Prior to the Rays opener on Friday, Stuart Sternberg and St. Pete mayor Bill Foster exchanged some more damning rhetoric on the Rays’ quest for a new stadium.

Sternberg said that it was imperitive that progress be made on the new stadium, noting that “[his] patience is greater than Major League Baseball’s.” Bill Foster’s response was less than constructive when he said that the City of St. Pete is “prepared for interference from Major League Baseball and all of the Selig tricks that have been used successfully elsewhere.”

And what are those “tricks”? Well, contrary to previous reports, Mike Ozanian of Forbes.com is reporting that some in Major League Baseball are pushing for the Rays to be contracted.

Strong push in Major League Baseball to dump the Tampa Bay Rays. From what I am hearing, I doubt there will be any baseball at Tropicana Field after 2014 even though the team’s lease runs to 2027.

Last July, Bud Selig stated point blank that Major League Baseball has “moved past” the idea of contracting ball clubs. He added that “there is no question that both of those teams (Rays and A’s) need new ballparks. We’ll just have to work our way through it.”

And then just last month, a source told Joel Sherman that the idea of contraction was discussed but that it had already been scrapped in fear of causing a labor war.

At this point, this just feels like two sides using the media to send not-too-subtle threats. But what is worrisome is that neither side appears prepared to actually do anything constructive. And if that doesn’t change soon, these threats will start to grow some teeth.

 
 

33 Comments

  1. Martin B says:

    Didn’t they talk about MLB using tricks like this in the Extra 2%?

    I don’t trust Major League Baseball at all when it comes to stadium negotiations.

  2. Contraction is an ugly word in the sports world, I wish people would be more careful using it.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Move the Rays to Orlando!

  4. Kelley says:

    I know I sound stupid, and that’s fine, but what exactly does contraction mean? Moved to a different city, eliminated?

  5. Steve says:

    I’ve feared that contraction is the best play for the league and the darling owners. Closed up the team then place the owner with a team in need – - a version of the Marlins/Red Sox swap. I’m more convinced than ever that there is a conspiratorial element in all of this. If the Rays played in the National League West we would be a great story and the stadium element wouldn’t be much different than what the A’s deal with, but the Rays had the temerity to knock off the entitled Yankees and Red Sox, and MLB, ESPN, and the combined bandwagoneers of those two teams won’t tolerate it so they have successfully managed to make “attendance” a new component of on-field performance. The Rays scored 5 runs on 3 hits but the stadium was only 52% capacity – - the logical equivalent of, “You may be right – - but your pants are ugly.” The story on the Royals in ESPN’s baseball preview speaks glowingly of their 4 year plan for competitiveness without once mentioning attendance or revenue streams which magically erase poor scouting. The failure of Keri’s book is his failure to really get behind the nonsense of the blackmail perpetuated by ownership and MLB. The question I still have is how does revenue correlate with on-field success in the face of so-many examples where solid player development trumps dollars? Keri simply regurgitates MLB and Sternberg’s nonsensical story that removal of a roof and 20 miles across the Bay will equal success. He had the opportunity to answer the question of how a new stadium in Tampa, near the harbor which might result in 4k more a game – - makes this team better than what it is today. They want more money, which is understandable but it does not make an illogical argument logical. The value of the franchise doubled in 5 years in a horrible economy and yet – - – the team is financially on its last legs?? Its nonsense and it makes me want to give up on baseball. I wish one national media type would have the courage to actually use their brains – - not to eviscerate Sternberg who in all fairness is an excellent owner – - and at least take the premises through some analysis. To not let guys like Bud Selig get away with shallow talking points. To actually consider what role the economy might play in all of this. Instead we’re left to live with latest incarnation of anti-southern bias – - the northeastern fans and media culture who can’t tolerate that this little team from the south, dumped the Sox and the Yankees on their a$$ for about 25 cents on the dollar.

    • Neal says:

      That has to be one of the best things I have ever read regarding this topic. Thanks.

    • Alex says:

      Well said! It is a truly helpless feeling, where the only voices (media) that could demand accountability from ownership, the political leaders, and MLB all play right into the agenda and public banter. There is a lack of journalistic integrity between the reporters and the people being reported on, and here we are… praying that we will have a team in 3 years and beyond. Very very sad.

    • Kelsey says:

      Could not have said it better myself! Just because we are being compared to the Yankees and Red Sox is why we get so much negative stuff about us. They are just mad that a team with less then a quarter of their payroll are still competing. People just need to realize that at least not for a very long time and even then, we do not have that history and generations of fans the way NY and Boston do. In no means does that make their fans better, we are just totally different then them and so are most other teams different from them too… we just play side by side with them so we get all the bashing. I am curious to see how the Marlins and their new stadium all works out for them, hopefully well.

