Montreal-Rays plan: What All-Stars, agents, ex-Expos were saying in Cleveland

The team splitting time between Tampa Bay and Canada was definitely a popular topic during All-Star week.
Carlos Santana of the Cleveland Indians bats during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The American League beat the National League 4-3. The biggest misplay of the night might have been on the scoreboard. (AP Photo/Ben Walker)
Carlos Santana of the Cleveland Indians bats during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The American League beat the National League 4-3. The biggest misplay of the night might have been on the scoreboard. (AP Photo/Ben Walker)
Published July 10

CLEVELAND — The Rays were oft talked about during the All-Star events — well beyond the popularity of pitcher Charlie Morton and interesting back stories of their other representatives, Brandon Lowe and Austin Meadows.

The plan introduced last month by team officials to save baseball in Tampa Bay by splitting half of future seasons with Montreal was, and will continue to be, a popular topic of conversation.

That’s among players, scouts, executives and top MLB and union executives. Over the three-plus days, I probably took as many questions on it as I was asked. And also from other reporters, which meant the smart-aleck lines were coming in both English and poorly attempted French.

Whether you think it’s a total ploy, a legitimate plan or somewhere in the middle, it’s not going away until there is resolution. And given the myriad issues to work through and negotiations to held, it could be years.

Here’s a sampling of what we heard around the clubhouses, field and hallways:

[ RELATED: Rays’ Austin Meadows got the full All-Star treatment, even from Pirates fans ]

The Montreal perspective

Pedro Martinez, broadcaster/Hall of Famer who pitched four seasons with Expos

“It’d be cool; I think Montreal deserves a team but I’m not fully aware of what’s going on (with this plan to split the season). … The least they deserve is that. But thinking about it, it’s really different. Switching the name, I don’t know what it’d be. It’s confusing.”

[ RELATED: Veteran Rays players have their concerns about Montreal plan ]

Steve Rogers, union official/All-Star pitcher who spent 13 seasons with Expos

“It’s an idea; I don’t know the viability of it. I don’t know how they would pay for it. Who owns the franchise? What does the Montreal contingent have to do with it? It’s got to be (played) in Olympic Stadium because they’re sure not going to build a whole new stadium for half a season. So how does it all work? Is it an idea that would bring baseball to Montreal, which is dear to my heart? Absolutely. But I don’t know. There’s so many things to work through that we just have to wait and see as they get down the line whether they run into the proverbial dead end. Do I think they should give it a shot to find out? Yeah, I think feasibility (studies) should be done, and they will.’”

Marcus Stroman, of the Toronto Blue Jays, holds a baseball as the American League players take batting practice before the MLB baseball All-Star Game, Tuesday, July 9, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Marcus Stroman, of the Toronto Blue Jays, holds a baseball as the American League players take batting practice before the MLB baseball All-Star Game, Tuesday, July 9, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays

“I think (Montreal people) would love it. I think they’re ready, 100 percent. … Canadians have a lot of passion and they love the game of baseball. Obviously you saw the Expos, and they’re waiting for a little bit of a rebirth in that city. I think it would be amazing; Montreal is an awesome city. And to have that dynamic between Toronto and Montreal in baseball, that could be really cool.”

[ RELATED: The Rays are a broken team. Here’s how to fix them ]

Local angle

Pete Alonso, Mets (Tampa native)

“If that were to happen that would be really disappointing, I feel like. Being a Tampa guy, I used to love going to the games. That would be kind of upsetting to see them split. … If there was a stadium right next to (Tampa’s) Armature Works, that thing would be popping every single night. It’s weird because the Lightning sell out and Tampa Bay is not a hockey town.”

