Results tagged ‘ St. Petersburg Times ’

Sternberg Speaks Honestly on the Rays Tampa Bay Future




It was the Tampa Bay Rays stadium conversation and whiplash response most members of the Rays Republic knew was just peeking above the horizon. The Tampa Bay community as a whole had hoped such a cold water splash in our faces would have a more postmarked expiration date.

Somehow we all knew that the ever present sunshine attitude that surrounds our typical Florida Spring day would suddenly be darkened by an omnipotent comment cloud that would overshadow the usual optimistic banter whenever the Rays future stadium plans have been mentioned.

Just as suddenly the veil of silence has been removed from the Rays stadium debacle, and a few of the comments from Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg paint a more daunting image of an hourglass whose ribbons of sand are constantly spiraling to and end instead of a more optimistic conclusion.

Recently Sternberg told reporter Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times:

“It seems clearer to me by the day that we’re going to be the last man standing (Oakland A’s stadium talks are in a more advanced stage of discussions),” Sternberg said. “And everything I know, and talking to these guys, baseball is just not going to stand for it anymore. And they’ll find a place for me. They won’t find a place here though. So it’s up to us, to everybody, to figure out how to get it right. …

Stu2008.jpg“We’ve come so far with this, with all the people who are interested and watching. I do believe we’ve grabbed into (them) a little bit, and to say it’s a good thing, it’s fun, it’s good for your kids, it’s a nice sport. … And that’s my real concern, that we won’t get to finish the job that I know we were right there to do.”

For the first time I can remember since Sternberg took over the Rays reigns, it seems like a hint of pessimism has crept into his tone when discussing the Rays future home. For the first time, Sternberg has bluntly envisioned both sides of the Tampa Bay region losing out if some sort of constructive movement is not made in the near future.

A good first step might be St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster allowing the Rays a little latitude to venture into other Tampa Bay locales without the threat of harsh legal actions or local repercussions by the Rays landlords possibly letting the process systematically eliminate some of these cost deficient locations from contention.

But that would be a huge leap of good faith by the City of St. Petersburg who has so much to lose not only in possibly losing their biggest tenant, but seeing a reversal in some of the recent positive financial surges in the city’s economically sensitive downtown core. Losing the team would turn downtown St. Petersburg basically into a ghost town again after 9 pm.

No matter how you try and twist, convolute or even manipulate Sternberg’s words, the message is loud and clear now. Major League Baseball with all its omnipotent power hover and circle above the whole stadium process like a lurking Florida vulture has the upper hand.

No longer is this only about St. Petersburg or even Tampa, it is about the future existence of our own Major League team in a town with rich MLB roots, but a transient populous that still has not fully embraced the Rays as “their team”. Even with the recent return of Spring baseball to Progress Energy Field (Al Lang) , the vibe concerning St. Petersburg is beginning to fade a bit more towards black than sunshine.

Stu2010.jpgI am not the only one to notice Sternberg’s particular word usage or possible hidden messages in his statements. Rays Index, another Rays top blog spot also noticed this one particular sentence that might heed this Tampa Bay region to having a few “burning the midnight oil” political strategy sessions. In a perfect world, both sides of the Tampa Bay region would meet in the same clandestine room.

Hidden within the midst of Sternberg’s comments is the small phrasing, “they’ll find a place for me. They won’t find a place here though.”

Immediately you see the unveiled reminder that the upper echelon of Major League Baseball loves the energy and past work Sternberg has done in rebuilding the Rays franchise from the ground up again, and might have some hidden agenda for his future.

The losers here will not be Sternberg, but it could be this region forever cast as a land of Spring baseball only again if the Rays do get harvested like an orange and taken somewhere else.

Contraction with a MLB/MLBPA labor negotiation in the near future is not an viable option, but if this region keeps their minds and mouthes closed for too much longer, it might be too late to salvage the fruit on the vine.

LockTrop.jpgI think the month of April will not only be the beginning of baseball again being played in St. Petersburg, but the beginning of the sands beginning an accelerated pace through the Rays hourglass. Sternberg has been more than vocally adamant that he is not the only person who might view this whole Rays stadium process as being stagnant for too long now.

Something has to be decided soon before the sands from the hourglass become quicksand that devour and destroy that forward progress of baseball in this region over that last 14 seasons.


