ST. PETERSBURG — There’s at least one common emotion among Rays fans’ responses to news the team will explore splitting seasons between Tampa Bay and Montréal: a sense of loss.
That’s understandable considering Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg’s proclamation last week that, after 20-plus seasons in this market, playing a full season in Tampa Bay does not work.
We published a cross section of letters in Sunday’s editions of the Tampa Bay Times. This week we are sharing a larger selection emailed to the Times, roughly organized by the stages of grief:
Today: denial and anger
Wednesday: bargaining and depression
Share your thoughts via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sinister Rays
The Tampa Rays are a real estate venture posed as a baseball team. The Montreal plan allows Rays ownership to ride out an agreement to remain at Tropicana Field through 2027, then collect 50 percent of redevelopment rights for the Trop’s 85-acre site. A city gets fleeced. In the words of poet Allen Ginsberg, “it’s sinister.”
Thomas Hallock, St. Petersburg
It’s a ploy
Although Sternberg denies it, this whole plan seems like a political ploy. As a Rays fan since birth, it has felt like the team could move for my entire life. If they split time between St. Pete and Montreal, I would burn all my Rays gear. If anyone deserves the team it’s Tampa, and we sure don’t want half of them.
Will McLaren, Tampa
It’s a farse
I’ve been to more games since Sternberg took over than he has. He rarely attends games when the Rays aren’t playing his Mets. He looks down his nose at our fan base and the community as a whole, and he always has. This farse with Montreal proves it.
Kyle Wilson, Palm Harbor
Stu’s wallet is already filled with cash
No city should build a free (or mostly free) stadium for a sports team. It’s a terrible investment. If Montreal or another municipality wants to make a donation to Stu Sternberg’s already hefty wallet they can have the whole schedule (I have my doubts, see: Expos). We deserve an owner who wants to work for what’s best for the community, not exploit the taxpayers for personal benefit.
Dave Jacobs, Tampa
If only he could be like Vinik
Mr. Sternberg is skeptical St. Pete or Tampa can support a full season of baseball, yet no games have ever been played in Tampa. He has shown no leadership in bridging our communities, building corporate support or providing realistic financial support of his own for a new stadium. Mr. Sternberg needs to lead by example, as Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik does, not threats and ultimatums.
Allen Dunn, Oldsmar
Other owners, take note
This would be a sweetheart deal for team owners and anyone sharing revenues (i.e. theoretically Stephen Bronfman), but not so much for the fans. It’s a great way to double revenues with the promise of increased spending on player salaries. Of course, they don’t disclose net profits, and fans are supposed to take them at their word. This sounds like an innovative money grab in which other team owners would be anxious to follow suit.
Brad Bell, St. Petersburg
Call his bluff
Sternberg is bluffing. This is the same thing Miami dealt with and is a weak attempt for Sternberg to say “look, I tried everything.” The team is more valuable in Tampa Bay due to high TV ratings and larger market size. Splitting the team with Montreal would require funding for two stadiums and I doubt the players union would let it happen.
Woody Gramling, St. Petersburg
Get the Yankees out of Tampa
Tampa sold its soul to the Rays divisional rivals from New York. Why does the city promote that team with highway exit signs specifically displaying “George Steinbrenner Field, New York Yankees”? Has that team been paying Tampa for this privilege? I get stomach sick every time I see those signs and think of how the same courtesy isn’t extended to the Rays -- or the Bucs and Lightning. Come on Tampa, focus on promoting our team. And if you really want to do the right thing, tell that team from New York to relocate its training facility.
Paul Zulkoski, Tierra Verde
Split season without splitting costs?
Sternberg doesn’t believe in the plan himself. Neither city will pay for a new stadium for a portion of a season. The near billionaire owner needs to pay half for his own project in Tampa. His crying for welfare checks is corruption at its finest. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred should be held equally responsible for allowing this mess to happen.
John AuBuchon, Temple Terrace
Shame on Stu
Gross and disgusting. I would not ask my wife to bring another to our relationship and call it a good thing. Shame on Mr. Sternberg for this tactic, and shame on MLB for supporting this idea.
Roman Rodriguez, Tampa
Stop gaslighting us, Stu
Even after years of gaslighting local fans — keeping payroll artificially low, refusing to re-sign fan favorites and/or outright trading them for peanuts — Stu Sternberg has the audacity to act like he’s the victim. Get off your undeserved pedestal, Stu, and instead take your rightful place on the Tampa Bay Sports Ownership Anti-Rushmore: right up there next to Hugh Culverhouse, Vince Namoli, Len Barrie and Oren Koules.
Alyssa Shimko, St. Petersburg
A more appropriate name
If it happens, the team name has to be changed to the Snowbirds. They are the only people who think splitting time between Montreal and Tampa is a good idea.
Ike Anthony, Clearwater
At least invest in a T-shirt cannon
My husband and I regularly attend games. We drive over an hour each way for weekend and holiday games. We pay good money for good seats. We go to games to support the team and players we love. We go despite the location and total lack of fan experience. How lively can you get with an organ player and a few T-shirts being thrown out — which by the way generally only hit the fans sitting in prime lower seats. Maybe Stu should ask Jeff Vinik out to lunch to talk about fan experience. And don’t try to sell us on the benefits of a part-time team. To the people who live here, there aren’t any.
