My little brain was working on an idea for a nice little post about the look into the future we have gotten over the last two days. We got to see Chirinos and McGee and Torres and Cobb and imagine what 2012 and beyond might look like.
Then I picked up my morning paper and saw Marc Topkin’s byline above the fold on 1A and knew I couldn’t write the prospect post. Not today at least.
The Rays kicked the stadium debate up a notch last night with two officially unrelated comments from Matt Silverman and Joe Maddon about the Trop. The Times frames the story as being originally spurred by comments made by John Kruk (I didn’t see them, anyone know exactly what he said?) but, I think any national comments merely provided the opportunity for the Rays to embark on a new stadium-related strategy.
The Rays have made their argument about the economic viability of Tropicana Field which I think we all agree is limited, at best. But, economic arguments fit better in boardrooms than they do in newspapers where fan passions are related to any potential decisions. While we as a fan base may understand that argument, it has obviously not created a grassroots movement. In retrospect, I think the Rays knew it wouldn’t. It is not often you see a community rise up and band together to help a rich guy make a greater contribution to the profit-sharing fund he participates in with other rich guys. The economic argument was merely the necessary first wave of this discussion. The Rays had to know that any move would ultimately need to be justified on a business reasons so, they took the time to lay the economic groundwork.
Now, however, we have moved on to the audience participation part of the program.
The next phase of the Rays’ stadium strategy that kicked off last night is, best I can tell, novel in the world of stadium gamesmanship. They didn’t threaten to leave, which seems to be S.O.P. for teams squeezing municipalities. Instead, phase 2 tied the debate to something the Rays know fans care about: on-field production.
This is, quite simply, genius.
Not only do the Rays executives have the upper-hand in this debate (Bill Foster’s first attempt at a baseball discussion was laughable and a little demeaning), but any resistance to the new plan can now be painted as resistance to good performance by the club. Not only will Bill Foster’s buffoonery eventually lead to the Nashville Rays, as the argument goes, it will lead to bad baseball during the period between now and Nashville.
Sometimes, when you watch the machinations of this ballclub, you have to just sit back and tip your cap. It’s like they hand a copy of Machiavelli to every new hire. Look at the chess board again and tell me you don’t see that Bill Foster is already check-mated.