spirited World Series try against the Phillies?

Probably the same place the New York Mets went in 1970. Major league baseball is a game of ongoing adjustments, and no team stays on top for long unless their boss is named Steinbrenner, with the financial clout to alter the sport's precious balance.

The need to adjust from pitch to pitch makes the game compelling and elevates the sharpest minds, like Derek Jeter and Greg Maddux, above the competition. Rivals made off-season adjustments for the Rays, who have not been entirely successful countering.

To read members of the peeved Tampa Bay area media Wednesday, though, it's as if the Rays let THEM down. Effort, or a supposed lack thereof, was Tuesday's culprit, according to more than one source.

Which confused me, because I saw a team poised to rally from a 7-2 deficit in the eighth until a desperate Terry Francona turned to closer Jonathan Papelbon with the bases loaded and no outs.

What no one in the media mentioned, to my knowledge -- this would require a specific criticism of a specific player -- was Pat Burrell's failure to tag up and score from third on Jason Bartlett's sinking liner in the eighth, the one Jacoby Ellsbury (originally a 2002 Rays draft pick) somehow snared before it went past him for a game-changer. (Actually, I double-checked and the Tampa Tribune did get it right, calling the Burrell mistake "oafish.")

This is not a blast at the veteran Burrell, but his job on that play is to tag up as soon as the ball is hit to the outfield, because he's going to score whether or not it is caught.

Instead, Burrell got caught too far off the base and the Rays remained three runs behind. So why does no one call him on it, find out what went wrong? Beats me.

Memo to scribes: Fans already know how they feel about their team and their guys. They don't need you proving you feel their pain.
Go for some serious analysis, maybe start by giving Papelbon the credit he deserves.
Because after all, tomorrow is another day.


Even as I wonder where the flowers went, florid writing seems the norm around a team that is withering fast.

August 31, 2009 8:36 PM

An's Victory Symbolic of Changes in Golf

By MIKE HENRY





Outside of Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., site of the U.S. Amateur Championship, little attention was paid nationwide to the event.






Folks on the west coast of Florida tuned in, but only after a wire story Saturday alerted the local newspapers that 17-year-old finalist Byeong-Hun An of South Korea trained in Bradenton while attending Bradenton Prep Academy.






When An became the youngest amateur champion ever with a sloppy 7-and-5 victory over Ben Martin of Clemson in Sunday's 36-hole final, it continued a couple of trends.





First, the ongoing worldwide success of Korean golfers. Besides its thorough domination of the LPGA this year, Korea produced U.S. Women's Open champion Eun-Hee Ji and PGA winner Y.E. Yang, who took down Tiger Woods in Minnesota.





Second is the recent foreign domination of the men's amateur. Only two Americans (Ryan Moore and Colt Knost) have won since 2003, and An is the second consecutive Korean-born champion, following Danny Lee.





An, who has another year of high school before heading off to the University of California, had a previously undistinguished junior record. But his dedication at the Jonathan Yarwood Golf Academy, located at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton (designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin), is paying huge dividends.





An's expectations at Southern Hills were somewhat modest: to make the 64-man match-play portion of the event. It's not as if An got red-hot after qualifying 22nd, but the pressure may have done in at least a couple of his rivals.





An advanced from his round-of-16 match against Marquette product Mike Van Sickle despite a bogey on the second hole of sudden-death, because Van Sickle made double bogey. In his next match, An survived against Steve Ziegler of Stanford when the latter made bogeys on the second and third holes of sudden death.




The final against Martin was not suitable for its Sunday afternoon television slot, although NBC was able to edit much of the ugliness due to tape delay. Despite playing 31 holes in 9-over par, An was much the best, as Martin went 16-over for the last 26 holes.




That is brutal and an indication the U.S. Amateur has lost a great deal of stature since Woods won three in a row from 1994-96.



That detracts not at all from An, the only player to adjust to the lightning-quick greens and smothering pressure in a tournament where many of the supposed top players found it impossible to finish.








August 30, 2009 4:34 PM

It's All About Price with Rays

By MIKE HENRY



It might have been David Price's boldest statement in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform since saving the seventh game of the 2008 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox.


