On Tuesday, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg and other top team officials held a press conference to address last week's report indicating the club had been granted permission by Major League Baseball . The plan would see both markets build a new open-air stadium for the Rays, who would spend the early portion of their schedule in Florida before jetting to Montreal midseason.
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.
Before we get to the legal fireworks factory, let's touch on some other highlights from Sternberg's press conference, which, by the way, began with 10 minutes of the Rays boasting to the St. Pete community about how much charitable work they do within the city limits.
Sternberg conceded that he doesn't believe it's realistic to consider the Tampa Bay area a full-time solution for the Rays heading forward -- not even if the team makes the long-expected shift from being housed in St. Petersburg to being located in Tampa proper:
Sternberg reiterated time and again that the two-city solution was neither a negotiating ploy nor a threat. He did, however, take the time to boast to those in attendance about the "economic impact" each city would benefit from due to their shared allegiance:
Perhaps the highlight of the event was when Sternberg acknowledged he had discussed the team with Stephen Bronfman, who has eyes on bringing professional baseball back to Montreal. In doing so, Sternberg raised eyebrows at the office of St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman, whose legal team then reviewed Sternberg's comments to see if they violated their shared contract:
CONFIRMED: Sternberg's comments about coordination w/Bronfman on MTL sister-city concept prior to 2028 sparked legal inquiry from #StPete mayor's office, which reviewed today's press conference for indications contract may have been violated. STORY - https://t.co/qWwMbdcz2I https://t.co/RWIVQ3kFEI— Noah Pransky (@noahpransky) June 25, 2019
Kriseman, for his part, later took to Twitter to let Sternberg know he's interested in hearing about the Montreal nonsense -- but only if Sternberg is willing to finance his own new stadium:
Did we mention the Brian Auld, the Rays president, said the team "likes to be first"? Could've fooled us, Brian, as the Rays have finished third or worse in the division every year since their last playoff appearance back in 2013. Heck, the Rays couldn't even finish first among American League East teams in trade talks for Edwin Encarnacion. The Rays offered a better prospect but lost out because they wanted the Seattle Mariners to eat more of Encarnacion's contract, per league sources.
Basically, this is one large mess.
The Rays are legally tethered to St. Petersburg until 2027 barring a buyout or some other mutual split. The city has shown no eagerness to just let the Rays leave -- and why should they? If Sternberg wants out so badly, to the point where he's presenting these cockamamie schemes, he can sell the Rays and go buy another club.
Instead, Sternberg seems committed to alienating the Tampa Bay region. It's an odd play -- one that, a cynic may figure, is designed to force the Rays' way out of town. Whether or not it works, we have to give Sternberg this much: It takes a lot of courage and conviction to stand by an embarrassing idea in front of the local press, God, and everyone. A lot of misguided courage and conviction, but courage and conviction nonetheless.