Major League Baseball's executive council has pulled the plug on the Tampa Bay Rays' pursuit of a split-city arrangement that would have seen them play half their games in St. Petersburg and the other half in Montreal, the team announced on Thursday. (Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times was the first to report on the matter.)
Stuart Sternberg, the principal owner of the Rays, confirmed the news during a press conference. Sternberg continued to promote the split-city concept itself, predicting that it would become popular in sports in the future. MLB, he claimed, just wasn't willing to be the first to cross the threshold.
Sternberg: "Partial seasons are going to be the wave of the future in professional sports."— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) January 20, 2022
Sternberg also said the Rays are open to "ideas and thoughts" on how they can remain in the Tampa Bay region. (No word yet on whether he's considered paying for his own stadium rather than relying on government subsidies.)
Stuart Sternberg says the team is “open to ideas and thoughts” about ways for the Rays to remain in the Tampa Bay region.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 20, 2022
The Rays first introduced the split-city concept in 2019. As we wrote at the time:
If that sounds convoluted and unrealistic -- well, yeah, absolutely, it is. The Rays haven't been able to convince one city to finance their new playhouse, let alone two at once. Oh, to make matters better -- the whole sister-city thing? A handful of legal challenges stand in its way to boot. Sternberg may have found that out the hard way on Tuesday with regards to a comment he made about Montreal.
The Rays' lease at Tropicana Field runs through the 2027 season. It should be noted that team president Brian Auld previously said the franchise had concluded that it was "next to impossible that full-season baseball can succeed in Tampa Bay today." Of course, Auld and the Rays might have to backpedal now that the league has nixed a key piece of their posturing.