Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Let’s assume the Rays asked about Montreal. Here’s what St. Pete should ask in return.

John Romano: If the Rays are serious about this split plan, they should be willing to offer the city something of value in return for altering Tropicana Field’s use agreement.
St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman faces some risks consider the Rays request to pursue splitting seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal. This fan made it clear where he stands at a recent Rays game. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman faces some risks consider the Rays request to pursue splitting seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal. This fan made it clear where he stands at a recent Rays game. DIRK SHADD | Times
Published Jul. 27, 2019
Updated Jul. 27, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Let’s see, on June 20 there was the announcement that Major League Baseball’s executive council had given the Rays permission to explore a split season with Montreal.

On June 25 and 26, there were dual press conferences in St. Petersburg and Montreal where we were told this split plan was the best hope either city had for big league baseball.

And finally, on July 23, there was the much-anticipated meeting between Rays owner Stu Sternberg and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman’s team where they finally exchanged … pleasantries?

Oh, come on.

(Or sacre bleu, if you prefer.)

Related: MORE RAYS: St. Petersburg leaders, Rays stay publicly silent on meeting

The spin coming out of the meeting was that the Rays did not seek permission to begin stadium talks in Montreal and, in fact, they barely talked about anything important at all.

For 75 minutes.

Now, if you’re like me, you probably find that hard to believe. Not after being told time is running short. Not when you consider there are literally billions of dollars at stake between the franchise value, the proposed stadiums and the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site.

So let’s consider a more realistic scenario.

Let’s assume Sternberg did seek permission to approach Montreal. Maybe it wasn’t in writing, maybe it wasn’t an official request, maybe they’re hiding behind semantics.

But, at this point, it would be corporate malfeasance not to at least gauge the mayor’s willingness to allow the Rays to sidestep the Trop use agreement and talk with Montreal.

So what happened when Sternberg asked?

The logical assumption is Kriseman played it cool. We know the Rays want permission, we know it hasn’t been granted yet, and we know the two sides have another meeting planned in the next month or so.

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, left, sits in the stands and talks with season-ticket holder David Rosenbach of Tampa during the Rays game Monday against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. DIRK SHADD | Times

That suggests the Rays are waiting for an answer.

And this is where it gets dicey.

There are a dozen or more ways this could ultimately play out, but for now Kriseman has two options. He can either say yes, or he can say no. And both choices carry risk.

Sternberg has all but said the Rays will eventually leave Tampa Bay permanently if the Montreal plan does not work. It hasn’t been framed as an ultimatum but, let’s face it, that’s the intent.

Now is it a legitimate threat? Would the Rays really refuse to entertain any other stadium options in Tampa Bay, and bide their time until they can begin playing elsewhere in 2028?

That’s certainly a possibility.

Or are the Rays creating leverage for a better stadium deal around here? Or maybe they are even laying the groundwork for a plan to buy, or litigate, their way out of the use agreement?

Related: JOHN ROMANO: What Tampa Bay has to decide

Yeah, those are possibilities, too.

So if you’re Kriseman, you have to figure out the best way to enhance, or protect, the city’s interests in the face of all of these possibilities.

Now if you look at it realistically, the Montreal plan is an absurd longshot.

First, Kriseman must grant permission. Then the City Council must grant permission. Then the Montreal group must agree to build a stadium in exchange for an ownership stake in the team. Then Tampa Bay must come up with a stadium. Then MLB and the players union will have to sign off on it.

All of which seems awfully ambitious.

But let’s assume the Rays really do believe in this plan. Here’s what they need to do to make it happen:

Sign over their share of any Tropicana Field redevelopment rights. Not temporarily. Not on a contingency basis. Just sign over the rights to the city, and you get permission to talk to Montreal.

If the Rays really do want to build an open-air stadium to play part-time in St. Pete, the city could apply those redevelopment rights as part of the team’s contribution for construction costs.

And if the Montreal deal falls through, the Rays say they will be a lame duck waiting for the use agreement to expire, in which case the redevelopment rights are worthless to them come 2028 anyway.

Will it happen that way?

I doubt it.

But this partnership between the city and the team has taken a contentious turn. Kriseman and the City Council did the Rays a favor when they allowed them to look at stadium sites in Hillsborough County for three years. And this sudden arm-twisting over Montreal was not the best way to repay that favor.

So if the Rays want another addendum to the use agreement, it’s their turn to give up something in return.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow, shown at last year's event with since traded Ryne Stanek, likes the fun and games at Fan Fest.
    Registering on the MLB Ballpark app is necessary for all attendees 18 and older; team says no paper tickets can be used.
  2. For a while, Nick Anderson was nearly unhittable after the Rays acquired him from the Marlins in July. He ended up with 41 strikeouts in 21.1 innings for the Rays in 2019. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
    No one on Tampa Bay’s roster has more than 20 career saves to his name. But the Rays have at least four relievers who could be in line to protect the majority of ninth-inning leads.
  3. The Seattle Mariners' Chris Prieto now is part of the Tampa Bay Rays' staff. [LESLIE PLAZA JOHNSON  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    The extensive makeover includes six new hires (including a female athletic trainer) and 16 internal changes in assignment.
  4. Longtime Tampa-based player agent B.B. Abbott plans next month to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer. Here he walks around his South Tampa neighborhood at night with an altitude mask. [B.B. ABBOTT  |  Special to the Times]
    B.B. Abbott will climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds and awareness for pediatric cancer groups.
  5. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash and new Japanese slugger Yoshi Tsutsugo, shown during December press conference, will have a lot to talk about during spring training. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    Rays Tales | Learning where Yoshi Tsutsugo and other newcomers best fit will be a priority in Port Charlotte.
  6. With pitching coach Kyle Snyder keeping a close eye on him at Tropicana Field on Friday, Rays prospect Brent Honeywell continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2018 and a fractured arm in 2019. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    John Romano | Once Tampa Bay’s top pitching prospect, Brent Honeywell has had elbow surgeries in successive seasons. Healthy again, he hopes to be in the majors this summer.
  7. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow prepares to warm up on the field during a player workout at Tropicana Field on Friday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Discipline for sign-stealing scheme was lax, Rays pitchers say, as participating hitters should have been disciplined as well.
  8. Members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, who inspired the movie "A League of Their Own," will be honored at the Feb. 1 Ted Williams dinner at Tropicana Field. [GLOBE PHOTOS  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    Players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, like Englewood’s Sue Parsons Zipay, will be honored at Ted Williams Museum event at the Trop.
  9. Diego Castillo (63) kicks a ball around during spring training at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte last February. [TAILYR IRVINE  | TIMES  ]
    Games will be available on TV and streamed; 21 of the exhibitions will be carried on radio.
  10. Derek Jeter speaks during the Baseball Hall of Fame news conference on Wednesday Jan. 22, 2020, a day after joining Larry Walker as members of the 2020 Hall of Fame class. [BEBETO MATTHEWS  |  AP]
    The New York Yankees great and the Baseball Hall of Fame say they are both OK not knowing who the lone voter is that kept Jeter from being a unanimous selection.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement