Could Rob Manfred’s Rays-Montreal statement be as juiced as the baseballs?

Baseball’s commissioner says he wants to help ‘preserve baseball in Tampa Bay.' At this point it’s hard to believe MLB.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred rejected allegations that MLB has juiced says baseballs this season. [Times files (2017)]
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred rejected allegations that MLB has juiced says baseballs this season. [Times files (2017)]
Published July 11

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays-to-Montreal chatter continues. Just this week, before the All-Star Game, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the Rays’ plan to play parts of future seasons in Canada is an “attempt to preserve baseball in Tampa Bay.”

That reminds me:

Why are we trusting this guy?

Why do we trust baseball?

[ LISTEN: Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast on why we can't have nice things here ]

Though Manfred’s nose does not grow as he talks about baseball in Tampa Bay, it’s hard to believe this game is really behind this area.

We are in the lying portion of the program.

As if to prove it, Manfred, also while he was in Cleveland for the All-Star Game, shot down claims, fueled by Astros fireball pitcher Justin Verlander, that baseball’s record spike in home runs this year is because the balls are juiced.

Then players went out and hit 1.3 million dingers in the Home Run Derby, led by Mets slugger, Derby winner and former Plant High star Pete Alonso. It was as if these cats were hitting golf balls.

Why do we trust Rob Manfred?

Why do we trust this game?

My arms are folded. I hope yours are, too.

Why should we believe that Manfred or the game he runs really wants baseball to stay in Tampa Bay? I don’t think baseball cares about us. Maybe we deserve that; maybe we don’t.

I bet if baseball had a choice, there wouldn’t be any teams in this state. The only reason Miami gets to hang on is it has a stadium, albeit a spaceship built in the wrong place, and a high-profile point man in Derek Jeter.

So, Tampa Bay loses.

Trust no one, folks, no matter what they say.

People will lie to us again and again before this thing is done, and if it ends in an open-air ballpark here, I’ll eat my hat.

By the way, why did baseball have to go and ruin my favorite thing about the All-Star Game, players wearing their team uniforms, by giving them special stripped hats with stars on them? I’m just saying.

Home run celebrations like this one by Rays shortstop Willy Adames have been frequent this season with baseball on a record-breaking homer pace through the All-Star Game. Baseball is on pace for 6,668 homers -- 1,100 more than a year ago and 500 more than the 2017 record of 6,105. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Home run celebrations like this one by Rays shortstop Willy Adames have been frequent this season with baseball on a record-breaking homer pace through the All-Star Game. Baseball is on pace for 6,668 homers -- 1,100 more than a year ago and 500 more than the 2017 record of 6,105. DIRK SHADD | Times

But that is nothing compared to the games this game will be willing to play to see the Rays overnight shipped to Quebec, or somewhere else. We can fit Stu Sternberg for devil horns later. For now, I’m sticking with Manfred and baseball as the lead villains.

Look, baseball has sinned before. Long before the balls were juiced, the players were, resulting in an era where guys like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds made turnstiles turn and a homer-happy nation swoon.

Baseball owners and Bud Selig, then the commissioner, knew what was happening and looked the other way. It was baseball’s Chernobyl. The mess is still there. I do my very best to try to clean it up when steroids clowns come up for the Hall of Fame, but what else can we do?

I’ll tell you what: Don’t trust baseball, even for a second.

It would pull the Rays out of here in a second.

Is the game willing to take the Rays off Sternberg’s hands and go to court with St. Petersburg to break the Rays’ stadium lease? I wouldn’t count that out. Would baseball be willing to revisit Tampa Bay as a future expansion site, like with how Washington got its team back. That I would count out.

I just don’t have a lot of the reasons to trust baseball. Love the game, hate how it is run. It’s that simple.

[ MORE RAYS: What they said about the Montreal plan at the All-Star Game ]

Back to Manfred talking about the rise in home runs. He said MLB, despite OWNING THE COMPANY that makes the balls, “has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball." Manfred said there is no evidence that the ball is harder but that there is less “drag” as is soars through the air.

Why would a guy who makes up a story about the ball not be willing to make up a story about the Rays’ future?

“Right now, I’m focused on the idea that this split-season idea that the Rays came up with is an opportunity to preserve baseball in Tampa Bay,’’ Manfred said. “And I’m not prepared to say one way or the other what’s going to happen when that effort turns out to be unsuccessful.’’

Sure, right.

Baseball knows what it really wants. Its owners, including Sternberg, will do what they want with the Rays. Manfred will see to it. And there will be nothing to stop them. Or, as they say in the engineering labs, less drag.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.

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