I think this is really a shrewd gambit by the Tampa owners to fully move the team but do so slowly enough to not make waves with MLB.The two city thing is never going to happen.The owner has no leverage in Tampa (thanks largely to how badly the Marlins screwed things up down in the Miami area), so it’s not about a stadium there.
Rather, I think this is just a way to control how he can move the team, keep an interest, bring on an equity partner.and get out of Tampa to his chosen new location while MLB gets out of the way.Maybe Tampa becomes the springtime home, but that’s about it.
Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Montreal is ready and able to take on a team again.The ownership group is in place, they have loads of money, they have a site for a stadium that will work.This is how Sternberg tries to make the move happen without selling out entirely.
MLB does not want to lose Tampa Bay as a market but they also want to regain Montreal.If the Rays outright moved to Montreal, the present largest market in the US/Canada without a MLB team, Tampa Bay would immediately become the largest market without one.A Montreal team in the AL East is projected to be successful, with road attendance coming from fans of division rivals Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
Having a Montreal team in the Expos former place in the National League East would not have the same effect.At the same time, MLB does not want national TV ratings to suffer due to Tampa Bay no longer having a team.
Stuart Sternberg is one of baseball’s smartest owners, but this idea is so dumb that it’s hard to believe Sternberg thought of it.The big problem for the Rays is the stadium, not just that it’s obsolete, it’s also in a location that’s very difficult for the majority of fans to get to.Tampa Bay is a region, not a city.
None of the governments involved have the public support needed to shell out a billion dollars or more to build a stadium and just give it to the Rays.The failed (for now, at least) proposal to build a new one in Tampa’s Ybor City district didn’t work because, Sternberg doesn’t have the will or the wallet to spend a billion dollars.Pinellas County (where St. Petersburg is located) has some money available, but the chances of donating it to a Tampa Stadium are zilch.
So, the idea apparently among baseball’s “brains” is that Montreal is so eager to get baseball back that it will spend the money for a stadium, even if it’s just for half a season.Do you see a problem with that?Of course, it’s only been in recent years that Montreal paid off all the debts the city ran up to bring in the 1976 Olympics.
The Olympic stadium never really was finished, despite huge cost overruns.When the players went on strike in 1994 during a great run by perhaps the best Expos team ever, it really put a damper on the city’s enthusiasm for baseball.I’m not sure that after being so badly burned financially and emotionally, that Montreal is ready to get back in the game.
So what’s the point of this idiotic idea?Obviously, it’s an attempt to pressure the powers that be in the Tampa Bay area to get their act together and come up with a viable plan, preferably I’m sure with a minimal or zero contribution from Sternberg.Will it work?
The Rays would draw better in Montreal than they would in Tampa.
Splitting the season might not be very cost effective.