Almost two years ago, I posted a blog entry opining that 2016 would be the last season that the Rays would play in St. Petersburg. Perhaps I was a little aggressive in my prognostication, some would say dreaming in color, or even as a reader from Tampa called me, insane!
On Sunday November 6, Pierre Trudel tweeted that the Rays’ owner, Stuart Sternberg, had recently commissioned a feasibility study for a baseball stadium in the Griffin Town section of Montreal.
Brian Auld of the Rays quickly issued a statement, yet did not refute the rumor.
Canadian Press journalist, Frédérique Daigle, tweeted me that he tried to get information from the Rays and nobody was talking.
Sternberg needed the permission from MLB to commission such a study. Fred Daigle also tried to get an answer from MLB… nothing.
At some point, Commissioner Manfred or Sternberg will have to address this. If either of them respond with their usual hyperbole or not confirm nor deny, you can bet it’s true.
The next question begs to be asked: How recent was this feasibility study? According to Trudel, very recently, a matter of only a few months ago. A few months ago? This is big. If true, this means that Sternberg, like Manfred, appear to be talking out of both sides of their mouths again. They both stated how Tampa is a viable baseball market, yet there is in all likelihood, a feasibility study for a baseball stadium in Montreal that was green lighted by Major League Baseball.
You can listen to Trudel being interviewed (en français) by clicking on the banner below.
Do I believe Trudel? You betcha! Pierre Trudel is Quebec’s version of Keith Olbermann, he gives it to you straight, no BS. Unlike journalists in the mainstream, Trudel has no affiliations; he can say what he wants. The mainstream journalists agree that Major League Baseball will be back in Montreal, expansion being the likeliest scenario. This is the more genteel position to take. Safe. Don’t ruffle any feathers. A mainstream journalist will never say that there is no hope that Florida tax payers will agree to shell out billions to fund a new stadium. Trudel, like me, is of the opinion that baseball will not work in Tampa, even with a new stadium. Silently, Sternberg and Manfred know this too.
Sternberg is an entrepreneur. These guys can sniff out opportunities and he sees one in Montreal. Will Sternberg swoop in and relocate his team here in Montreal? It’s possible, very possible. He is also leveraging all the work of the prospective ownership group comprising of Stephen Bronfman, Mitch Garber, and Bell Media. Everything is in place to relocate now and from the point of view of an opportunity seeker – why not?
The writing has been on the wall for many years in Tampa and even more so for 2017. The nebulous terms of the Rays’ TV contract and the so-called “good” ratings. If the ratings are so good, then why not renew the TV contract? The answer is simple. A TV contract in the Tampa / St. Pete region is crumbs compared to the billions waiting in Canada.
Perhaps, the biggest indicator that the Rays are essentially a lame duck franchise is their ever depleting payroll. Brandon Guyer was due for a nice raise by way of arbitration – gone! The only notable payroll commitments in 2017 are for Evan Longoria, Chris Archer, and Logan Forsythe. Forsythe and his $7,000,000 salary for 2017, may well expect to be dealt. As for Longoria, the Dodgers will inquire on his availability.
We shall see what the Rays plan to do with other arbitration eligible players due for hefty pay increases such as Erasmo Ramirez and Kevin Keirmaier. Keirmaier is the running for a second Gold Glove and will command big dollars and also big interest from other teams. Once again, I expect that Sternberg will order his baseball operations people to field a team under the constraint of a wafer thin budget. These actions are straight out of the Jeffrey-Loria-Leaves-Montreal playbook.
This will not play well with the Rays’ fan base. More bad press for Sternberg . Furthermore, if there is no solid commitment to build a new stadium very soon, expect even smaller crowds at the Trop.
Time will tell if, how, and when Sternberg and Manfred will address Trudel’s revelation.
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