Union chief says contraction not the answer
Without knowing how the Rays stadium stalemate will be resolved, players union chief Michael Weiner said Saturday elimination of the franchise through contraction is not a likely outcome, nor has relocation outside of the Tampa Bay area been discussed.
“Contraction hasn’t come up since we had a fairly serious fight about it in 2000-01,’’ Weiner said. “I don’t think that's the solution.’’
Contraction would be a major issue with the union due to the loss of jobs. MLB would have to negotiate with the union to move a team, and Weiner said that topic has not come up.
Weiner said he knows the history of why Tropicana Field was built in downtown St. Petersburg, but wonders – as Rays officials apparently do too – how it would work elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area.
“I think everybody is curious what would happen or could happen if you had a stadium on the other side of Tampa that is accessible to Orlando residents as well as Tampa residents,’’ he said. “I guess the bet was that going south would expand the market; it hasn’t really worked as expected, or maybe that was just the consequence of putting the stadium there.’’
Like Commissioner Bud Selig and other top MLB officials, Weiner said he and the union are also disappointed in the Rays low attendance, which was worst in the majors last season.
“Sure, we’d love to see greater attendance,’’ Weiner said. “The Rays have been a competitive, entertaining team for a number of years now. They have had a lot of consistency of personnel so there have been players the fans can warm up to, and they’ve had some great guys on the team. So it’s disappointing that their attendance hasn’t really responded. So just like the commissioner’s office, we’d like to see every team succeed. But when you have a team that frankly has succeeded on the field but less so in the box office, it is disappointing.’’
On other topics, Weiner said:
* There is some legitimacy to Rays officials comments that the new collective bargaining agreement has not helped them in terms of competitive balance.
* He does not see the AL dropping the DH but said it's possible the NL could be more interested in adding it in the future with year-round interleague play now part of the schedule.
* Most players like the idea of the unbalanced schedule; Rays officials have said they would like to see a balanced schedule.
* That teams with policies, such as the Rays, to not negotiate after exchanging arbitration figures "kind of turns the purpose of salary arbitration on its head" but that the Rays players knew the system and still got "good" results.
* Players overall 'are sick of the issue" of PEDs being such a major topic, and there could be further changes coming to increase the testing program.