Halina Amalfitano, Valrico
Time for to follow a new team
I’ve been a huge Rays fan since their inception. I’ve followed them on road trips and have spent thousands of dollars on this team. I maxed out a credit card in 2008 to attend all home playoff games. That said, I can’t put up with this until 2024. Just move the team now. I’ll hate to see them leave, but I can’t handle five more years of this. Time to pick a new favorite team to root for.
Richard T Colicci Jr., Seekonk, Mass.
Stop blaming fans
As Rays fans, my family and I would attend about four games a year. I lived in Jacksonville, so I traveled eight hours round-trip. To hear some of the justifications for the split season — that there is not enough support and baseball does not work in Tampa Bay — felt like a stab in the back. It’s cowardly to continue to blame fans. I buy MLB.tv to still watch them and attend as many Durham Bulls games as I can.
Amy DeLettre, Raleigh, N.C.
Stop passing the hat, Stu
Sternberg’s bluff needs to be called. The value of the Rays since he purchased them has risen from $179 million to $1 billion. He needs to stop pleading poverty, build his own stadium as Jerry Jones did in Arlington, Texas, and the Golden State Warriors just did. Enough of sports corporate welfare.
John McAward, Osprey
(Editor’s note: According to a 2012 Bloomberg Businessweek article, tax-free municipal bonds helped fund AT&T Stadium, leaving City of Arlington taxpayers obligated for $65.3 million over 29 years. Chase Center in San Francisco recently signed a naming rights deal worth $300 million over 20 years.)
Halfway is no way
The Montreal plan on paper looks great. Two markets and everybody wins. What it doesn’t take into account is the emotional aspect. Nobody wants dual custody. When you know one is only halfway involved it’s hard for a fan to be fully committed. This hurt players, attendance and ratings. I feel bad for the players, but Stu put fans in a hard spot by doing this.
Joe Flack, Land O’ Lakes
My Rays stuff is gone to Goodwill
Sternberg purchased a team that played in an outdated stadium the day they moved in and, after decades of playing there, decided baseball won’t work in Tampa Bay. In 2015, Rob Manfred said Tampa/St. Pete is a viable major league market with the right facility. It is clear after 10 years Sternberg never made a good-faith effort to help fund a modern stadium in a central and accessible area. In the past I have attended 5-6 home games per year. I donated all my Rays clothes to Goodwill after Tuesday’s press conference. After July 4 vs. New York (already have tickets) I won’t be going to another game until Sternberg sells the team or funds a stadium in Tampa.
Kyle Niblett, Gainesville
Hurting the team
We were in the middle of first place battles with the Yankees and Red Sox until this news broke. It’s no coincidence that our recent losing slide came on the heels of this ignorant and thoughtless plan. I love downtown St Pete, but hate the location of Tropicana Field. If the Rays played at Al Lang or built a stadium near Ybor City and I’m sure several thousand others would have no problem attending more games. Come on, men. Snap out of it.
Mark Gaudio, Valrico
When is enough enough?
I’ve gone to 20 games a year for nine years, purchased countless Rays branded products, moved to within blocks of the stadium to walk to games, and voted for city officials I felt would affect the stadium search positively. The only thing I ever hear from the Rays is how it’s not good enough. None of it is ever good enough. If they leave, I’m done with MLB forever.
Kyle Appleyard, St. Petersburg
Start the countdown
I am not the least bit interested in sharing the team I love with any other city. It’s a stupid idea. I assume at this point I only have the remaining eight years or so to follow them, then they’re outta here.
Mark Breed, Sebring
I don’t know of anyone that would support this team if they were here for two months early in the season and left. No chance Sternberg gets funding for a new stadium for 35-40 games per year. If only he would sell to someone who actually cares about this city. I genuinely believe baseball in Tampa would work, but it doesn’t seem like that will ever happen. Such a shame.
Hunter Morgan, Lithia
Sternberg makes us a laughing stock
Over the last 10 years the Rays have been run so tremendously within the confines of The Trop. I will never understand how their off-field dealings and actions can completely contradict the magic they work on the field. The owner is consistently burning bridges on both sides of the bay. They find ways to steal any joy away from the Rays’ success and make us the laughing stock of the league.
Michael Glazener, St. Petersburg
Look in the mirror, Stu
You’ve never given Tampa Bay a fair chance. You talk about the large gap in revenues, but you completely dismiss the incredibly large distance from the population center. You’ve never connected with the fan base on a personal level, you’ve alienated them. Tropicana Field’s previous tenant has done the exact opposite, and hockey in the Tampa Bay region has unequivocally thrived. The problem is not us, it’s you.
Michael Black, Riverview
How’s your French?
Good news for the 9,000 fans that went to see Montreal the last time they had a baseball team. Nous allons nous montrer cette fois (We will show you this time!)
Brian VanOver, Homosassa
Go North, Stu
Why the sudden infatuation with Montreal? There’s not another city in the U.S. to “share” the Rays with? Having only a quarter of games a season is not worth the investment or effort. I call on Mayor Rick Kriseman to put a halt to this nonsense. If Sternberg really wants to be in Montreal, he is welcome to leave and take the team with him.
Travis McLane, Tallahassee
Contact Mike Sherman at email@example.com. Follow @mikesherman.