Forget the 90 games the Diamondbacks are sure to lose this year. Owner Jerry Colangelo has a rabid fan base and a cash-cow ballpark, and this master salesman will build a contender by 2000. Tampa Bay has a poorly located leisure suit of a stadium (Turf? Dome? How 70s!) and notoriously fickle fans. For the third game of the Devil Rays' first season, 17,000 seats were empty. It's tough going up against shuffleboard season in St. Pete.
While the Diamondbacks were sinking cash into middling middle infielders and a centerfield pool, the Devil Rays were building responsibly. General manager Chuck LaMar brought in vets like Wade Boggs and Fred McGriff to be respectable in '98 but kept the payroll low ($25 million) and stocked the farm. Tampa will do its spending in a few years, when the young Rays have matured into contenders. Meanwhile, Devil Rays fans have the Gulf if they want to swim.