The Idiots Are Back

In an off-season where they lost Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, Dan Wheeler and Carl Crawford, it was starting to look like the Tampa Bay Rays might be moving toward that downswing so many American League fans had been anticipating.  Then Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, surprised a few folks in the baseball world by giving one-year contracts to both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.

Even without Damon and Ramirez, the Rays still have a solid enough team, but adding the personalities and power of the two former Red Sox superstars ensures not only a good offensive team but also a team that the world of baseball will be paying close attention to.  Finally, the Rays might get those empty seats filled during the regular season and the playoffs, the seats that David Price and Evan Longoria complained about last fall.   The Red Sox will visit Tropicana Field nine times in 2011.  They always bring in more fans than the average Rays game but the promise of getting to see Damon and Ramirez together again could very well bring in even more Sox fans, not only for the Sox/Rays games but with many retirees down there the prospect of Sox fans going to non-Red Sox/Rays games isn’t completely crazy.

While I’m not completely sold on the idea that Manny and Johnny in the clubhouse will bring in more fans than the team being in the playoffs, you can’t argue that it won’t, at least, bring the media scurrying to Florida.  ESPN, Fox Sports and TBS are guaranteed to broadcast more Rays games than they probably planned on for the year.  ESPN and the MLB Network will be leading their nightly baseball wrap-ups with Rays games.

We will, once again, be stupid with Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon stories.  For that alone I hope Andrew Friedman is one day banished to hell. But if I’m being honest as a baseball fan, after we wade through the coverage overkill, the American League East, already the most exciting division to watch in MLB, just became the most entertaining as well.

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