If you are reading this on Facebook, click here to read the fully formatted, extra sexafied version.
The Tampa Bay Devil Ray fans voted with their feet last night. Or their backsides, either way you look at it. By way of their backsides remaining on their sofas, and not at the ball game.
In what you would have to think was the Rays most pivotal series of the season starting last night they didn't even manage to half fill their vacuous stadium. Think about it, if the Rays had swept Boston (not going to happen now thanks to Johnny Lester) they might have had a shot making it into the playoffs through the Wildcard. Relatively disappointing season be damned, they would have started with a clean slate and their young, fast lineup would have terrified everyone in the AL, even the $$Yankees$$. It would not be completely insane to imagine the local fan base would turn up in their thousands to roar the team on in game one of the series last night, right?
Gone are the thousands of bandwagon fans from the failed playoff run of '08. No more painted faces, no more painfully starchy handpainted signs, and considerably less fresh, newly purchased Rays jerseys with the tag and shiny MLB logo still on them.
In what you could argue was the biggest game of the Rays season last night a pathetic 17,692 showed up. According to ESPN the Rays stadium was a meagre 49.1% full. Less than half full, for the biggest game of their season so far.
Of course, you can't just blame those part-time, bandwagon fans that turned up in droves for the '08 playoff run, weren't they adorable. Last night Scott Kazmir should have taken the hill for the Rays. He hasn't had the greatest of '09s so far yet had definitely turned a corner post All Star Game and would have scared the red dye out of the Sox last night, no doubt.
The big winner in all of this - Kazmir doesn't have to worry about facing the Sox, $$Yanks$$ and even Blue Jays 20 times a year, his E.R.A thanks the Rays cowardly, stingy ownership!
However he will be plying his trade for the Angels for the rest of the '09 MLB season and into the playoffs too (The Halos are a lock for the playoffs).
This was an ugly, cowardly cost/salary saving exercise, the Rays basically raising the white flag and saying 'we will ride them while they are young and cheap and then give up on them when they cost too much to keep'.
Before you feel sorry for the 'small market' Rays, can you imagine how much cash-money they made during last seasons playoff run? Millions upon millions of dollars in tickets, merchandise and other revenues. Are the Rays ownership going to put that back into their team? No, they will be taking the money and running, thank you very much.
Instead of building on the success of '08 the Rays ownership are cowardly bowing out of the '09 MLB playoff chase by starting the slow dismantling of their team.
It didn't start with Scott Kazmir either. Edwin Jackson is having an insane season for the Detroit Tigers, who are probably playoff bound, in no small amount thanks to Jackson's terrific season to date. He was a Rays player until they cut him loose post '08 season, citing a depth in pitching. Of course, it didn't hurt their ownership that this would mean one less 'mouth to feed' in terms of salary.
A serious, aggressive ownership keeps Jackson and indeed Kazmir and rides a pitching strong team into the playoffs. A bunch of greedy, cowardly clowns jettisons both for flotsam and starts whinging about being a small market team. Of course you are, Tampa, and you always will be, as long as your ownership keeps thinking and acting like one.
I actually feel sorry for those Rays fans this morning, the 17,000 that showed up last night. They care about their team, possibly more so than the suits that run it.