* That was a candid, but unsurprising, comment on the Rays’ stadium scenario by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman the other day. It only underscored the priority that must be keeping the Rays in the Tampa Bay market. Parochial ego can’t be a factor. “Psychologically, we’d take a hit,” acknowledged Kriseman, “but economically the city will be fine. That’s a transformative property (Tropicana Field’s 86 acres) with or without a stadium.”
In his own way, Kriseman is conceding the obvious. Keeping a baseball franchise is a regional “win-win.” St. Pete won’t miss a developmental beat. And Tampa, as the business, media and geographic hub of this asymmetrical, mass transit-challenged, regional market, is where the stadium belongs–if the franchise is going to remain here. The hard-nosed, leverage game has already begun. Just ask the other Rays-involved mayor.
* Tampa’s own Lou Piniella, 75, missed the Hall of Fame by one vote. How ironic that had he not taken the Rays job, he likely would have made it in. He ended his managerial career on a down note: a three-year (2003-05) Rays run that was his only losing record.
* Tampa winter resident Joe Maddon is a strong proponent for a state-of-the-art baseball stadium in Tampa. “I think for the survival of major league baseball in this community, it needs to be built, it needs to be that nice and it needs to be over on the other (Hillsborough County) side,” he said. Left unsaid: Who all is paying exactly what to make that happen.
* It still seems weird to read about Rays off-season moves that include the naming of a new “process and analytics coach” (Jonathan Erlichman) and a new “mental skills coach” (Justin Su’a). But as we’ve been seeing, this kind of “weird” works.
* It’s official; the XFL is coming to Tampa Bay in 2020. The eight-team, winter-spring football league is backed by World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon. For the record, McMahon says there will be no, uh, crossover between the XFL and WWE. Also for the record, it’s never a good sign when you have to address any possible connection between a football league and pro wrestling.