The Tampa Bay community needs to make the first step soon, the first lunge into diluting this dark cloud and again bringing the warmth of the sunlight firmly back into view……or the cloud will overtake the region and when it finally begins to dissipate, the Rays may be gone…forever.




Why am I Surprised this Happened Tonight


I am not sure why I am taking this Tampa Bay Rays attendance smack down so personally. For some reason I firmly believed a question was positioned towards two of the Rays high visibility team members and they drank the usual media Kool-Aid being portioned out by the St. Petersburg Times and a few other local fish wraps.

For some reason the Times doesn’t provide the information that the Rays have drawn an astonishing 8th best attendance in the MLB based on per capita numbers. I bet if the Yankees ( or any other team ) was born here 13 years ago, they would have about the same attendance numbers based on the Tampa Bay regional per capita population (4,028,749 -2008 estimate).

I guess I take it a bit personally since I have only missed one game in the last two seasons, and will (hopefully) hit a perfecto ( 81 games) when the Rays finally end their 2010 home schedule on Wednesday, September 29th. What internally pains me so much is the fact that the hidden agenda or despicable propaganda of the Times finally got funneled down into the Rays clubhouse, and Carl Crawford and Rays Manager Joe Maddon might have been a bit nudged to take a huge swig of the addictive Kool-Aid without knowing it.

For some reason the local media thought it was a great idea to take the focus off a great Toronto versus Rays game and turn the immediate focus towards the blue-seat monsters that tend to gobble up Rays fans and make them invisible for their Monday night contests. Is it any wonder that the Times or any of the other media monglers took it right to Crawford and Maddon tonight knowing that there was visibly less than the announced 11,968 fannies in the seats tonight. Why did the Times have to go and beat this decaying dead horse carcass over and over again tonight.

I am not proud of the Rays attendance tonight, but I also have a bit more class and respect for those faithful Rays fans that hit the ticket takers every night and have to keep hearing this same old song being played by the Times whenever they can get a chance to pop that song and dance online for everyone else in the World to see again and again. I personally know who the economy and unemployment have trashed this Tampa Bay region and have made even the most loyal Rays fan winch and rethink their usual obsessive passion for attending multiple Rays games.


To keep pushing this same drawn out issue fully down people’s throats when they have enough troubles away from the Trop’s doors. I was told today about at least 1,000 people who either bought their tickets online, or got them from friends who thought Sunday’s Rays game was still at 1:40 pm instead of 8 pm. I wonder how many of those fans actually stayed in the St. Petersburg area waiting for the Trop’s doors to open at 6:10 pm. My guess is that a good percentage of them either tossed their tickets, or tried to find someone in the local sports bars to purchase their tickets and call it a day.

I can firmly predict within the next 48 hours even if the Rays draw 30,000+ to the final two games of this home stand, someone on the current local media “blogs” in the Tampa Bay area fish wraps will condemn the fans and want immediate answers or solutions. It saddens me that this region and the devoted fans of the Rays have to keep hearing this trash day after day when they fulfill their end of the bargain. Sure the oil spill doesn’t extend within the doorways of Tropicana Field, but it has kept people away.

If you take the three dates of low Rays game attendance this season, the immediate factor that leaps out at you is that all three were games held during the times when Tampa Bay area schools were in session. The previously low points in Rays crowds were during a stretch from April 27th and 28th when the announced attendance was 10,825 and 10,691 respectfully during an Oakland A’s series. I went back into my blog posts that month and also found that I addressed this same factor back on April 28th and I wrote a blog post about media negativity. When will this evil cycle of the Times badgering this issue end?

You can bet that the Rays will get a bit of a shock on September 9th when the Rays Season Ticket holders Postseason money is suppose to be into the team that there will be a marked decrease in people buying the possible 10-game postseason packages. I know for a fact that a few of the people I have spoke with would love to be a part of the Rays run in October, but their finances will prohibit their involvement. But I guess then we will have to endure another Times propaganda slam that “we do not care about this team and are a bunch of fair weather fans and might have finally fallen off our bandwagon”.


But that is what the media has been doing for years. When I took my first journalism class in college, they called these type of tactics “yellow journalism” that originated in the 19th Century and newspapers produced sensational stories that were produced to excite or anger the public more than to inform them. Sometimes media people forget that the story is not in the lack of people in the seat at Tropicana Field, but why they are not there.

