Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rays to Montreal? Fat Chance

It's been a few years since debunking the Rays-to-Nashville hype, so why not tackle the Montreal baseball hype that Stu Sternberg, Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo, ESPN's Steve Wulf, and plenty of others have fueled?

This weekend, it was Cafardo again calling Montreal a "viable option" for Rays relocation if Tampa Bay doesn't build the team a new stadium:
[T]he Montreal business community is much different than it was in the past. There are large telecom companies and financial institutions with big money. The city would need a new stadium, but Montreal baseball has a very strong grass-roots movement to explore the possibility.

As one AL executive pointed out recently, “Other cities — Washington D.C. and Seattle — have received second chances for franchises. It appears that Montreal would be a viable second-chance city given the financial opportunity there now."
(Ask Peter Gammons why MLB would want Montreal to be a viable option again)
"There have always been great baseball fans there. They never had a venue that was desirable for baseball and the economics never allowed them to keep the great talent they developed over the years.”
There's may be a great appetite for baseball in Montreal, but what baseball economics does this AL executive think have changed in the last decade?  Revenue sharing may have increased, but the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" hasn't really changed, meaning the Expos may not be able to hang on to top talent any better than they did before.

Let's not also forget the fact that the Rays are locked into their current contract until 2027, barring negotiations to amend that contract.

Montreal has strong population numbers going for it (3.8 million in the metro vs 2.8 million in Tampa Bay).  But when you include surrounding regions where the Rays have grown roots and draw TV audience (Sarasota, Lakeland, Ft. Myers, Orlando), West/Central Florida actually has the same number of people as all of Quebec, which is much bigger.

Finally, Montreal sympathizer Jonah Keri puts its best - Montreal is only viable if someone is going to pay for a stadium themselves:
It echoes what the Biz of Baseball's Maury Brown wrote three years ago, "If big league baseball returns to Montreal it will be a labor of love from an owner with very deep pockets committed to making it work this time."

MLB's not returning to Montreal unless someone decides to commit - and lose - an enormous amount of money to make it happen.


  1. Noah, you forgot a few things that have changed in the last 10-15 years. Strength of the Canadian dollar. Economic outlook for the cities (Montreal vs Tampa). Team's dependency on season tickets vs walkups. Disposable income available to surrounding population. Finally the province of Quebec just built an NHL arena in the hopes of landing an NHL franchise in Quebec City. On top of all that Montreal had a reasonably better attendance than Tampa Bay. Here we are in the Rays peak performance years drawing only 18k.

    1. David,

      As I am not very familiar with Montreal, could you kindly clarify a few things?
      Which city has a better economic outlook - Montreal or Tampa?
      Which town would have a higher dependency on season tickets?
      Which town has higher disposable income available to surrounding population?


    2. Though Montreal might fair better then Tampa after an inevitable hurricane within the next 100 years, but as far as baseball here in 2025, with everyone's projections of the i4 corridor becoming the hottest spot for growth, their opinions might become different...

  2. Montreal would be all of the above. Montreal is headquarters for several global Fortune 500 companies, power corp, alcan, bombardier, bce, and basically home to corporate bases of any company hoping to do business in Quebec. The median age and transient nature of the Tampa Bay population means less disposable income available. The lack of transit options is another big strike against the Tampa area. Montreal does have solid public transit.

    But ultimately 2 significant changes over the last 15 years in Montreal's favor have been strength of the Canadian dollar (I don't think it ever goes back to 0.70 on the dollar), its been pretty much par for 10 years. 2nd. the game has shifted where season tickets are significantly more important to a teams ability to budget. This used to not really be important, but baseball has been going hard after corporate dollars and season tickets, to give teams the ability to set a budget.

    The biggest strike against Montreal, is I'm sure the players union is a heck of a lot happier to be in Tampa, close to their spring training homes, so they can live there all year. And with its climate and bilingual status, it may always be tough for Montreal to retain talent. Not that Tampa hasn't lost some pretty good players over years.

  3. One final thing in terms of Montreal needing an owner. Is it not possible Sternberg could be that owner? Is it not possible he could become disenfranchised enough by the on-going Foster fiasco he looks at the relocation option, then reaches out to businesses in Montreal and gov't officials to determine if any public dollars would be made available and discuss potential field locations.

    1. "to determine if any public dollars would be made available"

      And this is where I think the Montreal conversation ends. Is the city really any more willing to pony up tax dollars for a new baseball stadium than they were when the Expos were still around (which is to say, they weren't)?

    2. If Sternberg wanted to spend a half-billion dollars on a stadium, you'd think he would just do it in Tampa Bay. A Montreal owner would need to probably accept losing a ton of money....or convince the public to fork out a ton of cash.

    3. Timing is everything. When the Expos were last looking for a public handout was when their team interest was at its lowest, disillusion after 94, the bleeding out all their best players.

      Besides as you know cities much prefer to build stadiums to lure teams than keep teams. Ie. see St. Pete's attitude toward the Rays. More than happy to build a stadium to lure a potential team, but to keep the Rays, they're on their own.

  4. Either way they need out of low class st.pete!!!!!

    1. Anonymous,

      Thanks for the variation on theme! What high class community do you live in?