The simmering debate over the worthiness of Tropicana Field as the home of the Tampa Bay Rays continues, as broadcaster John Kruk and manager Joe Maddon all take shots at the place, with St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster declaring it fit for MLB.
The latest incidents: a bank of lights went out Monday night, causing an 18-minute delay in the game, and then last night the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson lost a ball in the lights, leading to a Rays victory. In response, ESPN’s Kruk ripped the Trop, saying it was an “improper” place for baseball.
“He’s right,” Maddon told a local radio station. “We do need a new ballpark. He’s absolutely right. And he’s right, this ballpark is improper for Major League Baseball. You shouldn’t play with all these obstructions and all these caveats. … It’s time to move on. Absolutely it is. And to deny that, everybody has just got their head in the sand, period.”
There are efforts underway to search for a politically acceptably site for a new Rays ballpark. But St. Pete officials have not been willing to participate, saying the Rays have a lease through 2027 and the only way to get out of it is to find a new ballpark site within Pinellas County, where St. Pete is located.
“The Tampa Bay Rays, while they’re paying for the maintenance and upkeep of this facility, the people of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County are the ones paying the mortgage,” said Mayor Bill Foster. “It’s a house that they did not build. And yet, Major League Baseball and the Rays agreed that this was suitable for Major League Baseball through 2027. I didn’t write that use agreement. But someone else did and they all agreed.”
To deny there are problems with Tropicana Field is whistling past the graveyard, and if the condition of the Trop worsens, the Rays may have a pretty good legal can in saying that the team shouldn’t be held to a lease for a subpar facility.. Saying the Trop is good now because MLB and former Rays management agreed in the mid-1990s to bring in a team is just illogical. That’s like saying a used 1995 Ford Contour should command new-car prices because everyone agreed that was its worth in 1995. Things change, MLB ballparks have seen tremendous upgrades in the last 15 years, and the Trop isn’t even close to an average MLB facility — it’s clearly one of the worst, despite the best efforts of the Rays.
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