We’ve had a couple of items in the past week concerning Tampa Bay’s low payroll and Lou Piniella’s alleged dissatisfaction. Would it surprise anyone to learn that Devil Rays figurehead Vince Naimoli is well on his way to establishing himself as the Donald Sterling of Major League Baseball? From this past Wednesday’s Tampa Tribune and Alan Snel.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays may have one of the worst records and lowest player payrolls in Major League Baseball, but their financial picture apparently is strong.
In fact, the team is among the most profitable teams in baseball, booking $27.2 million in operating income in 2004, according to new financial analysis by Forbes magazine.

The Rays had a higher operating income – earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization – than any other team in the major leagues last year except the Baltimore Orioles, according to an estimate published in the latest edition of the magazine. The Orioles, Forbes estimated, had operating income of $34 million. The Cleveland Indians matched the Rays at an estimated $27.2 million in operating income, Forbes said.

The rosy financial picture for the Rays, which drew an average turnstile crowd of 10,570 fans a game in 2004, was aided by a $20 million subsidy the team received under an MLB revenue-sharing program.

Vince Naimoli, the team’s managing general partner, declined to comment Tuesday on the Forbes analysis and ranking. Devil Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn, though, said the magazine is historically inaccurate.

“It’s recognized through baseball that those numbers are not accurate,” Vaughn .