Understandably school kids will be absent, which goes along with their parents also not attending. If you go out on the streets wearing a Rays cap, like I do every day, you know people are talking about the team and are excited. Sure I am ashamed that some night we creep back into vintage before 2007 Rays attendance figures, but that is to be expected both when school is in session and the economy is tragically taking a little bit more from each and every one of us every day.

I have hidden my financial heartbreaks all season long to support my team, and take it as a personal attack when the Times and other news sources begin to beat this again and again into the ground not providing any remedies or solutions, but pushing the issue like they understand it all. I am one of those people who pay for my own tickets before the season begins and have them in my possession from the Rays Opening Day to their last out of their final contest.

If I had not bought those tickets before the season began, I would certainly be one of those people the Times would be berating tonight.

I want the local media to do an experiment for me. Pop down out of your Carolina blue Press Box seats for one game and sit in the seat with the fans and you will see the energy is there. That the spirit of those following this team are not lost or forsaken, but are audibly alive and well.
My father told me once that the best things in life should be based on quality, not quantity. But for some reason, the Times and the other media members seem to dwell on this “quantity” issue more than the “quality” of baseball being played in the field, and the increasing “quality” of the type of fans who will always be here to support this team.

We need to find a Rays Cartoonist!


I have been jealous of people with an artistic talent for drawing for a long time. Sure, I used to dabble in simple cartoon characters and landscapes as a kid in Art class, but the really defined and articulate professionals who day in, and day out compose and construct a simple one panel cartoon are imagery masters to me.

With a single comical image, they can conjure up emotions and events that take me sometimes 5-6 paragraphs to illustrate with words. They can do stuff with the flick of their wrist that I could not even fathom with my keyboard and mouse.


So as the Tampa Bay Rays ready today to leave the Charm City, I am instantly drawn to the Baltimore Sun website to catch the daily cartoon antics of Mike Ricigliano, who has been doing a daily Baltimore Orioles cartoon for over 20 years for the Baltimore Sun.

And if you want, you can scroll through Ricigliano’s daily images here

When  you check out his daily images, you will see that the man definitely has his finger, or wingtip on the pulse of Birdland. And this is something I truly wish I could do, or produce for the Rays, but my talents are far inferior both in drawing and tongue-in-cheek humor to pull it off with any success.


But it has been great for the past few years to check in on Ricigliano’s impression of the Rays versus Orioles series, and get some impressive artwork, plus a few chuckles along the way. But seriously, I wish the Rays or the St. Petersburg Times could find a qualified cartoonist who would do the same thing for this community.

The Times did have a great cartoonist for years named Don Addis, but he is now creating in that big inkwell in the sky and is not available for the job. And I grew up with Addis’s artwork daily at the Times, plus he did the character imagery of “Pushy DaBroom” a quasi-janitor/journalist who erratically used to appear to write a sports opinion column in the Evening Independent .

The imagery created by Addis made you want to like Pushy, and his opinions sometimes took a deep soulful look into situations that some journalist tried to shy away from at that moment in time. But the one panel imagery of Addis spoke volumes about the piece even before you set your eyes upon the written words.


Sometimes I think that is needed again with the Rays. A simple one panel cartoon or image that could take all the words opinions and clutter and simplify it into a neat and thought provoking image.

And I think Ricigliano and the Sun have shown that it would become popular, and even be considered one of the “must see” items during your daily stroll through the paper or online.

And with the media giants crying “foul” on the abusive use of long words and sentences today, it might be a great clarifying use of imagery that would fit conveniently within a box in the corner of the page. And it could instantly take a situation, such as the swirling Major League Baseball Trade Deadline and use a simple image of a Rays player with the names of players thought to be within the Rays trade bubble, it could actually achieve the action of showing the magnitude of the trade scenario without clogging up the paper with 10-12 paragraphs on the same item.

We all know that saying, “A picture paints a thousand words”, and a cartoon can use that same old quote and click it up a notch. This is something I really feel passionate about, but I do not have the creative drawing talents to pull this off myself.

