Over the past few days, the baseball world has been talking about the possibility of the Rays playing their home games half of the time in Tampa and the other half in Montreal. People who are for it (which is business people mostly) are saying it is good because it will improve the franchise’s finances. Others who are in favor of it want Montreal back in the baseball world.
But the ones who are interested in it (from my perspective) are a rare few. Myself included think this ranks up as one of the dumbest ideas baseball has seen in a long time (well, the dumbest idea in the Rob Manfred era at least, and he’s come up with some real doozies of dumb ideas). More interesting, the deal only “would work” if both cities could get new stadiums.
So let me get this correct: if Tampa Bay got a new ballpark to which taxpayers in the area would foot the bill for it, they would lose half of the baseball games there. And if Montreal got a new ballpark (which eluded them 15 years ago which resulted in their move to Washington), they’d only get a small taste of MLB. And yes, Canadian taxpayers would foot the bill for that too.
MLB in the Tampa Bay area (really Florida overall) has been somewhat of a mess. Bud Selig had this wonderful idea of giving an expansion team in Tampa/St. Pete because of the baseball-rich history it has with the players down there and being a hotbed for Spring Training. Great idea but just one problem: he failed to realize how strong the Yankees (who had Spring Training in Tampa) influenced the area. And he threw the Rays in the same league and division as the Yankees. Oops. And in a division where all the teams play in the nearby vicinity (Blue Jays, Orioles, and Red Sox). So to me the Rays were doomed the minute Selig announced they’d play in the AL East. My contention is if they were moved to the NL East, the major issues would have been the Braves (nearby Orlando, also part of “Braves Country”) and Phillies (Spring Training in nearby Clearwater). But the cult followings for those two teams aren’t as strong as it is for Boston and New York. And the Expos (nothing for a following at the time), Mets and Marlins (both play on the eastern side and Marlins near Miami) wouldn’t have much of an influence.
The Rays for the past decade have been one of the more exciting teams in baseball. They have won a couple of division titles (08, 10), an AL pennant (08), and a couple of wild card runs. However, because of “revenue issues” and “sky high salaries” they have been unable to keep their stars long-term, similar to what Montreal went through 15-20 years ago. And it doomed the Expos (alongside Selig’s wish to move a team to Washington, DC). However, they have not drawn well in this time period.
People point to Tropicana Field being a giant disaster. I think the ones who badmouth the Trop are the ones who have not been to a game down there. No, it isn’t going to win “Ballpark of the Year” at all. But it isn’t a large toilet. The issue is that it is a non-retractable dome and it really is an arena with more of an arena feel than a baseball feel. I don’t think the intentions were to have the Rays continue to play at Tropicana Field for the first 25 years (I thought by this time, a new ballpark would have been in play). So I don’t think people are avoiding wanting to see the Rays in Tropicana (more because of the fan bases of other teams really hurt them).
The Rays lease with Tampa Bay (I really should say St. Petersburg since the Rays play there) runs out after 2027 which means really any idea of the Rays splitting a season with Montreal is out of the question. Adding on, if local officials and fans know that if the Rays want a new ballpark only to split it with Montreal there is no way anyone in their right mind would go for it. So those are two major hurdles that I don’t think the Rays, Montreal, or MLB could climb over.
Think of the players! We rip baseball players because they have mega large salaries. But they are still humans as well. Even players who make the minimum in the majors have a nice salary (which mostly is Tampa Bay). However, telling them they have to split their “homes” during the season as they pretty much have to up and move while having go from a place with no state income tax in Florida to the high taxes in Montreal will not be fun. Good luck with taking up with that to the MLBPA (though I think Manfred has the final decision and it wouldn’t matter).
Ultimately what I get out of this is that Manfred wants baseball back in Montreal. We know pretty much the city was jipped of the Expos and how Bud Selig and his cronies handled all of that back in the early 2000’s. However, this is NOT the way to go. Montreal deserves its own baseball team (as does Tampa Bay especially if they can switch leagues) and not having to split with another city. And this whole thing doesn’t make any logistical sense. People can say whatever they want to say from a business standpoint, but this is just bad business. If push comes to shove, the Rays will likely relocate after 2027 because there would be no way that area would pay for a ballpark that would be temporarily used from April-June.
Or maybe this has been much ado about nothing. They put it out to see how people would react to the idea. But numerous hurdles would have to be cleared anyway, and those hurdles are massive ones at that. So time will only tell if this ever gains serous traction.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat