We can draw some conclusions (plus some snarky responses!) from Selig's quotes in a MLB.com piece:
"We were optimistic that this was moving in a very positive direction," Selig said. "Unfortunately, we're stalled. It's serious enough that in the last 48 hours, I've given very strong consideration to assigning someone from MLB to get involved in this process and find out what's going on.It would seem all the optimism between Rays owner Stu Sternberg and St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster has turned sour. The city gave the blessing for the Rays to explore Tampa sites, pending a contract amendment, but could negotiations have broken down?
Just a few weeks ago, St. Pete's top attorney, John Wolfe, said an agreement is "a long way off." And Foster has repeatedly cautioned the media and his Tampa counterparts against getting too far ahead of themselves.
Clearly, the Rays and St. Pete haven't found common ground yet on the ground rules of a search: either the financial terms or the legal limitations, designed to protect St. Pete's contractual interests. However, Foster denied negotiations have stalled.
"(The Rays have) been a model organization, extraordinarily capable. Under this ownership, they've done everything in their power to make their ballpark situation work. They have a very, very, very competitive club. Years have ticked by with no progress to resolve the situation. And frankly -- and this is coming directly from me -- baseball needs a resolution to this problem."So MLB "needs a resolution" to the region's hesitance to spend half a billion dollars on a new stadium. I guess it would be too much to suggest MLB open up its checkbook for a "resolution?"
USA Today's Bob Nightengale, who was the first to report on Selig's comments, even questioned how much Selig could do, telling WTSP's Chris Fischer, "I just don’t know if there’s another city in the county that there’s a good spot for baseball."
The Rays' owner spoke Thursday as well:
"We just want to look at a number of spots in the Tampa Bay area," Sternberg said. "St. Petersburg has threatened to talk to anybody who talks to us. It's a free country -- we can do whatever we want to do -- but I guess it becomes a potential legal issue for anybody who wants to talk to us. Tampa, in particular, has decided not to because of the threats. We can't do the deep down dive to explore the situation because of this."
Sternberg and Selig go back to their trusty well here, using public opinion to leverage St. Pete off its contract. St. Pete's council chair, Karl Nurse, told the Tampa Tribune that Selig's comments were the “usual pressure on the city to go borrow several hundred million dollars and buy us another facility...I guess if they bring a big enough checkbook, that would be just fine...I assume their intention is not to bring a big checkbook.”
Sternberg said the club is surviving on revenue sharing, but his fellow owners are beginning to wonder how long it's going to take for the Rays to reach some sort of self-sustained economic stability.
"The key here is to recognize that without the revenue-sharing dollars, we wouldn't even be able to compete or do what we're doing.
"The other owners are looking at this and saying, 'How many years is this going to be? How much money is this going to be to a failing situation?'"
Revenue sharing will never go away; it's a mechanism MLB set up to ensure teams in smaller media markets could still compete with teams in large media markets. Everyone in MLB is making money, and everytime a new stadium is built on someone else's dime, everyone in MLB profits even more. No one team can cost any other team huge amounts of money.
So is it really the fault of Bill Foster, Karl Nurse, Bob Buckhorn, Rays fans, or Tampa Bay taxpayers that MLB's owners aren't getting richer as fast as they'd like? Or is it simply because MLB built its business model this way (and done quite well under it, too)?