Friday afternoon, shortly after Joe Maddon walked away from the Rays, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News wrote a piece about the future of the Rays. It was nothing short of an ignorant slam piece. Madden said the Rays will “return to losing baseball and irrelevance”, without looking at the roster and acknowledging the talent still intact.
But even more damning was Madden’s comments on the Rays future in the Tampa Bay region. Madden claims “sources” feel the Rays will inevitably move from Tampa Bay to Montreal. Madden even says Rays owner Stu Sternberg has met with people from Montreal to discuss the team moving.
Like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, the Montreal Boogeyman has returned. And just in time for Halloween.
Since Madden’s article, several Tampa Bay-centric voices provided more level-headed analysis.
Noah Pransky of Shadow of the Stadium said Montreal is being used as only leverage to poke and motivate the Tampa Bay area into action for a new stadium.
The more fearmongering about the Rays moving to Montreal, the more willing Tampa Bay’s elected officials will be to open up the tax coffers.
TV contracts are everything, from a financial perspective, and the Rays’ new contract in 2017 could multiply that source of revenue by four or five times from it’s current base of $20M. If you let that coincide with the $100M available and TIF money and there’s high incentive for the city of Tampa to swoop in before it’s too late.
Finally, the Rays themselves opined through Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune:
#Rays statement re: Sternberg/Montreal – “We have not spoken to Montreal or any othercity, including Tampa about relocation at any point.”
— RMooneyTBO (@RMooneyTBO) October 27, 2014
But instead of saying the Montreal Boogyman is just a tale to scare kids and keep fans up all night worrying – which is true, by the way – lets attack the actual premise on which Madden bases his Boogeyman story.
According to Madden, Tampa Bay is an “economically depressed” area. But yet he gives zero proof. None.
Yes, Tampa Bay was hurt by the recession of 2008-2010. The whole nation was. And yes, the recession coincided with the Rays emergence into AL East contenders. But let’s look at the economics of the Tampa Bay area in 2014 (data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics).
Labor force is more than 1 million more people than it was in 2004. (Click to enlarge.)
Employment is higher than it has ever been, eclipsing its previous 2007 high.
The unemployment rate is half of what it was in 2010 and back to mid-2008 levels.
But let’s not go by my analysis, let’s see what others have to say.
Tampa Bay Times, November 2013:
After the Great Recession ended in 2009, Tampa Bay was slow to bounce back. In fact, the bay area’s economic recovery ranked among the weakest in the country in 2010 and 2011, according to the Brookings Institution.
Since then it has been another story. Tampa Bay is now the biggest job generator among Florida metros, adding nearly 42,000 jobs between September 2012 and September 2013, the most recent figures available.
Tampa Bay Business Journal, May 2014
The Tampa Bay economy is set to climb more quickly than that of the rest of the United States this year and next year
Tampa Bay Times, June 2014:
Tampa Bay’s economy was the ninth fastest-growing among the 100 largest metros nationwide last year, and that momentum is expected to continue for several years.
You can trust the people whose job it is to write about the Tampa Bay economy, or you can trust a New York Daily News sportswriter.
On the subject of attendance, Madden closes his piece on the Rays with a quote from an unnamed MLB official:
“Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year.”
While the Expos attendance eclipsed 2 million fans in 1979, 1980, 1982, and 1983, the Expos were the only baseball team in Montreal. Since 2010, the Tampa Bay area has hosted the Rays and four minor league teams as well as the spring training schedules of four teams.
Since 2008, the Rays and the Minor League teams in the area have exceeded 2 million fans four times: 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. They have also been within 5% of 2 million fans three additional times: 2011, 2013, and 2014. (Click to enlarge.)
If we include Spring Training, Tampa Bay baseball attendance has been above 2 million every year since 2006. (Click to enlarge.)
For those who say MiLB ball is cheaper, that’s true. But Spring Training is not. Of course, Spring Training contains a high amount of tourists. But we can add the local dollars spent attending Spring Training to dollars spent attending Minor League Baseball. That raises the total amount of local dollars spent on baseball in the Tampa Bay market and attendance is still over 2 million four of the last seven years.
Can Tampa Bay support Major League Baseball?
Until the next time an uninformed sportswriter digs you up from the grave, rest in peace, Montreal Boogeyman.