The Rays' increase in payroll from last season looks to come in at just about 50 percent, a dramatic hike for any team, but especially one that ranked near the bottom in attendance.
Though their approximately $63 million payroll isn't anywhere near the $200 million Yankees or $178 million Red Sox, it's still a good sign, especially to players union chief Michael Weiner.
"The Rays have been a very successful team on the field, and they also are successfully running a business," Weiner said Friday after the annual meeting with the team. "That's what they should be doing. We're glad to see them increase their payroll, and we hope that the new basic agreement creates incentives that allow them to continue to be competitive."
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg has said they made the increase essentially as an investment in optimism, spending beyond their means in hopes that the improved team wins, and that attendance increases in response.
Weiner is hoping for a similar payoff.
"We follow (the attendance issue) because they have a very competitive team with some very engaging players, guys that have been with the organization and been with the fans for a long time, and you'd like to see more success," he said. "I know the TV ratings, the local TV ratings for the Rays are very good, there's a lot of people that follow the club, a lot of people that read you guys when you write about them. And you'd love to see that pay off with more people in the stands."
Also, Weiner said, the expanded playoff format with a second wild card "has to help a team like the Rays."
BIG BOUNTY: There was much talk in the clubhouse about the NFL's punishment of the Saints for their bounty system, but little concern that similar plans exist in baseball. 1B Carlos Peña, hit by pitches 117 times as a pro, said pitchers at times "try to hurt you, but they don't try to injure you."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: Sports Illustrated quotes a rival scout in its preview issue saying the Rays are "the best team I saw all spring. It's all about the starting pitching." … Quite a New York state of mind last week, with Billy Joel and Joe Namath both wearing Rays gear. … The Bovada online gambling site has David Price 7-1 to win the AL Cy Young award, James Shields and Matt Moore 25-1. Also, Evan Longoria is 15-1 to win the AL MVP award, 25-1 to lead the majors in homers. … An HBO Real Sports crew was in camp working on a Joe Maddon piece. … Former Rays reliever Joe Nelson is now scouting for the Red Sox. … DH Luke Scott has been wearing his Orioles orange sunglasses, waiting for the right lenses for his Rays blue ones. … If the Rays don't keep INF Elliot Johnson, the Star-Tribune suggests the Twins could be very interested. … Among minor-leaguers released last week were 2011 draft picks INF Raymond Church (26th round) and RHP Lucas Irvine (27th round).
. fast facts
Our weekly semi-educated guesses at the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster:
Pitchers (12): Burke Badenhop, Wade Davis, Kyle Farnsworth, Jeremy Hellickson, J.P. Howell, Jake McGee, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann, Joel Peralta, David Price, Fernando Rodney, James Shields
Catchers (2): Jose Lobaton, Jose Molina
Infielders (6): Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger, Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña, Sean Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist
Outfielders (4): Sam Fuld, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, B.J. Upton
DH (1): Luke Scott
Disabled list (1): Reid Brignac