The Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Marlins are tied together by more than geography. As the Rays are looking to get a new stadium, the impending sale of the Marlins could help their chances.
Let us go back to a little over five years ago. The Miami Marlins were set to move into their new stadium, funded in large part by the taxpayers of Miami. Owner Jeffrey Loria had actually put money into his team before the move, bringing in players like Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle in an attempt to compete. Fiery manager Ozzie Guillen was also signed, in part for his ability in the dugout, and partially to reach out to the Latino community.
Instead, the 2012 season was a disaster in Miami. Guillen quickly alienated the Cuban community by praising Fidel Castro, and the Marlins limped to a 69-93 record. Guillen was let go, and the Marlins dumped every expensive contract they had, with yet another fire sale. As they had just gotten their new ballpark off the taxpayer’s dime, the timing was particularly suspicious.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays have been looking for a new ballpark almost from the moment they played their first game at Tropicana Field. Saddled with an outdated stadium, and one of the worst attendance totals in the game, the Rays have needed a new home for quite some time. However, after seeing the Marlins institute a fire sale immediately after their first season, one could expect the taxpayer to be wary of footing the bill for a new park.
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Yes, the Marlins and the Rays are an imperfect comparison. Tampa Bay has a limited payroll due to their financial situation, whereas the Marlins are built to turn a profit for Jeffrey Loria. The Rays want to win, while the Marlins seemingly want to turn a profit. Yet, to the casual fan, seeing a second team with a lower payroll trying to get a new stadium just after Miami was ripped off would likely be a tough sale.
However, Loria may no longer be involved with the game in short order. The Marlins are likely to be sold soon, either to a group fronted by Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush, or the Tom Glavine/Tagg Romney pairing. There may finally be an ownership group in charge of the Marlins that is wiling to spend money to build a winner.
While this is good news for Marlins fans, it is also a potential boost for the Rays. As they continue int heir efforts to get that new stadium, having their cross state counterparts in the National League putting together a competitive franchise will only help generate interest in the game in Florida.
As it is, the Rays are hovering around .500 this season. And they do have a history of building competitive teams through their minor league system. However, they could rightfully claim that with an infusion of cash from a new stadium, they would be able to keep more of their top young talent. Likewise, the Rays may not have to scrape the bottom of the free agent barrel as they so often need to do in order to fill out their roster.
The eventual sale of the Miami Marlins could be a boon for the Tampa Bay Rays. New ownership in Miami, especially if they begin to increase the Marlins payroll, could help ease the Rays quest for a new stadium.