Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Union boss sympathizes with Rays' dilemma

PORT CHARLOTTE

As head of the players union, Michael Weiner doesn't like everything the Rays do.

After his annual camp visit Saturday, for example, he made clear his distaste for their policy of cutting off negotiations with arbitration-eligible players once figures are exchanged, and he isn't a huge fan of their team-friendly long-term contracts.

But Weiner did seem to share the Rays' view on two interesting issues:

• The new collective bargaining agreement rules, specifically regarding the draft, haven't helped them, at least initially, in terms of competitive balance.

"We recognized what was in place could hurt a team like the Rays; we weren't in favor of it. … But there was a compromise," he said. "I think there is some legitimacy to what the Rays management says in terms of whether this particular franchise is really advantaged by the changes."

• Hillsborough County might be a better location for a stadium than the Trop site.

"I think everybody is curious what would happen or could happen if you had a stadium that was on the other side of Tampa that is accessible to Orlando residents as well as Tampa residents," Weiner said. "I guess the bet was that going south would expand the market. It hasn't really worked as expected."

Though Weiner had no sense of how the stadium issue would be resolved, he said elimination of the franchise through contraction was not a viable option — "I don't think that's the solution" — and he had not heard any talk about potential relocation out of the Tampa Bay area.

Weiner said he shared the commissioner's disappointment in the Rays' low attendance, noting they have been "a competitive, entertaining team" and that "when you have a team that frankly has succeeded on the field but less so in the box office, it is disappointing."

Weiner also said most players like the unbalanced schedule (Rays officials would prefer it be balanced), and he does not expect the AL to drop the DH but it is possible the NL could add it.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: In a behind-the-scenes look at why the Royals agreed to the big winter trade, foxsports.com's Ken Rosenthal says the Rays were close to a different deal that would have sent James Shields and Wade Davis to Arizona and Justin Upton to Texas and netted them a package of prospects. … ESPN has the Rays No. 3 in its ranking of teams on future potential, based on talent, ownership/management and roster flexibility, behind the Cardinals and Rangers. … Boston 3B Will Middlebrooks tweeted on the way to a game in Dunedin last week: "Just passed the trop. … Miss that place as much as chicken pox." … The B-Street Band, the Spring­steen tribute group led by Joe Maddon buddy Willie Forte, is playing before the March 10-11 exhibitions. … Sounds like 3B Evan Longoria will downplay his personal role in the coming-soon-to-Tampa Ducky's Sports Lounge in hopes the overall eating/drinking experience is the bigger attraction.

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