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Tales of the Bizarre – the Rays

October 28, 2011

Tampasphere still wants to hold off on an in depth discussion of the Rays.  However, strange things keep happening, unusually revolving around the Mayor of St. Pete.

This week, the Times tells us that a Pinellas County Commissioner said that the St. Pete Mayor was complaining about poor marketing by the Rays:

” ‘I believe that they are deliberately trying to hurt the team financially by not promoting it adequately,’ ” Latvala recalled Foster telling her. The Mayor’s response was just as odd:

“That’s stupid, that’s ludicrous,” Foster said. “That was not said. I would challenge Susan to her face if she says I said that. She won’t put words in my mouth.”

Told of Foster’s denial, Latvala stood by her recollection of what he said Friday. Foster was “very concise and clear” that the Rays weren’t “putting all the resources they really could because they want it to fail,” she said.

* * *

Even what Foster acknowledges telling Latvala — that he’s not seeing enough marketing by the Rays — illuminates much about St. Petersburg’s standoff with the team.

* * *

Latvala said Foster asked if she believes the Rays have correctly handled a promotion agreement with the county’s tourism agency. She said she does.

She said Foster told her the Rays spent about $500,000 on marketing, and it was on the low end of Major League Baseball. She said he also told her that he had people close to him researching the issue, but did not identify them.

Foster acknowledged telling her that the Rays spent $500,000 on marketing. He said he got that figure from a reporter.

“Sometimes even reporters get it wrong, but this one is credible,” Foster said.

Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn said the team spends “far in excess” of $500,000 on marketing.

“Our budget for giveaway items alone exceeds that amount,” he said in a statement.

There is no way to know who is being more accurate, though we cannot think of a motive from the County Commissioner to make it up.

Why would the mayor start talking about marketing, especially when he told the city council later in the week:

The mayor also said the Rays are a private company, and it’s not clear how far the city should go in helping the team sell tickets.

“I have to question the role of government in any private endeavor,” Foster said.

If he questions such a role, why is he discussing the team’s marketing?  Why does he consider it his business? It could be just another odd event in a series of odd events.  Or it could be the Mayor, confronted with an issue in which he is putting himself in a box, looking to shift blame for the Rays’ attendance issues away from the stadium and its location. (Unless he likes these kids of lists where Tropicana Field seems to be very common, see here and here.)

At least the Mayor agreed to go meet the Rays, even if it means going to New York. Hopefully, he will follow through.

We agree with a St. Pete City Council member:

“Why do we want to pick a fight with them?” she said. “The one thing I don’t understand is why for a city that wants to keep the Rays, why would it take this adversarial position about marketing?”

So true.  However, nothing positive will happen until St. Pete, including its mayor, finally admits that there is something wrong about Tropicana Field and its location – not that a new stadium has to be outside St. Pete – but there is the possibility it does. Work out a price for letting the Rays look all over the region, and let’s get on with the obvious task.

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