OAKLAND — Kevin Cash isn’t shopping for places in Montreal quite yet, but the Rays manager made some pointed statements Thursday about the internationalization of the game.
The Rays received MLB approval to explore the possibility of splitting their home schedule between Tampa Bay and Montreal.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has made no secret his desire to spread the game more globally. Games have been played internationally in Mexico, Japan, Australia, including six games this season that have been played outside the United States and Canada.
Later this month, the Yankees and Red Sox will play a two-game series in London, and next year the Cubs and Cardinals will play two games there.
So placing replanting a team in Montreal, where the Expos left to become the Washington Nationals in 2005, is seemingly important to MLB's powers that be.
"Look, MLB, the Rays, they're trying to grow the brand of baseball," Cash said. "I think we recognize that with what they're doing in London, what they've done in Mexico, all over the world. This is probably another avenue."
Cash, whose playing career began in Toronto with the Blue Jays, said he's seen how Canada can back a team, seeing the electric crowds that filled the Rogers Centre when the Blue Jays made back-to-back trips to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016.
"I probably saw it the best with the Blue Jays when I got hired here, when they (had Jose) Bautista, (Edwin) Encarnacion and (Josh) Donaldson, they acquired (David) Price," Cash said. "There's no question that country thrives for quality baseball, they saw it there."
When Cash played for the Blue Jays, the Expos were a team in flux. They survived contraction attempts twice, were sold to MLB, and played part of their home schedule in San Juan, Puerto Rico for two seasons in 2003 and '04. The next year, the team relocated to Washington.
"When I played for the Blue Jays, at that time, the Expos, they were splitting games in Puerto Rico, a little familiar with that," Cash said. "I think the message is that baseball is going to go where it's embraced and if Montreal is it, so be it."
Since then, the city has tried to get a team back in Montreal, and the annual preseason games the Blue Jays play at Olympic Stadium generate huge crowds. Though financing a new stadium is still an issue, it's clear Montreal is determined to bring baseball back.
“You hear the passion from the fans there, that when the Expos played there, you recognize that they’re in the mix now, there’s been a lot of talks. I think baseball wants to go where baseball’s wanted,” Cash said.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.