No matter what Rays do in playoffs, payroll to be reduced in '11

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Despite dropping their last two games to the New York Yankees this week, the Tampa Bay Rays have been among the best teams in baseball all season long.

Entering Wednesday’s action, only the Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Philadelphia Phillies have better records. They have a young, exciting nucleus of players, and the experience of having been to the World Series in 2008.

But despite all of this the Rays average only 23,000 fans per game, ranking 23rd among the 30 teams. The Mariners, Nationals, Brewers and Astros are all among those who draw more fans per game than Tampa Bay.

Because of this, Rays principle owner Stuart Sternberg has some bad news for Rays fans, telling Marc Topkin that payroll will be reduced – potentially significantly – in 2011.

“No question. Nothing can change that,” Sternberg said before Tuesday’s game. “Unfortunately there’s nothing that can happen between now and April that can change that unless Joe Maddon hits the lottery and wants to donate it, or I hit the lottery.”

Sternberg wouldn’t say how low the payroll may go, though he said in spring training it wouldn’t reach even the $60-million range. “I don’t have a plan in mind what the lower (end) is,” he said. “I just know it’s going down.”

The Rays had a franchise record payroll of more than $70 million this season, so a reduction below $60 million is significant. When you consider that Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano will be among those hitting free agency after this season, and Matt Garza and B.J. Upton are arbitration eligible, something will have to give.

It’s a shame, but it’s also tough to blame Sternberg when you have a great team that “can’t come close” to turning a profit because it doesn’t draw flies. Why should he expect to sell more tickets next year? Clearly he doesn’t, and thus Rays fans face the prospect of a dramatically different team next season, no matter what they do this fall.

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Addison Russell’s wife Melisa comes forward with details about years of abuse

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Last year, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell‘s wife Melisa made an Instagram post in which she accused her husband of cheating on her. Melisa’s friend added a comment in which she alleged Addison had been physically abusive towards Melisa. Addison denied the allegations. Major League Baseball started an investigation, but Melisa chose not to cooperate. Addison was not punished and the issue mostly went away.

On Wednesday, Melisa posted on her WordPress blog, which is linked on her Instagram with over 44,000 followers. In the post, Melisa details years of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse from Addison. Addison’s behavior, as detailed by Melisa, checks many of the boxes listed by The National Domestic Violence Hotline. As the abuse went on, Melisa says she suffered from depression. Eventually, she filed for divorce and began to regain control of her life, ultimately gaining the courage to come forward with what she had been through.

Read Melisa’s post if you want to know the full details of what went on. The details may be triggering for those of you who have also suffered abuse or are sensitive to the idea.

The Cubs and Major League Baseball should attempt to speak with Melisa to develop a strategy moving forward. Melisa may not cooperate again, which is her right and would not in any way diminish her allegations. If Melssa agrees, the Cubs should suspend Russell immediately and indefinitely. Failing that, Major League Baseball should suspend Russell immediately and indefinitely.

Victims of abuse, usually cisgender women and transgender people, have nothing material to gain by coming forward with allegations, particularly against someone in the public spotlight with legions of fans who will defend their favorite player to an unhealthy degree. Those who do come forward with details of their abuse should be given the benefit of the doubt and applauded for their courage.