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Rays Facing Tough Times Ahead

Here's a really harrowing article about the Rays that will have plenty of applications for the Pirates if they can ever get back on their feet. If the Pirates ever do start winning again, that'll be great, but then they'll be facing an entirely different and only somewhat less worrisome set of problems than the ones they face now:

The result is a Rays team at an odd and seemingly premature crossroads, one in danger of seeing its window close just as the world of winning baseball has begun to open. Rays management faces the vexing questions of determining which elements of geography, a down economy and erratic fan engagement are vital in determining whether baseball can succeed in the area.

According to sources, baseball commissioner Bud Selig has instructed Rays management not to make significant financial investments in the area until attendance indicators improve, suggesting the team could be investing in potential relocation sites.

Meanwhile, this current group of Rays players must win now or most certainly will part ways. Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Carlos Pena are eligible to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and Matt Garza and B.J. Upton are eligible for expensive raises through salary arbitration.

Even if the Pirates start winning, their attendance will still probably be average or below average, just as it was when they were winning in the early 1990s. The beautiful ballpark and long history of baseball in Pittsburgh mean that the Bucs aren't a threat to be moved anytime soon, but they'll probably have to begin dumping their top players almost as soon as they form the core of a contending club.