Price's performance in Saturday's 3-1 victory at Detroit -- five hits, four strikeouts and one walk in 7 1/3 innings -- came a day after the trade of his close friend, fellow left-hander Scott Kazmir, to the Angels for three minor-league prospects.


For Rays fans, it's good to know Price was able to shelve his disappointment about Kazmir in time to handcuff the AL Central leaders. The victory represented a career milestone for Price -- his first road victory.


He did it by relying primarily on his fastball. Price (7-6, 4.63 ERA) has been plagued all season by control problems, but his command put the Tigers on the defensive.


Rays fans seem split about losing Kazmir, who had become the face of the franchise in 2007 by leading the AL with 239 strikeouts. He never got untracked this season because of minor injuries and mechanical problems, although he showed enough in recent starts to become attractive to the Angels.


Kazmir is in the first season of a three-year, $28.5-million deal, and if anything, the trade proved the Rays are nowhere near ready to compete financially with AL East rivals New York and Boston (anybody else remember when $63 million could have satisfied 25 guys?).


By slicing $20 million owed to Kazmir in 2010 and 2011 from its payroll, Tampa Bay is positioned to pursue Carl Crawford wholeheartedly when the All-Star left-fielder's contract runs out after next season.

Crawford is entering the prime of his career, plays great defense, is probably the best base-runner in baseball and hits for average and decent power. He's basically the Lou Brock of his era, and oldtimers remember what Brock meant to the Cardinals of the 1960s.

Although he should help the Angels, Kazmir was nowhere near Bob Gibson stature. He had fallen to something less than the Ray Washburn category. Rays management decided it couldn't wait any longer to get back maximum value.

By stepping up Saturday, David Price showed the Rays' gamble on the future might not have ruled out their chances getting to the playoffs this season as a wild card. And it showed Price understands there is no room for sentiment in a major league dugout, even when a friend is sent packing.

August 28, 2009 1:47 PM

Those Old NFL Preseason Blues

By MIKE HENRY
Mother Nature played a sadistic trick on the 63,000-plus fans who attended Miami's 10-6 victory against Tampa Bay on Thursday at Raymond James Stadium.
A few minutes before 9 p.m., with the Buccaneers leading 6-0 in the second quarter, a lightning threat resulted in a 45-minute delay as officials pulled both teams off the field.
Anyone expecting offensive fireworks after play resumed was left wanting, although Miami quarterback Chad Pennington did manufacture a pair of scoring drives for the Dolphins' victory. The game ended about midnight, and a lot of folks who dragged themselves to work this morning must be wondering why they stayed.
For Bucs fans, the main subject around the water cooler is which quarterback will be under center for the opener against Dallas in two weeks.
After what he saw Thursday, first-year coach Raheem Morris is hoping Cadillac Williams can stay healthy. The one-time hope for a bright Bucs future, back from knee surgery, looked strong rushing for 54 yards on eight carries, including an explosive 19-yard run.
Combined with holdover Earnest Graham and former Giant Derrick Ward, the return of Williams gives the Bucs decent depth at the running back spot.
They're going to need it, judging from the uninspiring performances of quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown.
At least Tampa Bay's decision to draft Josh Freeman from Kansas State in the first round makes more sense. With Leftwich and McCown, it's safe to say the future is not now.
Leftwich (9-for-17, 100 yards) could overthrow Wilt Chamberlain, although he did have a few nice completions to the 6-foot-5 Maurice Stovall.
And those who remember the immobile Leftwich from his Jacksonville days are gritting their teeth at the thought of the Cowboys putting together a blitz package for the opener.
McCown, who played pretty well in a 24-23 victory against the Jaguars, reverted to form against the Dolphins, looking like a guy afraid to make a mistake. He got sacked three times and penalized for intentional grounding, and his cause wasn't helped by the absence of some key starters and a rainstorm during his service.
Rumors already are starting to swirl that McCown could be trade material. He might be a decent backup for a defense-oriented contender, but with the Bucs he could be a constant reminder that the alternative to No. 1 is just as lackluster.
Freeman, like any rookie quarterback not named Dan Marino or Matt Ryan, needs time. No sense throwing him to the wolves.
One bright spot for the Bucs was the defense, where coordinator Jim Bates is following in the footsteps of Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin by assembling a fast, aggressive, gang-tacking unit. The Bucs held Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to a combined 17 yards on six carries.
Thankfully, the preseason has only another week to run. If it hadn't been for all those sugary goodies in the press box, we doubt some reporters could have made it to the elevator Thursday night for their post-game interviews.