But there has to be a guy sitting in Art class right now, or maybe creating glorious illustrations in a tattoo parlor that could produce a daily mesmerizing cartoon that could bring together the collective Rays Republic. Maybe I will again go out and buy an artist’s pad and some ink and try to produce something like this myself, but then again, stick people probably will not excite anyone, especially my eight grade Art teacher.

I Hate Media Negativity


I was sitting the stands last night and people just seem to want to harp and gripe on these so-called “attendance woes” that the Tampa Bay Rays seem to be having after just 12 total home games into the 2010 season. I get sick sometimes of reminding the Rays Republic that these short weekday night time series like the past two-game series against the Oakland Athletics have been traditionally produced some of the worst attended Rays games over their entire past 12 years. These series against non-rival foes, during the work week have never produced substantial attendance number so early in the season.

But it seems to be the local Tampa Bay regional media’s short term plan to push the sluggish attendance situation needle down firmly into the red danger zone and provide some often misleading attendance perceptions surrounding this past Oakland series numbers. I personally hold the local media accountable for some of the present “doom and gloom” that is being felt within the confines of Tropicana Field on game days/nights. It is throwing a false sense of impending Rays disaster concerning the future of this Rays team staying in this region when you focus your attention on attendance numbers on not only a two-game weekday series, but against a team that is traditionally a low Rays crowd producer.

Lost in your articles and comments is the fact that Rays games held from Tuesday through Friday have been a source of constant Rays concern over the past 12 seasons, not just during this 6-game home stand. And the biggest gripe I have right now is why you are bringing up this garbage with two team like Kansas City and Oakland visiting Tropicana Field and not waiting until May 24-30th when Boston and Chicago come calling to Tropicana Field for the first time in 2010. Waiting until a traditionally high attended series to focus on these “woes” seems warranting at least a good cross reference of attendance figures.

But the recent attendance badgering by the local media, both in print and broadcast seem to show they are fine tuning their sights towards this small segment of the Rays home schedule which actually is a bit premature and totally out of context in my view. Sure there were less than 11,000 here on recent nights, but also lost in the shuffle is that there were no stadium giveaways or game day events or entertainment value offered to get Rays fans with kids or adults out to the ballpark during the work week. And you have guess that the Rays Sales Department is fuming over the media focusing on two game instead of a possible huge upswing in the last four days of the home stand when on Friday the team will give away a Rays collector’s item James Shield-inspired T-shirt, plus a post game fireworks show.

If you throw in the estimated 30,000+ Rays crowd expected for the team’s “Hall of Fame” night on Saturday night, which will conclude with a Rays /Hess Express Saturday Night Concert by blues rockers Z Z Top, plus the always popular Rays St.Petersburg Times Fun Day on Sunday, where a family of four can attend a game for $ 40, then you have the making of pure instant upward trend in attendance numbers. One of the constant complaints I have with our instant media today is the furious ebb and flow of positive and negative information that can be veiled by hidden agendas and information, but voiced within milliseconds around the globe, and can not be deleted or taken back after the truth is exposed.


The stark reality here in the Tampa Bay region is that we live in a constant flux of fiscal daily decisions that offers substantial options for our disposable entertainment dollars. And the one constant fact that can show that the Rays have the community support and an indirect call to the area’s passion for the team is the ever increasing Rays Radio and Television broadcast share numbers that instantly illustrate that the Rays Republic is out there, but might just not have the financial means to attend as many games this season as in the past.

With the local media minds dwelling on the negatives and dumping the positives in a bag and throwing it away, they are producing an National negative image and a false connotation of this region’s love for the game of baseball. And it might take multiple enthusiastic articles or positive-based columns to effectively reverse the course of the rest of the Nation’s perception of this team’s fan base. One local fish wrap is re-posting past articles on the Rays stadium situation, while anther harps on the recent attendance number after only 12 home games.

I think we need a collective compromise here. Maybe the people sitting in the Rays Press Box need to just come down and watch a Rays game from field level again.
Feel that rush of emotion and passion that encompasses this entire stadium when the team takes the field. Maybe get hit in the face by the rush of passion for the game again from a well timed hit, or a Rays player crossing the plate to provide the winning run. Maybe the media members need to again become fans of the game and not always see themselves as stark sentinels of the game.