An ex-Rays perspective

Jake Odorizzi, Twins (offseason area resident)

“From a player standpoint I think it’s nothing but a bad idea. The reason I say that is it would be like you got traded at the deadline every single year. Moving your family halfway through the year isn’t very enjoyable, let alone doing it year in and year out. Factor in on top of that it’s also Canada. It’s a different country. There’s a whole lot of different aspects. … It’s something I don’t think a lot of people would voluntarily sign up for. …

“I think (a new stadium in) Tampa is the solution. How it gets done after all this is very hard to say. … I feel like there’s a solution to be had, but there’s just a lot of business posturing about it. … It’s frustrating from a lot of people’s standpoint — fans, players, everybody. The team down there is good — it deserves more notoriety, more coverage and more people to see it. To say if it’s going to work (going forward in the Tampa Bay market), who knows? That’s probably the best you can describe it.”

Kirby Yates, of the San Diego Padres, throws during batting practice for the MLB All-Star baseball game, Monday, July 8, 2019, in Cleveland. The game will be played Tuesday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Kirby Yates, of the San Diego Padres, throws during batting practice for the MLB All-Star baseball game, Monday, July 8, 2019, in Cleveland. The game will be played Tuesday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Kirby Yates, Padres

“I don’t think I’m surprised to hear the rumblings about it (given the attendance/stadium issues). I would be more surprised if they actually did it. I don’t think it’s fair to the players. … I wouldn’t want to put my family through that, and I don’t think anybody else who had a family would do that.”

[ RELATED: Rays’ Montreal plan is ‘an attempt to preserve baseball’ in Tampa Bay market ]

Agents view

Scott Boras

“It’s a ridiculous idea. ... You’re putting one major-league team and its players at a gross disadvantage that that other major-league teams do not have to face. … You’re creating a pox on this franchise. The pox is that every free agent player, every drafted played will say, 'I have to have an experience that is completely different than the other major-leaguers.’ That’s the biggest problem. … What taxpayer wants to build a stadium and you only have half a schedule? .. I think their end-game is, ‘what card can I play that allows someone to compete for me?’”

Joel Wolfe, Wasserman group (with family ties to Montreal)

“I think it’s a terrific idea. I don’t know what it should end up looking like, but something should be done and it’s a great place to start. … It could be very interesting. It’s been very difficult in Tampa. And for Miami. For Florida to support a baseball team by itself. I think it would be difficult for Montreal to support a team by itself initially. So why not look at the possibility of doing something else on a part-time basis? … I love the idea of the Toronto-Montreal rivalry. … I think everything (regarding players’ concerns) could be worked out, everything could be adjusted.”

Player poll

Alex Bregman, Astros

“It’d be kind of hard, but I think if they moved to Montreal there’d be a ton of fans supporting them up there.”

Kris Bryant, Cubs

“I feel like on the surface that’s a cool idea but you kind of get into it and you’re like, what? .. The headaches that might come with that is a little more than the benefit. .. I wish the fans (in Tampa Bay) would show up there more, it’s an awesome area.”

Walker Buehler, Dodgers

“I don’t think anybody likes to see baseball taken from a city, so if that’s something they need to do there’s nothing wrong with them looking into it. It would be tough for players to live that way, in two different cities.”

Gerritt Cole, Astros

“It would be borderline impossible. … I don’t know what you would do if you had kids. It would be really tough on players’ families.”

National League pitcher Clayton Kershaw, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, throws during the second inning of the MLB baseball All-Star Game against the American League, Tuesday, July 9, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
National League pitcher Clayton Kershaw, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, throws during the second inning of the MLB baseball All-Star Game against the American League, Tuesday, July 9, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

“I understand where people are coming from in baseball, but it seems difficult on the family life for the Tampa team.”

CC Sabathia, Yankees

“I saw that; I don’t think that’s gonna fly. How are guys going to buy two houses? … I just think Tampa needs a new stadium in Tampa.”

Max Scherzer, Nationals

“If you cut the (number of home) games in half you could also look at it that now you have no demand because you don’t really have a team. We can look at this a million different ways.”

Felipe Vazquez, Pirates

“It’s going to be cool for the city. I live in Orlando so I know how Tampa is. For them to play outside, half and half, it’s going to be great. It’s not going to be easy, But I think it’s going to work. And Montreal is a beautiful city.”

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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