In the end, it's no big deal. The story simply exposes the lust among Tampa Bay media to drive the stadium story along.
(And can we mercifully take a break from Buckhorn's "I’m not going to be the boyfriend in the divorce" line, which the press has re-quoted incessantly over the past year?)
Is there any news yet about a new ballpark? Certainly the fact that Foster and Rays owner Stu Sternberg (finally) sat down and talked a few months ago was a development, if only because they hadn't done so in quite awhile.
The Rays seem to be taking the long view for now. Their chief objective is to get more people to attend their games, which has galvanized St. Petersburg political leadership, as it should.
The Rays were 29th out of 30 teams in attendance in 2011, which is doubly embarrassing for all parties considering they ended up being one of only eight teams to make the post-season, the third time in four seasons they've done so, an extremely impressive achievement in what has been considered baseball's strongest division for a number of years now.
That lowly figure has to be boosted in 2012. Otherwise, St. Pete's political leverage would weaken, as it would play into the Rays management's contention that downtown St. Pete is an untenable market for them.
Look, we get it that reporters are going to keep on asking Mayors Foster and Buckhorn about the Rays. CL asked about the issue during a recent interview with Buckhorn, because we wouldn't be doing our due diligence if we hadn't. He told us he would be happy to work with Foster on any promotional effort.
Rays execs have been meeting with editorial boards in recent weeks, trumping up the good that the Rays do in the community, with the idea of getting everybody to be on board this year.
As the team begins training camp, there is definitely a positive buzz in the air, as some magazines are predicting the Rays will make it to the World Series. The team has actually spent some money on free agents in the off-season. Even Stu Sternberg is sounding positive.
But let's not forget the man's comments after the Rays lost to the Rangers last year in a game played at a not-sold-out Tropicana Field.
"I am frustrated this year," Sternberg said of losing to the Rangers for the second consecutive year. "We've replicated last year [on the field] and our attendance numbers were down 15 percent and our ratings were down. The rubber has got to meet the road at some point here. When you go through the season, you control your own destiny, if you win out. We're getting to the point where we don't control our own destiny. This is untenable as a model going forward.
I don't have all the answers to it, but we've answered any questions stadium related, market related, economy related, area related, sport related," Sternberg said. "Whatever you want to say, there are 29 other teams passing us like we're going in reverse right now. Except on the field. And at some point that changes. …"
Look, Sternberg could ease his pain if he were to finance the approximately $600 million in funding for a new ballpark himself. But since he's committed to spending only a third of that cash, he's going to have to depend on the kindness of strangers (i.e. the private sector), or on a serious rebound in the economy, before there's any serious talk of a government-financed park.