    • Dallas says:

      Steve,
      Great summation of what is going on. I always thought it was a setup to put the Rays in the AL East. With George and the Yankees right across the bay in Tampa for Spring Training there is no way they have ever wanted us to succeed and now that we have won 2 of the last 3 AL East Crowns they are going all out for us. I became a baseball fan because of the Rays, before I never really followed it but I now love my Rays but simple if they move or worse go away I will never follow MLB ever again.

  6. Leanne says:

    And in what ways has this, even once, been any different than it has been in numerous other cities? The threats are the same. The issues are the same. And, with the exception of Montreal, which threw in a heaping slice of secession that proved more than Major League Baseball had any interest in being the centerpiece of, the resolutions are always the same.

    And so it will be here as well. Major League Baseball Owners were described as being the only businessmen in the world who were convinced that the best path to profitability was by abusing its customer-base long before there was an MLB Team in the Tampa Bay area. And they’ll likely still be described that way long after they’re battling over the “necessity” of replacing the stadium that replaces The Trop.

    Their Full Contact “Negotiating” is probably why they receive such attention from an audience base that more and more seems to wish that Baseball could somehow be more like the NFL…more scoring, more thrilling contact and only played on Sundays.

  7. sledge says:

    I know this will never happen, but I’d really like to understand what kind of revenue the Rays generate from the premium tickets (e.g. Diamond Club, Luxury Boxes, etc.) and how that split compares to other teams in terms of percentage of revenue. If you think about it, those tickets are what they are saying they need more of with a new stadium. Even if you bought the argument that they’d sell more tix closer to Tampa, simply adding 4k more on average per game assuming an avg ticket price of $30 only gets you an extra $10 million. While there are clearly other revenues with the added attendance, I doubt that is the number they are really chasing.

    Any ideas Cork?

    • Gus says:

      They are chasing a stadium with no contribution from the team (akin to what they have now with the Trop lease). They’ll start out with a 1/3rd contribution (like the Al Lang sailboat proposal), but the reality is that the debt service on 1/3rd of a $500M stadium project would overwhelm any increased attendance they might make in any dream stadium scenario.

      But remember, Stu was recruited by MLB to take over this franchise. He has no emotional or historical connection. It is easy to blame the stadium and yell “contraction”, but there is no way any court is going to let MLB walk out on the use agreement with the facility. Posturing, pure and simple. But painful to hear.

      Wait until the Marlins new stadium opens and we’ll get lots of answers about what the Rays should (or shouldn’t do). My guess is playing out the lease is the best and cheapest option.

  8. Steve says:

    I would love to see ESPN do an “Outside the Lines” type show bringing in all sides and the economists who have shed so much negative light on the impact of publicly-financed stadiums – - to really go through the finances of a professional team and its impact on the local economy and ultimately how it ties in with on-field performance. And more importantly the reality of public financing as our economy is radically transformed by the Not So Good Recession. Unfortunately that would interfere with regular programing like – - “The Red Sox They’re Very Good” and “The Yankees They’re Very Good Too!”

  9. Indiana Rays Boy says:

    Says who? Some joe shmoe from New York. This guy can bite me. He should focus on other teams who were worst than Tampa Bay in terms of attendance. Notice, Yankee Stadium didn’t sellout in their home opener. Also, the 4 letter network didn’t mention that along with the Rays home opener drew more than the Yankees 1st game.

  10. Hal says:

    This joker is on the Yankee payroll. The Big Dog is doing a pretty good job relating that this guy is nothing but a phony. Can somebody please tell me when one major professional sports franchise was ever contracted?

    • Mike G. says:

      Ever? Actually a lot. If you look at the National League prior to the 1900s you will see many teams folded. The most recent example I can think of in the big 4 sports was the Cleveland NHL team in 1978 that folded (although technically, they “merged” with Minnesota). Also, there were three teams in the ABA that were essentially “contracted” when the NBA and ABA merged.

      And from what I am reading, contraction sounds like a strong possibility in the NBA in their next CBA.

      So yeah, contraction has happened and could happen again.

      • Sarah says:

        I’m not sure looking at examples from the 19th century is helpful –professional sports operated in a completely different business context.

        In modern times, aren’t contractions usually part of some major structural changes (e.g. league mergers?) Otherwise they don’t contract teams, they move them. I’m not sure what the economic logic of contracting the Rays would be — that would mean conceding that the market for major league baseball has become saturated, and that the other teams would be more profitable without the Rays than with them. I can’t imagine that is really the case.

      • Hal says:

        Really? 1978 is what you go to? And it’s not a real contraction? Thanks for making my point for me again.