Baseball is a live and breathing entity that constantly changes and they might have lost that aspect of the game in their collective isolation up in the Press Box. Sure they can hear the crowd cheering in the Press Box. They can ever see and sense the ebb and flow of the game, but they might just need to experience the game again from field level to get engulfed into positives of the game again. Negativity breeds negativity, but the rush of positive energy and enthusiasm that is currently swirling during Rays game needs to again embrace those in the Press Box.

If you want, come on down to my section in the stadium sometimes and get a wide view of what is really going on within the confines of Tropicana Field. All the action doesn’t always happen on the field. I can promise you will see emotion and passion you do not see so far up in the Press Box. I can guarantee you will again feel a sense of value in even low numbers in the stands. The passionate fans are here now, and the rest will follow soon enough when the records and the end of the season nears again.


Biased reporting and hidden agendas and excluding vital factual information is a tool of the media, but it could backfire on all of us and not drive the attendance upward but stagnate it and possibly reverse it. This is a great crowd of people that feel alienated and confused by your recent articles. The Rays fan is seeking the truth and trying to judge for themselves if maybe there is darkness on the horizon. Doubt is a terrible thing to have in your heart and mind. It cloud the generalization of positive things and draws in the negative like a sponge.

Not saying you should just do light and fluffy pieces the rest of the season, but maybe spreading some of that enlightened positive Rays of light through your columns and articles might just get a new influx of fans into the stadium……Just think about it.

Jose Tabata’s Statement


Below is the statement issued in Spanish by Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Jose Tabata concerning his wife kidnapping of an infant in Plant City earlier this week. The statement was given by Tabata outside of Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida this afternoon. This statement was obtained by the St. Petersburg Times reporter  Alexandra Zayas. I am reprinting the article for the’s community. 
On Monday, Tabata had told his team he was excited to meet his baby daughter for the first time, said general manager Neal Huntington. His wife had shown people pictures of the baby.
This was the rest of his statement:
“I was completely surprised when I was told that my wife had been arrested this Tuesday because she had never shown any malicious behavior. I had no idea what to think because this news was one of the hardest blows I have had in my life and I don’t have many words that can effectively communicate all of my feelings at this time,” Tabata said in his statement.

“What I do know is that I am a Pittsburgh Pirate and my lifelong idol is Roberto Clemente. And because of that, when presented with this difficult situation, I asked myself, ‘What would Clemente do in this situation?’ I know Clemente was a man known for his decency, responsibility, doing what he says and always doing the correct thing. And I believe that the only correct thing in this moment is to tell the truth.

“As you and Pirate fans get to know me, you’ll understand that, when this is all over, I will never be able to forgive her for her cruel actions. You will also understand that I will do everything possible, with the support of God and my family here with the Pirates, to overcome this craziness. The truth is that I would never wish this situation on anybody, but I know that life has its good and its bad, and I know that the good times are not too far off in the future.

“With respect to my wife’s case, I, like you, have questions that remained unanswered. However, the sheriff’s deputies have told me not to speak about the details of her criminal case, including the details of our history together and the lies she led me to believe about her. Therefore, I will not be able to comment further or answer any of your questions until the investigation is complete. I do give thanks to God that no harm was made to that baby girl and that she is in safe hands with her parents. My thoughts will always be with them. 

Finally, I am thankful for the strong support of my teammates, coaches and everyone within the Pirates organization during this difficult time. I appreciate everyone’s concern for me and I ask that you will respect my privacy both now and in the future.”

In an added note to the story:

Meanwhile, a woman in North Tampa feels like the abduction would have been prevented if sheriff’s deputies had listened to her after she tried to report a similar run-in with Pereira just last month. The circumstances are eerily similar to the Plant City abduction. Taina Lopez, a young mother, was outside a health clinic with her two-month-old baby daughter when Pereira, an old acquaintance, approached her, telling her a story.

Lopez, unlike the Plant City mother, didn’t give up the baby. Instead, she went straight to the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office. Spokeswoman Debbie Carter said no report was ever filed but that a front desk deputy vaguely remembered her. “She said she knew the woman. There was no crime. They went their separate ways and that was the end.” Lopez says her sister later spoke to Pereira, who told her she was trying to steal the young mother’s car, because someone was offering her $10,000 for it.
Lopez says she is furious that authorities dismissed her. Now, they want to hear what she has to say.
Photo credit : (Atoyia Dean)