ST. LOUIS — Commissioner Bud Selig reaffirmed Tuesday that the Rays can be successful in the Tampa Bay area but warned that to remain competitive, they need to increase revenues by addressing their stadium situation.
"I don't think it's the market," Selig said. "The demographics are there. But they do need to change their stadium situation. I think that is clear."
Selig tried to tread carefully on the issues, saying he'd leave the question of a move from St. Petersburg to Tampa to Rays officials and acknowledging that given the difficult economy, "it's tough to be talking about new stadiums."
But he also warned that all the good the Rays have done — and he was lavish in his praise of the team, the front office and principal owner Stuart Sternberg— could come to a crashing halt if they don't do something.
"For them to continue to remain competitive, they need to produce the kind of revenue they have to … ," he said. "They need to do everything they can to increase their revenue there. Look, they're in the American League East; I don't have to say any more. They've done a remarkable job. Whether a new stadium is feasible or not, only Stu can determine.
"I have a lot of faith in them. They're very smart, all of them. He's put together a terrific team there and the results on the field are remarkable."
Selig said he might put MLB president Bob DuPuy, who worked extensively on the Marlins' on-the-way stadium project, on the case in Tampa Bay.
"I've been down there different times. I've talked with them different times," DuPuy said. "We'll let them make their evaluation and see what happens."
Selig addressed the Rays during a Q-and-A session with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, then later in a brief interview with the Times.
Asked about the possibility of a Tampa site for a new stadium, he said: "They need to make that judgment. They are down there, I'm not. They are smart guys and they'll use their best judgment."
Among other topics, Selig:
• Vigorously rejected the suggestion by some agents that the owners were in collusion to limit free-agent spending: "Given the world we live in and what's happened in the last 18 months, I think this is one sport where I can't even fathom that anybody could think that. Player compensation hasn't gone down."
• Wants the rule changed that allows suspended players to participate in minor-league rehab games before they are eligible to return, as Manny Ramirez did.
• Said with an overall attendance decline of only about 5 percent, MLB is "having a remarkable season, in many ways. … I think this may be in a sense our greatest season."
• Declined to offer guidance to Hall of Fame voters on dealing with candidates who used performance-enhancing drugs. "That I'm going to leave to all of you," Selig said. "You all have to make your own decisions. I would not, however, disregard history. That's a very fair question, and I understand it's bothering a lot of people. But you'll have to make your own judgment."
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