MontrealWell, we knew there would be more chatter about the Rays and their mistress, the city of Montreal. The latest comes from Bill Madden of the New York Daily News:

And according to sources, Sternberg has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a major-league franchise since the Expos were transferred to Washington in 2005. As one major-league official put it to me Friday: “Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year.

The Rays in turn issued a non-denial denial (via TampaBay.com; emphasis mine):

We are committed to making baseball work in the Tampa Bay region. We will do everything we can to make that happen and right now things are moving in a productive and positive direction. We have not spoken to Montreal — or any other city, including Tampa — about relocation at any point.

See what they did there? Madden’s sources say the team has had discussions with “Wall Street associates.” The team only says they have not spoken to any cities about relocation.

This comes two months after “a smart chronicler of the Rays” told a Detroit writer that the Rays are done in the Tampa-St. Pete area “and eventually headed to Montreal.”

As I have said over and over, every new-stadium saga needs a mistress and Montreal is the Rays’ mistress. No more talk about Charlotte or Portland or San Antonio or Las Vegas or even Brooklyn. The mistress is Montreal until either the Rays get a new stadium in Tampa or St. Pete or they get a new stadium in Montreal.

Most of the time the mistress is a bluff. If that is the case this time, it could backfire for Major League Baseball and the Rays.

Yes, Montreal wants another shot at Major League Baseball. Yes, MLB is open to the idea of bringing the Expos back to life. But the Rays need a new stadium, whether that is in St. Pete, Tampa, or Montreal, and there is no indication that Quebec is any closer to financing a stadium than the Bay Area.

But more importantly — and this pains me to write, but we have to be honest — I am not sure the area cares enough about the Rays to be suckered by a bluff.

The Rays have a LOT of passionate fans (more than a lot of teams). But the team has not built up enough equity in the area for fans to rise up in revolt at the idea of losing the Rays to another city.

There are no championships to fall back on. There are no “generations” of fans who remember going to see the Rays at Al Lopez in the 1960s. And let’s face it, the area will still have the Bucs.

You guys would care if the team moved. I would care if the team moved. A lot of others would care if the team moved. But it’s not enough to start a movement or make a difference.

Major League Baseball has a playbook on how to con areas into financing new stadiums and so far the Rays are following it to the letter. But if this is a bluff it’s probably not going to work and the Rays will be no closer to moving into a new stadium here, or in Montreal.

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15 Comments

  1. starmand says:

    The team has to deny any negotiations. Because of The Clause. It forbids the Rays from negotiating to play in any stadium other than Tropicana Field before 2027. Any violation would result in "irreparable harm and damages.'' It could be very costly and messy to do something like that.

    But there's a difference between having discussions "between friends over cheeseburgers and fries at the corner McDonald's" about plans to relocate and contacting other cities. That's why the Rays' statement is, "We have not spoken to Montreal — or any other city, including Tampa — about relocation at any point."

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    • Joe Dunn says:

      Im just still amazed that they are in a lease until 2027 when they pretty much have complained since the day that baseball started there that it was "outdated" . . . .

      Did they think it would be a viable location for another 13 years from NOW???

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  2. D-Rome says:

    Sorry for being a dum-dum but who is this "smart chronicler"?

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  3. slacker775 says:

    This one will be interesting to see pan out. We have all seen the bogus 'we're gonna move!' crap teams have pulled in the past and managed to scare some politicians into giving them a new stadium, all parking rights and newlyweds maidenhoods. It seems that those days might be past however and I'd sort of like to see the bay area call their bluff but have the Rays remain here. My guess is that since they have at least two cities/counties kinding of working against each other, one side will cave, raise taxes and give them a new stadium. Hopefully not in a dreadful location to only make the attendance issues even worse than they have been.

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  4. Geoff Peterson says:

    The Rays continue to be a strong TV market and that's where most of the new money comes from these days. Rays have been top 10 in baseball ratings and often higher. Montreal? Not so much. Butts in the seats just aren't as important as they once were. The Rays need a new venue but baseball will protect the teams that are in solid TV markets before taking a chance on a market that already failed miserably.

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    • Dave says:

      You really have to consider average imcome in the TV market. An ad that reaches 10 millionares is worth more than an ad that reaches 100 people with $1,000.

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  5. rick says:

    I don't think the fans will ever show up at the trop or any new large stadium. Build a 15k-20k stadium on the water and make it a hard ticket to get.

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  6. JMN says:

    Like Geoff said, it will be hard for MLB to give up on a top 10 TV market. A lot of revenue comes from TV cable companies and advertising. However, I am a bit unclear and does anybody know whether the ownership can make the final decision to move the team or does ownership have to get the blessing from the MLB commissioner/organization? I know the main thing Sternberg is jaded about is lack of corporate sponsorship. Not sure if that would be better in Montreal.

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  7. Mr. Smith 1980 says:

    The indifference to the Rays by St. Pete and Tampa businesses, and the constant whining about stadiums has created an aura of uneasiness wherein no one wants to buy-in to what they're selling.

    It's like being young and falling in love with a girl you know is leaving to go back to college in the fall ... you REALLY want to get as involved as possible, but you hold back so it hurts less when she leaves.

    As long as everyone in the media and political circle continues to tell everyone that the Trop is horrible and that the Rays are leaving it will only get worse, not better.

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  8. ed says:

    As long as the ownership continues to complain about the fans, and doesn't really spend the money on players to keep them, it's not going to get any better here. I am beginning to believe that the rays are on thier way out. I didn't before this off season but I am now. I have noticed something else, it seem that all the bad news comes from this guy in ny, madden this guy must have real good sources or hates the tampa area. Oh well he can stay up there. Here's hoping that the rays wake up and see what they could have here it they actually put more into the team, I know they spent 80 mill last year, I was impressed but than again they traded Price, so who is next. Ok longo is staying but that is just one player, lets seem them sign up somebody else. Hope everybody has a better off season.

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  9. Dave L says:

    Ahhhh the offseason..........

    I can't decide which is my favoritetest topic!

    Poor attendence, threats to relocate the Rays, or the phantom new stadium.

    They are so timeless and breathtakingly unfathomable like the vastness of the universe or the concept of infinity--- dreams of which would awaken me in the middle of the night in an uneasy near-terror as a tender child.

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  10. CA says:

    Rays, and Tampa, are in a great position....but, they are also at a tipping point. From a pure revenue maximization standpoint, the top alternative in North America to St. Pete is Tampa. Market research, financial models, etc. will continue to point in that direction. Cork is right in that they may leverage all kinds of scenarios and rumors to accomplish their goal, but the financials will always drive them to Tampa. The Rays organization needs a "win" right now....no better time to execute, close the chapter, and move the team to Tampa. If they made that announcement, everyone would forget about Friedman, Maddon, and give them some leash on a performance dip over the next few years while they re-set leadership.

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