Steve Berthiaume column ESPN story: 'Tampa Bay Rays must be moved' and relocated to new city

8:17 AM, Jun 23, 2011   |    comments
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price throws a pitch in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field, 5/5/11.
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- One of the top anchors at ESPN is joining the chorus claiming the Tampa Bay Rays' location is a major league letdown. 

The article was posted late Wednesday by Steve Berthiaume, one of ESPN's top baseball anchors.

It's well researched, and it sums up a lot of the back-and-forth we've seen here on the Rays' future. But it definitely takes a side.

The headline? "Rays need to get out of Tampa Bay."

"The Tampa Bay Rays must be moved."

That's the first line of a story that goes on to lay out well the list of challenges facing one of baseball's best-playing, but least-watched teams.

ESPN's Steve Berthiaume calls Tropicana Field "gloomy." The lease that keeps the club there until 2027? "Suffocating."

"Baseball needs to lower its rope and let the Rays climb out of their sinkhole," he says, arguing baseball commissioner Bud Selig should step in and arrange a move for the club to some other city.

Berthiaume goes on to question whether a new stadium in Tampa would do much to drag the Rays out of their empty-seat slump.

In an almost-apology, he writes "This is not about assigning blame. The Rays have some passionate and supportive fans. There are simply not enough of them."

He cites the Buccaneers' recent run of blacked-out home games and the Lightning's middling attendance, despite a Stanley Cup run.

A high rate of unemployed and struggling workers, lots of elderly and short-term residents, and not a lot of big corporate partners all line up -- Berthiaume argues -- to make Tampa Bay a town not cut out to host a big league ball club.

However, he packs nearly the entire other side of the argument into one long, glossed-over sentence.

First, there's the Rays' lease with the City of St. Petersburg.

Mayor Bill Foster says the city's simply not budging. 10 News has not seen any firm figures released on how many millions of dollars it would cost the Rays or Major League Baseball to break that lease.

Plus, there's no other city out there waiting to welcome this team.

Portland, Oregon and Norfolk, Virginia have joined Las Vegas and Charlotte as potential sites for other teams in the past. Even the largest of those areas has half of Tampa Bay's population.

And those communities would have to summon the political will and money to build a new half-billion dollar big league ballpark.

If you're looking to prove the critics wrong and support the St. Pete Sluggers, the Rays will be home on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for games against the Reds at Tropicana Field.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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