NEW YORK — The Rays have had their turn at the top of the major-league standings this season. Tuesday, commissioner Bud Selig indicated they are at the top of MLB's list of stadium concerns.
Selig said there are three teams that must have new stadiums. He said that in the case of two, the Florida Marlins and Oakland A's, there has been concrete progress and "we appear to have solved it."
But as for the Rays?
He offered only vague confidence they will figure something out.
"I think in the third one we will," Selig said. "I have confidence in the Rays ownership that they will solve it."
Meeting with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America before the All-Star Game, Selig reiterated his claim that the Rays need to replace Tropicana Field primarily as a matter of economics.
"They need a new stadium," he said. "You can't compete with other people who have ultimate sources of revenues that you don't have and never will have, and then expect to be competitive on the field.
"I've sort of never understood why some people just don't understand that because I think the evidence is so clear. You can't change local media (revenues from radio and TV rights) because that's a product of demographics, and there's other things you can't change sometimes.
"But in attendance the one thing you can do is build a ballpark that produces competitive revenues. They're not in a ballpark right now that produces competitive revenues. So the answer to your question is that it's very important."
The Rays announced last month they had tabled plans for a new stadium on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront and would await recommendations of a communitywide committee. MLB president Bob DuPuy said league officials were "obviously disappointed when a plan gets derailed or shortened because it's clear that a stadium is necessary."
Selig said he has talked to principal owner Stuart Sternberg about it, that "they are handling it the way they feel they should" and was "confident that they're on the right track."
The Rays have a lease at the Trop through 2027 and are expected to first consider other sites in St. Petersburg. But when asked if relocation would be an option for any of the three teams if they don't get stadiums, Selig said: "I don't think we'll have to get to that."
Selig said he was pleased with the Rays' nearly 40 percent increase in attendance, to an average of 21,062, though still second to last in the American League and 27th in the majors.
"I think they've had a very, very positive gain on attendance, I don't think there's any question about it," Selig said. "Look, you don't gain everything back in one year. The lag theory always says it comes the next year, or sometimes even longer than that in some cases.
"They've had a remarkable season — until the last week — and hopefully they will continue to, and I think their attendance has been quite remarkable, given where they had been for years. So it's going to take time, I think, but overall it's very, very satisfactory."