With the 0-6 start, the departure of Manny Ramirez, and the injury to Evan Longoria, Rays fans stayed away in droves for the opening two victories against the Minnesota Twins. Coupling all that with the dumping of salary and the constant drumbeat from owner Stuart Sternberg that the fans don’t deserve their baseball team, I can understand the steep drop in attendance. From what I’ve seen though, my prediction is that it won’t be too long before the fans come back. One reason is the play of Johnny Damon, a borderline Hall of Famer who hustles and scraps a la Pete Rose, and that of Superman Sam Fuld, the former Cubs farm hand who only got to play because Manny left. Fuld, who bats lead off, has become the team spark plug, and his popularity has grown so fast the Rays next month will be handing out Sam Fuld capes to the first 10,000 kids who want one.
Another reason for a Rays resurgence is that the no-name bullpen that Joe Maddon has assembled seems almost as solid as last year’s array, and that’s saying something. I don’t know where Andy Friendman found these guys, but each one of them has great stuff, especially Joel Peralta, Juan Cruz, and Detroit-Atlanta-Boston reject Kyle Farnsworth, who has been excellent.
And there’s another reason: Boston has started 2-10, and the Yankees starting rotation just lost number two arm Phil Hughes. The Orioles and Toronto have young, inexperienced arms, leaving the Rays an opportunity to climb back into the pennant race despite the horrendous start.
Like their ownership, the Rays have been a colorless group — skilled, but colorless. Fuld and Damon are trying to change that. If they succeed, the fans will be back, and the Rays will be in the hunt in September.

Contracting the Rays? Why Not the Pirates?

A couple of days ago a reporter by the name of Mike Ozanian reported in the Sports Money column of Forbes Magazine that contraction was “looming” for the Tampa Bay Rays. Who told him this? He refused to say. His first sentence was that a “groundswell” was “building in MLB to dumpt the Tampa Bay Rays. From what I’m hearing, I doubt there will be any baseball at Tropicana Field after 2014 even though the team’s least runs to 2027.” From what I’m hearing Mike Ozanian is going to be Michelle Bachman’s running mate in 2012. A groundswell is building for Ozanian to go back to My Weekly Reader, where he obviously began.
You might ask yourself: where did this drivel come from? Usually the source is Bud Selig, who conspires often with Rays owner Stu Sternberg to try to scare the bejesus out of Tampa Bayans so that the powers that be buy the Rays a new stadium. But Selig denied being the source of the “groundswell.” So who’s left? That would be our Stu, the only owner who constantly (and stupidly) berates his own fans for their lack of loyalty, passion, and commitment to his Rays.
Meanwhile, a groundswell is growing from Rays fans who are demanding that ownership commits to winning, not making money. In his expressed need to cut the salary in half, the Rays dumped half the players that helped them win the AL East in 2010. Now the team is 0-6, and it’s not all that surprising. All Star Carl Crawford is playing in Boston, and in Tampa Bay we have Sam Fuld. And Stu has his money.

Rays Poor Start Is no Surprise

The Rays, winners of the American League East last year, have started the season 0-5. No one should be surprised. Baseball is a game of continuity. Players have to be comfortable playing with each other. At the end of last season Rays owner Stu Sternberg announced he was going to cut the payroll drastically, and then he did just that. Even though he’s worth $3 billion, he says he is losing money, and so he allowed left fielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Carlos Pena, shortstop Jason Bartlett, relief aces Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, and closer Rafael Soriano go. Replacing them were two veterans long in the tooth, Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, rookie shortstop Reid Brignac, and a bunch of talented relievers no one ever heard of. The relievers have been lights out, but the Rays’ hitting has been abominable. In five games they have scored seven runs. Damon already is complaining about the turf, Manny sat because he was upset at being booed, and Evan Longoria has a hurt leg and will be out three weeks. What a disaster! Whatever the excuses, it all goes back to Sternberg. If he can’t afford to own a baseball team, he should sell the team to someone who can. There are plenty of Wall Street crooks with billions of dollars who’d love to own the Rays. Find one who cares more about winning than money, and sell it to him.