Tampa Bay owner and MLB at odds over future of Rays

  • David Whitlock

Dueling press conferences and statements today indicate that Major League Baseball and the Tampa Bay Rays ownership are either violently agreeing or subtly playing chess against one another with regard to the franchise’s future on the gulf coast of Florida.

Quotes via Adam Berry (mlb.com):

Principal Rays owner Stuart Sternberg stated today that it is his full intent to keep Tampa in the metropolitan area (which includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater…good for Rays staying in Tampa).  He has stated in the past that “I intend to. I expect to” when asked about the keeping the franchise there (good for Rays staying in Tampa) “But as time goes along, the decision slowly and surely gets taken out of my hands.” (bad for Rays staying in Tampa).  He then added today that MLB “doesn’t believe anymore in the Tampa Bay area” (bad for Rays staying in Tampa).

The commissioners office of Major League Baseball (that’s code for Bud Selig) retorted that Selig “is disappointed with the current situation in the Tampa Bay market” and that “The status quo is simply not sustainable” (both bad for Rays staying in Tampa).

So here are the observables:
The good:
1) The Rays have been successful on the field in recent years.
2) The Rays have done extremely well at competing with bigger markets by developing internal talent (are well managed).
3) The Rays ownership is relatively strong and cares about the franchise.

The bad:
1) The Rays stadium (Tropicana Field) is widely regarded as the worst in baseball.
2) The Rays attendance has been extraordinarily below expectation.
3) The local TV market is weak and funding from that market will not be significant.

People that buy baseball teams were usually successful in business before and should be able to see that this venture is not in a good place. I’m not sure who is threatening whom in terms of relocating, etc.  I think the adjective “unsustainable” is appropriate here.

To stay in Tampa (and the surrounding area), it is clear that a new stadium is a must.  That’s what Miami realized, but now, with an extremely unsuccessful product on the field, there are  a lot of questions being raised about that franchise’s future (pretty much locked in now with new stadium).  Tampa needs to be careful about making the same mistake.  Tampa is unique in that the New York Yankees have spring training there (right across from Raymond James Stadium).  The New York Yankees have a minor league team there.  A lot of people that live in Tampa are retirees from New York and many of the Yankees players own large property there for living off season.

I personally don’t see the Tampa area as viable beyond the near term.  So where might they move?  I think the answer is Round Rock, Texas, where you would find no shortage of fans and potential owners.  But Nolan Ryan might rally the owners against, and, other than that, I just don’t see any other viable markets.  Contraction anyone?

-Dave (@lhd_on_sports)

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About The Author

David Whitlock

David Whitlock - manager

David (a.k.a. Longhorndave or lhd_on_sports) joined the staff late in the 2012 season and moved to Site Manager in early 2013. A lifelong Houston Astros fan (and mini-season ticket holder for 9 years) he attends 20+ games per year. A statistics freak, David still keeps score the "old fashioned way" on occasion (and has kept manual score of World Series games since 1986 and retains the sheets). He was a featured guest weekly on the Phil Naessens Show. He is also a Texas Longhorns alumnus and huge football and baseball fan of his alma mater. When he isn't watching or writing about baseball, he works as a contractor at NASA Johnson Space Center. He lives by the mantra "a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day anywhere else."

2 Responses to Tampa Bay owner and MLB at odds over future of Rays

  • So Houston already has a team and the Dallas area already has a team. I think Nashville or San Antonio may be viable. Round Rock is basically Austin, but I think it’s hard to compete with the Longhorns there.

  • David Whitlock

    For whatever reason, San Antonio just isn’t a baseball town (very fledgling and poorly attended AA team last I remember). Nashville could make it happen, I like Memphis but that’s a Cards town (very close). Indianapolis always made sense to me, went to a AAA game there once and it was a good crowd. Round Rock/Austin AAA gets huge crowds even with the Horns in town, of course that season winds down about the time football starts.

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