Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Former Mayor Bill Foster Warns Hillsborough About "Savvy," "Ruthless" MLB Owners

As Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan makes moves to prepare Tampa's side of the bay for a possible Rays courtship, the one guy who may know more about the Stadium Saga than anyone is issuing a warning.

"Mr. Hagan has no idea what he's up against," former St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster said.  "(Tampa Bay and the Rays) are up against 29 other owners who do not want Major League Baseball in Florida....they're savvy; they're ruthless; it's going to be very interesting."

"The only way to protect the taxpayers of (St. Petersburg) would be a binding, unambiguous, clear, concise buy-out provision," Foster said, indicating the Rays weren't interested during his term as mayor.  Ultimately, the prolonged episode may have cost him last fall's election against now-mayor Rick Kriseman.

Foster has prodded Hagan before, so its no surprise the Hillsborough Commissioner dismissed Foster's concern that allowing Rays to look in Hillsborough would weaken St. Pete's contract and would allow the Rays to flee town.

FLASHBACK 2011: What's going on inside Bill Foster's head
FLASHBACK 2011: Foster weary of MLB's "tricks"

Foster tells me he's rooting for Kriseman to strike a deal that both protects St. Pete taxpayers and keeps the Rays around for decades to come.

"If not," Foster said, "the Rays will have a maple leaf on their jerseys" - a nod to the Canadian city of Montreal, where baseball fans have started calling for the Rays to relocate.


  1. As much of a hot spot MLB in Florida is to owners, Montreal qualifies as electric shock therapy.
    The Expo necrophilia is mostly driven by blog obsessed fandom egged on by an ex-player and his secret "owner group". Not too much different than the plot line of the movie Slapshot, with the fictional Florida "retirement community" looking for their hockey fix.
    Robbing Florida towns of spring openings to extract more dollars from baseball-fix-starved Expo acolytes
    is a false reading on that area's ability to make an MLB franchise profitable in the current definition.
    Pro baseball has been fleeing Canada, as many as 8 affiliated minor league franchises have left during the last dozen years. Only one short season team is left in Vancouver.
    Obvious apathy for MLB in Quebec by the few there with the resources to sustain a franchise made Bud the grease's - and the other owners - desire to get out to a US market an easy matter.
    Only reason the Jays - who a Montreal franchise would have to fight for national media exposure there as the Expos had to after 1977 - are still in Toronto is Rogers with their deep pockets because of their stranglehold of all forms of video content and their monopoly in most other forms of communications. Those games in March were held more to help the Jays radio outlet there which signed up for a full schedule in '14. Jays/Rogers want to extend their brand deeper into Quebec and are not interested in a franchise competing with them for eyeballs and Loons.
    Foster sound more like an uninformed fan rather than someone who's not that far removed from the "inside baseball" world.

    1. Wow, so much wrong here. Where to start.

      Minor league affiliates leaving Canada... Had nothing to do with the Canadian baseball market's viability, and everything thing to do with a post-9/11 world where getting work visas for unknown Dominican to leave the US and come back is hard as hell. Not to mention travel times across the border got ridiculous enough that teams looked else where. Look at the 1 remaining affiliated Canadian team Vancouver. Which won 3 of 5 championships in the NWL, because any visiting team usually ends up having to leave 3-5 players behind, because they don't have passports yet, or the appropriate work visas.

      Now why you seem to think the Jays only exist because of Rogers deep pockets I have no idea. They typically draw well, 30k the last 2 years. Certainly a ton more than the 17k the Rays draw.

      The Tampa Bay fans better wake up. The Montreal market is a significant threat. Non of the reasons why the team moved in the first place exist: no revenue sharing, weak Canadian dollar, no money for broadcast rights, even appetite for stadium.

      Sports content is one of the few things generating revenue. I could see, Bell or Quebecor, going hard after the broadcast rights for the Expos if they came back. As far as ownership, Sternberg wouldn't be the first owner to move a team to greener pastures.

    2. While this way have been a pipedream at first, the Montreal Baseball Project continues to grow support everyday. In a relatively short amount of time, Montreal has gone from a snowball's chance, to MLB boogeyman, used as leverage for both Oakland and Tampa Bay in their quest for new parks.

      As someone who took in both Montreal games this past March, as well as a Rays game this past summer, I definately noticed many similarities between the two stadiums, and that's not a compliment. The Rays deserve credit for making their dome as good as it can be, but it, much like the Expos in their final years, is a failed brand. Yes, they need protection from the elements in St Pete, and I think we can all agree that baseball has moved away from permanent indoor baseball.

      As for the Rays to Montreal idea, I am torn, because I would love to see baseball back in Montreal, but would hate for it to come at the expense of the Rays, who are such an exciting team. However, it is hard to overlook the attendance issue, which should have seen a sizable bump in these last few years thanks to their winning ways, aside from 2014.

