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Daniel Ruth

A perfect dump

This is probably a character flaw, but I've never been all that hung up on perfection. Oakeydokey is just fine by me. Above average isn't so bad. Fair to middlin' is not without its charms.

Once you start making a big deal about perfection, no good can from it — only frustration, envy, doubt, insecurity. Give me "that's about right" any time.

So we can all probably agree that Tropicana Field is far from perfection when it comes to baseball stadiums. There are some who might even say it's a perfect dump. Maybe, but at least it is our perfect dump.

Ever since current owner Stuart Sternberg alighted into our fair community to take over the Tampa Bay Rays, talk has continued unabated over the need to find a new place for the boys of summer to spit, scratch themselves and chew stuff.

Various locales have been floated for a new home for the lads, including one insane, ill-advised proposal for the current site of Al Lang Field, which had less parking available than an Amish farm. A few days ago a high-level, blue-ribbon, blue-chip study was released by a company called Populous, which painted a dire picture if it was decided to even attempt to transform Tropicana Field into something more than Major League Baseball's answer to an Afghan mud hut.

The Populous Memorandum (which sorta sounds like a Robert Ludlum novel) noted that bringing Tropicana Field up to enough snuff to make baseball commissioner Bud Selig tingle all over with excitement would require replacing the facility's dome with a retractable roof. It would also require expanding concourses, upgrading seating and moving the press box, which takes up pricey potential luxury suite real estate, to the parking lot.

Just kidding about that last one. Maybe.

The Populous people postulated that it would cost at least $471 million to gussify the Trop, which is about what Alex Rodriguez makes during batting practice. But even after spending nearly a half-billion dollars to transform Tropicana Field, the Populous purveyors of prognostication estimated the building would still be merely a B-minus or at best a B-plus ballpark.

Then again, since the Populous party-poopers are in the employ of the Rays, a cynic might conclude this was hardly a cool-eyed, bloodlessly objective assessment of the Trop's viability.

Wouldn't this be a bit like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hiring Hugo Chavez to vouch for the accuracy of the Iranian presidential election returns?

To be sure, the "bring out your dead" tone to the Populous papers led to the Rays' immediate concurrence that a renovation of the Trop would not be in the best interests of the team or community. And so efforts continue to consider other alternatives.

Still, a question is begged. First, if you can't create an A facility for a lousy, stinking $471 million, one might suggest perhaps you need better crib notes. Or maybe a better numbers cruncher.

But for the sake of argument, what's really wrong with being merely a B-minus or a B-plus? Just why does a Ray's field of schemes have to be summa cum laude?

It is certainly true no one will ever confuse Tropicana Field with Vatican City or Yankee Stadium. Still, the whoopee cushion with a gland problem does have a certain low rent, double-wide, tacky je ne sais quoi about it.

And by what standard exactly did the Populous/Rays highly subjective grading scale arrive at the self-interested opinion that even literally hundreds of millions of dollars (including, a sizable public expenditure of public monies) would still leave the Trop as baseball's version of Welcome Back, Kotter?

In all fairness, shouldn't the building be graded on a curve, a very, very, very big curve?

Yes, it is ugly. Yes, it has all the architectural allure of a quonset hut. Yes, the interior of the Trop with its maze of catwalks and lights suggests playing the national pastime at Abu Ghraib.

But instead of getting all huffy and vain about spending upward of $471 million on either a reborn Trop or a new hotsy-totsy Elysian Fields of jockstraps, why not revel in the fact the Rays call home one of baseball's truly declasse ballparks?

The economy is rotten. People are out of work. Folks fear losing their homes. Prospects for things getting better any time soon seem improbable.

Why shouldn't the Rays embrace that? Why not be the team that is proud to play in a little seedy, a little tattered around the edges, a little frayed, a little imperfect, a little wanting baseball park that is a tribute to its struggling, but loyal, middle- class fans?

There's nothing wrong with a gentleman's C, as long as it was earned doing the best one can.

A perfect dump 06/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 7:59pm]
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