Say goodbye to the Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg held the press conference we all had been anticipating since the split season schedule with Montreal was hatched and what we learned is that Sternberg thinks baseball as a full-time option, meaning playing 81 home games in the Tampa Bay region is over.

Sternberg stood in the Dali Museum Tuesday afternoon and proudly announced his idea to play approximately 35 home games in Tampa and 41 games in Montreal.

Sternberg said the plan is to play baseball in Tampa from February  through June, and play in Montreal from late June through September. There was no answer from Sternberg as to where the playoffs would be held.

The Rays are looking to build a 30,000 seat open air stadium on the site of Al Lang Field to be the potential new home of the Rays in St. Petersburg.

The Rays would also build a new open air stadium in Montreal that will seat about 30,000 and the Rays would make this their home from late June through September.

When asked about playing a full 81 game home schedule in Tampa or St. Petersburg Sternberg said “We never say never but after all we’ve been through and what we’ve learned it’s highly unlikely. I don’t see it happening in St. Petersburg, and I would be hard-pressed to see it happen in Tampa as well, just given what I know.”

So there you have it. Sternberg admitting that he does not believe that baseball full time anywhere in the Tampa Bay region will work.

For Sternberg this looks like a win, but this will be a hard sell to the folks in the Tampa Bay region.

With the Rays playing in two markets with two brand new stadiums, Sternberg believes that the stadiums would be packed on most nights solving the attendance crisis that the Rays currently find themselves in.

The revenue would increase dramatically with three television deals, with Fox Sports Florida, a tv deal in Montreal, and there would also be a French speaking television deal.

The same arrangement holds true for radio, with three potential radio deals for the team as well.

There would be licensing and additional marketing deals as well to generate revenue.

That all sounds great, but there are a lot of obstacles that this proposal will have to overcome to become reality.

The city of St. Petersburg will have to sign off and agree to any kind of split home schedule with any city. Mayor Rick Kriseman has said that he will not approve any kind of a split home schedule arrangement. It’s all or nothing.

The players association would have to approve any such deal. Player agent Scott Boras has come out as saying that he is not a fan of this proposal and would possibly discourage free agents from signing with the team.

This is just a proposal right now and is a long way away from being a done deal. Sternberg wants this to work as he has stated that he will wait to negotiate with the new mayor in 2022 if need be. The Rays want to be playing in both cities by 2023 or 2024.

But it sounds like it is a take it or leave it proposal from Sternberg,“To be clear, this is not a staged exit,” Sternberg said, That thought has never entered my mind. This is not us taking even one glance toward a relocation to Montreal. I rejected that idea years ago and I continue to reject that idea today.

“This is not a page out of a playbook to gain leverage. We are focused on this plan. We are focused on how the Rays can thrive here in Tampa Bay. This is about Tampa Bay keeping its hometown team and Montreal having one as well – a permanent arrangement, a generational commitment to both communities.”

Funny thing is I don’t believe Sternberg. He is sounding more and more like a politician when he talks about his commitment to the Tampa Bay region. If his lips are moving you know he is lying.

So enjoy the Rays for the next seven and a half years. In 2028 when the current lease expires at Tropicana Field, the Rays will be playing a full 81 game home schedule in a new city and for the sports fans in the Tampa Bay region that is a shame.