ST. PETERSBURG - Oh, the Tampa Bay media. Maybe they know something but I still don't get it.
On the eve of year number eleven, the first day of what is to be the rest of the Rays' baseball life, imagine how happy I was to see an actual story, well, it was a column by John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times, about our local team.
When you consider the Lightning won a game but may be on the verge of imploding with some pointed words exchanged between Andre Roy, Vinny Prospal, coach John Tortorella and GM Jay Fester, it was a news cycle deserving the above the fold, under the banner placement so baseball wasn't exactly story #1.
Or was it?
There was the Roger Clemens "my wife took the HGH, I didn't" meet and greet with some pretty upset politicians who wouldn't know a baseball from a veto, so that had to have some place with the hockey stuff, right? No problem here, folks.
Maybe it was the time the Times sports editor spent with the great journalistic fraternity, Phi-Cramma-Jamma, that made him use a picture worth only a few hundred words at best and to soak up 20% of the page with the hubbub teasers attached, it sucked up more than all the other stories combined.
Even so, you would think the Rays would get the next largest chunk, correct?
USF basketball and NASCAR news virtually filled out the entire below the fold area with their very own columnist, Romano, being relegated to a 6"x2", including picture, title and byline.
Maybe I shouldn't complain because any and all coverage is good coverage (something former boss Vince Naimoli never learned) but you have to remember that for years Romano's columns came with a health warning that if it was about the Devil Rays, now Rays, opening the paper would pull the pin on a grenade.
Nearly everything dripped with sarcasm or negative overtone, although of late he may have found religion and must be drawing paychecks from MLB.com, there is so much sugar on it.
Now the warning now says, "Reading this could give you diabetes."
Stuart Sternberg and Company have delivered on their promises.
The overall media has changed its collective tune and are singing the praises of Andy Friedman as the new young baseball genius.
Stu has opening up the checkbook for something other than baseball academies, a clean stadium with comfort zones for fans, repairing fences with those same fans and also with business, the foundations of a successful franchise.
The payroll has nearly doubled since last year and the roster is deep. I mean D-E-E-P. No more settling on players to fill out the roster, now there will be talent sent out to Durham instead of Single-A-caliber players winding up in the same location.
Die-hards are no longer in pain from having bamboo slivers shoved under their fingernails to get them to fork over money for season tickets. Now fans gladly open their checkbooks while getting manicures.
The Romano column clearly points out that the Rays still haven't arrived in their own market. A very talented writer, you would think the Times would give this guy a chunk of the front page.
I can bet that if he wrote about Clemens, or the Bucs, or NASCAR, his piece would have been above the fold. But it's the Rays. Who cares?
This from a paper that has "bought in" to the team by becoming the official sponsor (see the team's official website) and is listed on their banner - "Presented by St. Petersburg Times, tampabay.com." How's that for support?
I'll agree the team has done nothing to deserve a bigger place in the sun after the Naimoli era and the first two years of losing under Sternberg. But do you think for one minute that had Clemens not pitched for the Yankees - twice - and the Blue Jays, both team hold their spring training in the Tampa Bay area, that he would be getting this kind of attention here?
Is it big news? Let's not be naive. The Rocket has fizzled, however, and his baseball career is over.
Does this rock baseball at its foundation? I would hope not only it is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. It cannot be ignored.
On the day the Rays will open spring training, Clemens and his lawyers, Finnius T. Bluster and Vinny Boom Botz, McNamee and all the star-struck politicians who were swooning over the once-surefire lock for the Hall of Fame will dominate the front pages of local papers.
And while everyone is reading about it, the same papers will have their staff falling all over each other at the Naimoli Complex to get their questions in at manager Joe Maddon and Friedman, and for those who get there early, a sound bite from a player or two.
Maybe Romano will be there, too. I hope so because he is the latest to jump on that bandwagon.
I pass out at the sight of a syringe so as you can imagine I am tired about hearing about them and blood soaked cotton balls. I want to hear about bats and balls, pitchers and catchers, spring training and the Rays.
Spring training is for the optimist in all of us, thinking our teams have as much a chance at winning the World Series and anyone else.
I know, in the past the Rays have been eliminated in January, long before the first player pulls on his jersey. That was then this is now.
World Series? Pipe dream. .500 team? You bet. That would warrant a ticker-tape parade down Central Avenue.
You want to cover the Clemens-McNamee fiasco, go ahead. Just give your own team a fair and balanced shake.
Oh my. I think I'm sounding like Fox News.
Ted Fleming, the manager of TBSN Radio 510, has been covering the sports scene in the Tampa Bay area for the last decade via radio and print. His radio show is syndicated by the Black Athletes Sports Network live daily for two hours, starting at 11:00 A.M. Additionally, he is a stringer for the PA SportsTicker and has previously worked for WEEI in Boston, ESPN 1050 in New York and Metro Sports. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To voice your opinion on his radio show, call (888) TBSN-510.