  11. David Bloom says:

    Despite the rumor mongering, I can’t see contraction happening ever ever. There is too much money to say goodbye to a franchise. Do I rule out a move? Unfortunately not, stadum for rent? I remember how close the Bucs came from moving before their stadium deal came about. Moving on the other side of the Bay will help slightly. I am confused by Stu’s latest comment that he has more patience than than MLB does. It makes it seem like this story has legs. We need Bud to come out and support baseball in Tampa area. What is the problem here. The team turns a profit and they put a winner on the field.

  12. Greg says:

    Didn’t the Rays finish23rd in attendance? The issue seemed to be that for a winning team, we weren’t drawing as much as MLB would like. But we still draw better than 6 or 7 teams, right? Not sure how we get contracted when there are so many teams still below us. The Marlins are included in that group below us, so (as pointed out above) it will be interesting (and pertinent to our situation) to see how the new stadium helps them.

  13. Edward says:

    the problem is that stu wants more money. I really have no problem with that , what i have a problem with is the national media constantly hammering this area, and the ownership/management not coming to the fans side. The team is making money , just not enough for the owner, so he wants a new stadium, (along with mlb). That’s ok ,this is america if you want to strive for more go ahead. If you want a new stadium pay for it. Now to the contraction story , according to the big dog, the guy who wrote the story also works for the yes network, that should say alot, didn’t one of the stienbrenner’s come out recently slamming “small market teams”. I don’t know for sure but i think they are trying to work behind the scenes to get rid of the rays, maybe not contract , but to move. This way they can be the only team in this market. Yes i know they only play spring training games here, but they are a huge presence in the area. Just listen to the radio, they play there games on one of the stations, and least we forget there are a ton of yankee fans here. I know it sounds like yankee bashing, ok it is , but sometimes a fan has to do what the ownership/management won’t , and that’s come to the fans side and stick up for them. Go rays.

  14. george strott says:

    read the book free lunch and you will see why they want a new stadium. george bush did it in texas and made millions with the cities money. they got the new stadium and then they sold the team at big profits.

  15. raysfan137 says:

    If everyone agrees with Steve’s words on this, which I do, AND we want to stop the rumor mongering and conspiracy, then stop posting the freaking stories. We’ve played one home series and are about to start the second. Post something about baseball, of which MLB ownership drama is not. It’s like a bad copycat of a 70s night time soap opera. JR has taken over Ewing oil, but he wants to move the drilling operations. Meanwhile the EPA Commissioner is sleeping with Bobby’s wife who happens to be a Yankees fan…. contraction, blah, blah, blah. Watch and enjoy the Rays while they are here. Be a positive proponent for the team and the value (non-monetary) we get as community for having them here. Invite friends and family. Grow the fan base and make it impossible for the Ewings’ drama to mess this up…. at least until somebody shoots JR.

  16. Uncle Buck says:

    So the Bucs don’t even come close to one sellout in 2010, yet nobody is demanding a new stadium, nor whispering contraction. It’s the economy, stupid (SW)

  17. Seattle Slew says:

    On a golf weekend with some buddies this past weekend, one of the guys from Seattle asked me about the Rays attendance issues. Before I could answer, he said “our weather sucks, it’s cold, our team stinks, about the same market size, we play in the very unexciting AL west—yet they will have 40,000 tonight at Safeco.” What the heck do I say to that? I believe I referenced something about 1/3 those fans are Asian coming out to watch Ichiro.

    • Beth says:

      Tell your friend this:

      Seattle-Tacoma MSA — 3.3 million people living in 534 square miles
      Tampa-St. Pete MSA — 2.7 million people living in 2554 square miles

      2008 estimated median income, Seattle MSA — $81,400
      2008 estimated median income, Tampa MSA — $56,500

      Would you describe these as comparable markets?

  18. CC's heart is in Boston says:

    There are no corporate dollars either willing nor available in TB to invest in season tix, boxes etc. This is the problem, not the location. As Gus suggests, isn’t 20,000 per night at a stadium that is afforded, better than the unlikely possibility of 30,000 per night in a new stadium with a gigantic debt service?

  19. Do you know who I am? says:

    Beth,
    Nice stats on Seattle, but 2008 is a completely different economic ballgame than 2010 in Tampa Bay. It may come down to the fact that people are generally strugglng, yet most have nice big HD tv’s and a 50 cent Budweiser sitting next to them. I ask, what ballpark is a better experience than watching from the comforts of your home, for basically nothing? VN

    • Beth says:

      What’s your point? I simply pointed out that Tampa Bay doesn’t have the concentrated population and buying power of Seattle. That’s certainly just as true in 2010 as it was in 2008; the discrepancies may even be greater.

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