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Boston should put the Rays out of their misery - for good

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  October 9, 2013 10:15 AM

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It must be misery in St. Petersburg, Fla. today.

Maybe itís time to put them out of it.

The Red Sox are headed to the American League Championship Series after a nail-biting, 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS Tuesday night, a game in which Florida baseball fans banged out Tropicana Field for a second-straight night. An announced attendance of 32,807 showed up at the ballpark Tuesday night, one evening after 33,675 watched the Raysí dramatic win in Game 3.

Neat. Maybe a third of them will show up for Opening Day in April.

Baseball in the Sunshine State is dead, but hey, it was a good run. The Marlins won a pair of World Series titles, the Rays have an American League pennant, and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria even got to swindle hundreds of millions of dollars out of Miami for a hideous ballpark, which should be a lesson to the good citizens of Tampa-St. Pete. Folks, the Trop may be a dump, but youíd be insane to build a new ballpark for the Rays.

It doesnít work.

It wonít work.

Ever.

Sure, itís cute when you show up when the Rays and Marlins make the postseason, but on the whole, baseball is to Florida what the groundhog is to Punxsutawney. It should show up in February and be forgotten by April. Not surprisingly, the Marlins and Rays ranked 29th and 30th in Major League Baseball attendance in 2013. Thatís dead last and dead laster. The Rays spent approximately $60 million on payroll this past season, while the Marlins dished out around $40 million for a last-place finish in the National League East. Only the Houston Astros stole more of baseballís revenue sharing cash flow than Florida managed.

If you build they will come? Only in Iowa.

Clearly itís time for retraction Ė once Bud Seligís failed attempt to rid Minnesota of the game Ė or relocation, the latter of which is Major League Baseballís only option as far as the union is concerned, barring expanding every day rosters to 27. Las Vegas is calling, St. Pete. Portland is calling, Miami.

Maybe Boston should be as well.

Letís stop with the nonsense of the Hub thinking itís a viable option for the 2024 Summer Olympics. If the Democratic National Convention taught us anything, it would be a crippling nightmare for the city and region, which frankly, is more suited for a more spread-out Winter Games. Chicago spent an estimated $100 million only to be rejected for the 2016 Olympics, which went to Rio de Janeiro. Thatís only $42 million less than the Red Sox decided at one point to waste on Carl Crawford.

Despite Bostonís sparkling new waterfront developments over the past decade, the Sox arenít going anywhere, firmly entrenched in the Fens, in a home that Ė for all its faults Ė remains a gem of the game. But doesnít the Seaport just scream for a ballpark, one that could be on par with the likes of San Francisco and Baltimore? Itís one of the more vibrant areas in the city, and a baseball team would simply be the jewel the area needs to complete an area Boston long forgot before the current revitalization.

Yes, yes, thereís the option of the Revolution building a stadium there too, which would be fine, but wouldnít Boston be better off as a two-baseball team town again? Itís been 60 years since the Braves fled Commonwealth Ave. and there is a pair of teams down south just ripe for new beginnings. All due respect to Vegas and Portland, but minor league baseball works just fine.

The new mayorís first bit of business (unless the school bus drivers decide to quit again) should be to hire HOK for the purposes of luring Rays owner Stuart Sternberg into salivating at the thought of a premium facility in a true baseball town. Move the Rays to the NL, the Marlins can stay where they are to even things up, then move them toÖ.well, who cares? Topeka, you in?

Of course, itís never going to happen. The Red Sox have territorial rights in New England, and a long-standing fan base that likely wonít sway sides, even if baseball moved the Rays to the National League. But even if the Rays played second fiddle in Boston, it couldnít be worse than being ignored in Tampa.

According to a 2005 Bloomberg piece arguing the existence of a second team in Boston, the city has only the sixth-largest local economy ó but the five larger economies support two teams. And Boston clearly has the resources to get in on the action. Does it have the drive to do so?

Probably not. But thatís not to say it isnít a tantalizing thought.

Until then, the Red Sox will just have to sign David Price.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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