August 26, 2009 12:47 PM

Rays Face Make-or-Break Stretch

By MIKE HENRY
When you look at their rotation, the Tampa Bay Rays don't resemble a contender.
Matt Garza, James Shields, David Price and Scott Kazmir are a combined 29-31, and Kazmir's 6.17 ERA is reminiscent of the franchise's early days (or the 1930 Phillies). Jeff Niemann (12-5, 3.87, two shutouts) has been the most reliable starter for Joe Maddon.
The Rays skipper has done a masterful job getting the maximum from his bullpen. J.P. Howell has 15 saves in 21 opportunities, so the late innings remain an area of grave concern for Tampa Bay fans.
So, with so-so pitching, what are the Rays doing breathing down the necks of the Red Sox and Rangers in the American League wild-card race?
It helps to know the Blue Jays are going belly-up every time you face them. Entering Wednesday's game, the Rays were 11-3 against Toronto, including Monday's comeback from a 6-3 deficit against Roy Halladay.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the AL allows only 18 games against divisional opponents. Beginning Friday with a four-game series in Detroit, the Rays face a stretch of 17 consecutive games against playoff contenders that will either solidify their status as contenders or start management looking to fill the holes on the staff for 2010.
After returning home next week for three games against the Red Sox and Tigers, the Rays play four in Yankee Stadium and three in Fenway Park.
But despite the nagging doubts about pitching and the schedule, it's foolish to think the defending AL champions are going away any time soon.
The best thing the Rays have going for them is Maddon's cerebral, aggressive approach to the game, embraced by nearly everyone on the team.
Maddon stresses working at-bats and taking extra bases, and the unsung double-play combination of second baseman Ben Zobrist and shortstop Jason Bartlett have been the main beneficiaries. Bartlett's .346 average and Zobrist's power numbers -- 23 homers, 69 RBI -- are huge for middle infielders.
Throw in the game's best leadoff hitter, All-Star Game MVP Carl Crawford, and third baseman Evan Longoria, and opposing pitchers find it hard to pinpoint an easy out. And even though Carlos Pena has more home runs than singles -- 37-to-35 -- his .223 average is offset by 91 RBI.
Right now, I wouldn't argue the Rays are equal to the Yankees or the Angels. I do think the Rays are better than the Red Sox, whose second-half struggles and every-game-as-Greek-drama seem to make them a prime candidate to weaken in September.
In addition to their upcoming brutal stretch, the Rays must travel to Texas, where they've already lost three times. The Rangers show no signs of fading, so Tampa Bay has its work cut out.
But their starters, for all their 2009 struggles, know what it's like to pitch in important games, and Shields and Garza are better than their records. I don't expect the Rays to roll over for anyone over the next five-and-a-half weeks.

