ST. PETERSBURG – First impressions from the Rays press conference at the Dali Museum:
1. If you thought this was the beginning of the end of baseball in Tampa Bay, you’re probably right. Stu Sternberg made it clear he does not think baseball works full time here. He didn’t say this was a take-it-or-leave-it proposal, but he came very close. And since this idea still seems like a longshot ….
2. Al Lang Stadium will not be fixed with spackling and paint. The Rays hinted the cost of a new stadium would be more than $600 million. If they want the Al Lang site, that sounds like a teardown. And that likely means it would require voter approval since it would be a substantial change to the waterfront.
3. Sternberg was emphatic that he is not selling or giving up control of the team. All of you picturing Jeff Vinik tying up his white horse outside of Tropicana Field should dissuade yourself of that notion.
4. The way Sternberg described it, other owners seem on board with this idea. Which means MLB is probably not looking at Montreal as an expansion site. So the pitch to residents in Canada will probably be the same as here: this idea is your best, and only, chance for baseball.
5. This idea that Montreal fans would flock to Tampa Bay to watch the Rays during spring training is, shall we say, optimistic. The Expos were not a good draw during their 30-plus years in Montreal. To suddenly think a new generation will fly 1,500 miles to watch them play in Tampa Bay seems like wishful thinking.
6. Having said that, Sternberg accurately described how baseball might work in two attendance-challenged cities. The Rays have been averaging about 1.2 million fans a year. Even if they lose some of those fans, they could still get a higher per-game average by condensing those fans over 40 games. If they do the same thing in Montreal, maybe they could approach 1.8- to 2-million annually.
7. Sternberg said when you close your mind to discussion you’re closing your mind to opportunity. Yet it appears the Rays are not willing to entertain full time stadium proposals in St. Pete.
8. This is a great idea — if you have stock in the Rays. You double your fan base, you get two cities to largely fund new stadiums and you get TV/radio contracts in two different countries. Oh, and you get a new spring training facility out of the deal. No wonder they want everyone to have an open mind.
Contact John Romano at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @romano_tbtimes.