New Years Predictions
With the Waterford crystal ball about to fall within the next 6 hours in frosty Times Square up in New YorkCity. I thought it might be nice to look a bit forward towards the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays future and throw a few predictions into the fray. I usually do not like to do this, but for some odd reason I am feeling pretty confident that the 2010 year will hold a mountain of possibilities and a few pitfalls that can be navigated with calm, cool, collected nerves.
Have the Rays reviving again in 2010 the old tradition of the team wearing Kelly Green Rays uniforms during St. Patrick’s Day game against the Minnesota Twins this Spring. The Rays have not had a March 17th contest in their Spring Training schedule since Stuart Sternberg and crew have been in charge of the team. I can see this tradition again being brought back with a lot of excitement.
I am also hoping that with this prediction, the team will again be offering up the game-used jersey tops adorned with autographs online via the Rays Foundation as a great donation source for the Rays charity, and also a nice collectible for the Rays faithful fans.
That Rays favorite scapegoat in 2009, Pat Burrell will come into Spring Training a bit lighter and extremely focused to put his sub par 2009 season behind him. He will become the first Rays Designated Hitter since Jose Canseco to be considered for an All-Star selection. He will not get the honor, but his renewed bat and contagious attitude will give the Rays gain a chance to return to the Playoffs.
Burrell actually did not do as badly as you might think in 2009. When you look at the last three Rays seasons in reference to the DH position, Burrell actually was about the norm concerning his productivity. But considering his high price tag ($ 9 million) this season, it will be a test of his hitting abilities and his inner want to extend his career to succeed in 2010.
The top 4 money makers on the Rays, which include Carl Crawford, Burrell, Rafael Soriano and Carlos Pena will be among the American League leader boards in productivity early in 2010. The 4 make over 40 percent of the Rays payroll, and are critical to the team again making a playoff push in 2010. With Pena tying with Yankee hitter Mark Teixeira for the 2009 AL Home Run title, I suspect Pena to also make an early RBI run in 2010. Crawford will get an early great start concerning Batting Average and Stolen bases.
With Burrell already predicted to rise in 2010, Soriano will be a great addition to the Rays Bullpen and will bring the “W’s” home for the Rays. All 4 previously mentioned players are also possibly free agents at the end of 2010, and might also be playing for their next big contract. Sometimes money can be a great motivator.
The Rays will again see a slight rise in game attendance and game packages, but will not not be near the Major League Baseball averages for 2010. The Rays will again try to fuel the attendance fires with multiple weekday giveaways and promotions to get the fans into weekday games. But even with a slight rise in the game numbers, you hope that it is enough to give the Rays ownership confidence in the region as a baseball hub.
Considering the Tampa Bay region is fighting off a 12 percent unemployment demon right now, any uptrend should be viewed as a positive for the Rays. With their Concert Series almost guaranteeing sellout crowds, the focus will be on the weak Thursday night numbers, or during home games when an incoming team generally attracts 10,000 or less fans to the game. I foresee some radical thoughts and ideas coming out right before Spring Training to combat this attendance damper.
The Tampa Bay region fans might have been spoiled during the last decade by seeing all three of their professional teams fighting for World/League titles. First came the glitzy Lombardi Trophy that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won during the Super Bowl out in San Diego, California. Then it was the Tampa Bay Lightning turn by streaking through the playoffs and finally hoisting the highly prestigious Stanley Cup on home ice. Then in 2008, it was our own Rays supplanting the Yankees playoff machine and thrusting themselves all the way to the World Series.
I can predict a million things here today, but the best prediction I can make for 2010 is that the Rays fans will again be crowded into Tropicana Field to see the competitive fires of this Rays team and that their cheers and cowbells will ring loud and proud underneath the Teflon roof of the Trop. For I predict and forecast that 2010 will be the Year of the Rays Fan.
Not only with more entertaining pre-game and in-game promotions, but with more concerts and post-game events that will make it a “must-see” destination for tourists and the entire Tampa Bay community. With the Rays addition of Sunburst Entertainment under their wings in 2009, the team will bring more viable options both before and during games to attract and interact with their Rays fan base. I can see going to a Rays game transforming into a everyday family event that will having everyone in the family eager to attend another game.
Not every one of these predictions will come true. For predictions are like New Years resolutions, they are only as good as the commitment behind them. But I am banking on the Rays organization and the Rays Republic to rebound in 2010 and make the Rays game one of the best entertainment values in this region….
And with that I will leave you with a New Years toast:
” A toast to Father Time and the Baby New Year. We have no idea where the old man is going, and we’re not at all sure where the new kid came from, but I do have a question: Who is the mother of all this?”