August 23, 2009 9:10 PM

Accuracy, Mobility Count For McCown

By MIKE HENRY
I don't know what Tampa Bay quarterback Luke McCown was saying to cornerback Ronde Barber in the closing minutes of the Buccaneers' 24-23 victory Saturday at Jacksonville.
But McCown's intense scowl had to bring a smile to the face of head coach Raheem Morris, who said today he plans to postpone a decision on his No. 1 QB until after Thursday's game against Miami, if that soon.
Neither McCown nor the other contender, Byron Leftwich, will be high selections in anyone's fantasy draft. But their spirited competition is a godsend for Morris and the Bucs, whose shaky defense took another hit with the season-ending biceps injury to linebacker Angelo Crowell.
No. 1 draft pick Josh Freeman also impressed, capping an 18-play touchdown drive to begin the second half with a 28-yard touchdown run. But Freeman needs time to adjust to NFL speed and won't be thrown to the wolves, barring injuries.
No, it's between McCown and Leftwich, and there will be a heightened sense of anticipation when the Dolphins come calling.
Leftwich, who didn't play much the past two seasons but got a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers, looked adequate in the first quarter against Jacksonville. But McCown showed the accuracy that used to intrigue former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, completing six of nine attempts with one thrown away to avoid a sack.
McCown displayed plenty of zip on his touchdown passes to Jerramy Stevens and seventh-round draft pick Sammie Stroughter, who also had an electrifying 75-yard kickoff return to set up the Stevens touchdown.
Now, I'm one of those guys who thinks the Bucs are looking at 6-10, 7-9 at best. They play the NFC East and travel to Buffalo in Week 2, when the Terrell Owens love affair should be in full bloom.
Especially after what I saw from the Tampa Bay secondary Saturday. Barber is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate on the verge of making selectors forget what the fuss is all about. Safety Sabby Piscitelli still seems best suited to the thrill of the chase (rival offensive coordinators will take note of the Jags' game-opening, 74-yard TD bomb from David Garrard to Troy Williamson and plan accordingly).
No longer will the Bucs be able to win consistently by scoring 17 points, like they did in their glory days. It's going to take a QB who can move the chains, avoid mistakes and hit the occasional deep pass.
I'm thinking that guy is McCown.
Two years ago, McCown completed almost 68 percent of his passes in five games, with a decent 7.3 yards-per-attempt average. Leftwich was vegetating on the Falcons bench and had little to do last season.
McCown also moves a whole lot better than Leftwich, and that probably will factor into Morris' decision.

August 22, 2009 12:14 PM

Rays, Tropicana Field a Good Fit

By MIKE HENRY
With a major-league best home record of 98-44 (through Friday night) since the start of the 2008 season, the last thing the Tampa Bay Rays should be thinking about is leaving Tropicana Field.
Yet on the eve of an important home series against Texas, a consulting group called "A Baseball Community" -- ABC -- decided it's as good a time as any to beat the drum for a new stadium elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area.
Part of ABC's mission statement, according to its Web site, is "the identification and assessment of possible new stadium locations. ... leading to a recommendation for city, county, Rays and general community consideration."
Notice who's last in the pecking order.
ABC is chaired by Jeff Lyash, the president and CEO of Progress Energy Florida.
Wasn't is just last fall the Rays quietly dropped plans for a $450-million, retractable-roof stadium near the St. Petersburg waterfront, at the site of old Al Lang Field? I imagine it probably had something to do with the recession and the fact public tax dollars were being sought to finance the project.
Everyone realized it was a no-go.
Now, in the midst of a pennant race, Rays fans must stomach another reminder how inadequate their south St. Petersburg home is, even though opponents hate coming there because of its quirky hitting background.
Tropicana Field's No. 1 drawback: Corporate profits are not being maximized.
Sure, it's alarming that games have regularly drawn in the 15,000-20,000 range for the defending American League champs. And you have to smirk when Red Sox fans out-number Rays backers on a regular basis.
And it makes sense baseball fans in north St. Petersburg and Tampa would rather see a stadium closer to home. Although Ferg's sports bar offers a pleasant gathering spot before and after games, the Trop sits in a long-neglected area of Pinellas County. No dawdling allowed on the walk back to the car.
But there is nothing wrong with Tropicana Field, even if no one knows the rules for balls hit off the catwalks. Heck, it's home to the Ted Williams Museum.
ABC, and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and his management team, have a lot further to go explaining how a new stadium will benefit the area -- not just the team -- to gain public support.
Or maybe they need to realize this is not the best time to decide how to raise citizen taxes.
Florida has lost population for the first time since 1946, unemployment in the state is approaching record levels and voters don't have the stomach for financing millionaires.
Of course, common sense tells me Rays management and ABC will find a way. That's why professional sports exist, to get into our pockets and convince us we're part of their success and they're just as loyal as we are.
It just seems so unncessary, a waste of taxpayer dollars, when a perfectly good stadium already is in place.
One where the home team has a .697 winning percentage since last April.

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