I will flat out say that I hate seeing teams move. One city always ends up with its feelings hurt and then we end up with expansion teams and etc... but this time I think is an exception. And here are my reasons:
- The fans in Florida obviously are flaky at best, if not non-existent all together (the Marlins will attest to this because they were 28th on the list only above the Athletics and Indians). There are AAA teams that draw almost half as many fans and most AAA teams are in overly populated or poor markets. The Indianapolis Indians, who have 4 major league teams within 4 hours, draw over 8,000 fans/game and they are a feeder team for the Pirates.
- Low budget + Winning records don't last forever. Something's gotta give sooner or later and if a team can't fill the seats, then its the wins. The Rays are in the AL East, toughest division in baseball every year. And their main competition for the playoffs are Boston and New York have basically limitless payrolls. This means to continue to compete, the Rays will have to up the payroll to keep the talent they have around, but right now there's nowhere for the money to come from.
- By the grace of God it would get them out of the AL East. Both the NL and AL have a very uneven distribution of competitive teams every year, but the AL East is by far the worst. The Rays have defied all odds the last 3 years to go from basement dwellers to competitive. But in the last 3 years, really since the origin of divisional play, often a team that wins its division will have a worse record than the Wild Card or even a team not in the playoffs (on one instance the Padres made the playoffs at 82-80). If the Rays were to move, they may finally be able to escape the AL East and force realignment in the American League.
- It would all but end "dome" baseball. With "The Trop" being 1 of only 2 indoor stadiums remaining, moving the Rays would leave only the Blue Jays with an indoor stadium. Baseball was not meant to be played on Astroturf and in the air conditioning. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Stan Musial all were big boys and played outside on the grass. Moving the Rays away from "The Trop" and all the ridiculous rules regarding what is "in play" and whats not would be not only a victory for the rays but all of baseball.
- The Rays deserve better. If the first 4 points weren't enough for you, just know that they deserve better than they got. They've got quite possibly the best marketing team in baseball. They've got a young talented core of players and a manager crazy enough to pull it all together. They got shoved into baseball's toughest division and shined despite it. If one team deserves this, its them.
The Rays need to move, I don't know where and to be honest I don't really care. Just so they don't go back to the basement of their division and out of the public eye for all of eternity. The league needs to help them out, find them a new home because their current home isn't working. Even if they have to pull and Indianapolis Colts and leave in the dead of night in the middle of the winter, they need to go. Tampa needs to quit raining on the Rays parade.