It was announced last week that Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred gave the Tampa Bay Rays permission to play half of their future home games in Montreal. According to the team’s owner, allowing the Rays to play in Canada is the only way to keep them in Tampa Bay for the long term.
Those claims by owner Stu Sternberg are ridiculous and allowing Tampa Bay to play half of their home games in Montreal would just open the door for the club to relocate. Sternberg’s interest in moving the Rays to Montreal for half their home games is a way to continually break the hearts of fans in Tampa Bay.
Montreal and Tampa Bay are roughly 1,500 miles apart. What about playing home games in two different locals is a good idea?
At one time, Tampa Bay was one of the elite cities that MLB wanted to put a team. In 1992, the San Francisco Giants were on the verge of moving to Tampa Bay. Tropicana Stadium opened in 1990 with the hope of attracting an MLB team through relocation or expansion. When the Giants didn’t come, Tampa Bay was able to gain the expansion Rays in 1998.
Now, after over 20 years of the Rays being in town, Sternberg wants to take them to Montreal where fans will feel like they are getting the sloppy seconds of another MLB city.
Sternberg talked about the franchise playing spring games in Florida before shipping up north to play during the summer months. It seems like a strange idea and one that is bound to fail. Sternberg has already denied his desire to move the Rays north is a leverage move to build a new stadium and to move out of the terrible Tropicana Park.
The city’s officials have stated it won’t fund a new stadium for the Rays, if they play half their games in Montreal. If they stay full-time a new stadium could still be built with the city’s help. While Tampa Bay wants to keep its MLB franchise, Montreal is desperate to regain a baseball team. In fact, Montreal once had an MLB team that split games between the Quebec city and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Since Montreal lost the Expos, they have wanted baseball back and this maybe the best it gets.
But where would they play? Olympic Stadium is still open and the Rays could play there. Of course, one of the reasons the Expos left Montreal, and blamed fans for not coming to games, was due to the stadium. So, what’s changed?
A recent Wall Street Journal article pondered if Tampa Bay should play half their home games in London. Despite Americans getting excited over the ticket sales for the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees series, the series is simply a novelty to British sports fans.
Rays fans should feel betrayed by their team’s owner. If Sternberg could put a competitive team on the field every season, then perhaps his attendances would increase.