      Finally, as far as viability, Montreal is the largest city in Canada/USA without a team, and there are big bucks to made from broadcast rights, in both English and French. Now that TSN has lost their NHL rights, that extra money must be burning a hole in their pocket.

      While I would prefer expansion to relocation, it is hard to ignore the work that Warren Cromartie has done behind the scenes. A full on proposal is being developed for MLB by March, and should be ready just in time for the Toronto Exhibition games before the start of the season. Those 95,000 people woke a lot of people up inside the MLB, and suddenly Montreal doesn't seem so crazy. Montreallers stayed away after the strike and weren't given a reason to come back, and they lost their team. I think everyone involved has learned their lesson.

    3. Argh, should be "may have been a pipedream at first". Lousy autocorrect.

  2. Almost everybody who makes MLB work - traveling secretaries, equipment guys, logistics planners hate having to deal with going in and out of Canada. Having to change over players meal money twice in less than a week, dealing with haughty customs bureaucrats and the endless paperwork they generate, different labor laws, extra taxes, the language problems in Quebec like arriving at 4 am in a deserted airport and greeted by surly customs types who "don't speak englsh" and so much more.
    Baseball people don't want to deal with the hassles, THAT'S WHY THEY HAVE BEEN FLEEING CANADA! Their jobs are difficult enough without the extra layers added on their duties.
    You excuses about why Vancouver has won is a prime example of my point.
    MiLB people become MLB people, what they do at the minors level doesn't change just because they've moved up the ladder.

    What franchises draw at the gate has little to do with the viability of a market since tix sales is being dwarfed by media sales.
    If butts in the seats were the prime factor for franchise viability the Rayz would have been long gone, it''s the TV numbers and the dollars it generates that keeps 'en in TB. Their are no real viable markets for the Rayz to use as a threat, MLB over expanded and painted owners into a corner.

    Rogers is THE media giant in Canada and that and the stranglehold the company has across the entire country is why
    the franchise is still there.
    That monopoly will make a Montreal franchise start at a decided financial disadvantage to the Jays who have almost all of the country wrapped up. Montreal franchise will find their reach will be mostly in Quebec - not the "big bucks" they would need from national exposure. TSN would bring in a fraction of the income from baseball coverage they presently earn from NHL, aside for bloggers Canadiens would rather be oot and a-boot in summer and not glued to baseball watching, NHL in winter does not have that problem.
    Not to mention the fact that most English speaking Canadiens would have less interest in a Francophone franchise than one in a predominant English speaking province/city. Expo necrophilia peters out the farther you get away from Montreal, it's not a national phenomena. There are more Anglos in Canada that Quebecois, ask any baseball fan west of the Hull River and they'll stick with the Jays.

    How exactly has Crow's "project" (beats working) been growing?
    After almost 10 years that market has no recent evidence that MLB wants to see before jumping into another bottomless money pit - no high minor league or any affiliated franchise success. Words, sentiment and tweets don't do it, facts and numbers showing financial success do.
    MLB owners aren't going to be sweet talked into another pig-in-a-poke by a slick, ego-driven politician like Drapeau as they were in '68.
    MLB and their largest media partner FOX Sports (Comcast to lesser extent) will not allow franchises to leave US markets to move to places where they have no outlets. FOX will fight tooth and nail to keep it's properties and even though the A'z are and afterthought in NorCal Comcast will do the same.

    Where are the potential owners and why aren't they banging on MLB's doors?
    Why aren't MLB owners - who love expansion fees - making noises about expansion? Because they have over expanded
    and aren't interested in cutting up the revenue pie in smaller pieces.
    Even the NHL has realized that they've overstretched their grasp.

    Not hard to generate heat after withholding the product for almost 10 years, starve the customers from their fix and they'll pay almost anything (and they did-series level prices for games that don't count) for the high.

    You guys have come down with what Allan Greenspan called "irrational exuberance" a.k.a Expo necrophilia.

    Rayz and A'z aren't going anywhere.

  3. Let's cut to the chase. If the Rays want to leave, GO! and don't let the door hit you in the backside. Just pay your dislocation fee to St. Pete, and we will all be happy. I enjoy having the Rays in the TB area, and go to about 4 games a year even though I live in Lutz, If the stadium was in Hillsborough County, I would not go any more or less often. On the flip side, I moved to Tampa Bay in 1991 BEFORE that Rays were here. If and when they move, if that ain't before I am dead, I will not be moving from Tampa Bay.

    So if the Rays want to help all the other 'entertainment' venues in the area, where I will continue to spend my money, that get the HELL out of town.