I had two knee-jerk reactions to Lou’s retirement.
1) The argument that Major League Baseball cannot work in Tampa Bay because it is not a baseball town is absurd. We love baseball and have created a hall-of-fame roster of players and managers to prove it. In fact, in Men at Work, George Will wrote “What the Chesapeake Bay is to crabs, Tampa is to baseball talent.” (p. 27).
It is short-sighted to conclude, after 12+ seasons of mostly mismanaged (business management, not dugout management) Major League Baseball, that our community will not support a big league club.
The fact that the community has been slow to adopt the Rays is more a testament to the size of the hole Vince Naimoli’s ineptitude created, rather than a sign that the community doesn’t love the national pastime.
Saying Tampa Bay is not a baseball community is akin to a bad restaurant arguing that people don’t like steak anymore because no one wants to buy their poorly prepared food.
(By the way, can we all agree that few, if any, cities simply marry an expansion team just because they show up? The fact that Tampa Bay is a baseball community is the very reason the Rays are having so much trouble. We have loved the big leagues since Al Lopez left the Smokers for the show, if not before. Those old allegiances weren’t simply going to vanish. An expansion franchise cannot be judged until an entire generation grows up with them. Those kids are in the 6th grade right now. If they don’t buy tickets in 10 years, then move the thing to San Antonio or Portland.)
2) Joe Maddon is a better fit for this team than Lou ever would have been. For all his skill as a manager, Lou was awful at managing young players. He didn’t have the patience to wait for them to learn how to harness their talent. I watched Lou totally crush Toby Hall’s confidence (who then promptly transformed into Tubby Hull — the master of hitting foul pop outs to third — when he turned to Bobby Seay’s old therapist…the Krispy Kreme “hot now” light).
I know that I critiqued Maddon’s lineup for undermining the hitters’ confidence less than 24 hours ago but, no manager is perfect. His free-wheeling style certainly has allowed all the young talent that usually went to waste at the Trop to blossom. There is just no way Lou would have had the same success.