Thursday, October 30, 2014

Romano Infuses More Common Sense to Rays-to-Montreal Rumor Mill

John Romano's Thursday column echoes much of what I've written on this blog about Montreal: the threats are empty {link to Times' site}.

It was good to see him acknowledge "it is in the sport's best interest to perpetuate the notion that a large, baseball-hungry market is just a moving van away."  As any regular Shadow of the Stadium reader knows, MLB's real business is fearmongering and threatmongering.

It was also good to see Romano evolve from his 2011 suggestion that contraction rumors may be worth paying attention to.

For what its worth, I wrote a week ago the Montreal talk was just talk.  A year ago, I wrote moving to Montreal doesn't make financial sense for MLB or Sternberg.  And five years ago, I predicted Rays ownership would quietly stoke rumors about some other MLB-starved city to jumpstart negotiations here.

But I'm glad Romano infused more common sense to what has become a mockery of a discussion.  Here's an excerpt from today's column:
The rumors exist because it is in the sport's best interest to perpetuate the notion that a large, baseball-hungry market is just a moving van away. We should know, because Tampa Bay played that wanna-be role to great acclaim in the 1980s and '90s.
But as Tampa Bay found out while wooing the _____ (fill in the blank with White Sox, Rangers, Athletics, Twins, Mariners or Giants), baseball owners are masters of the tease.

And so Montreal will soon discover.

I'm not suggesting Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is behind the whispers that talks are ongoing north of the border. It actually makes no sense for Sternberg to rattle any cages right now, because he is about to get his long-awaited chance to sniff around Tampa.

But the baseball commissioner's office likes to promote the idea of a city breathing heavily on the other end of any phone. So do most of the other owners. It's just good business for them.

But that doesn't mean Tampa Bay fans have anything to fear in the short term.

Here's why:

Baseball has used the threat of relocation to get billions of dollars in public financing for new stadiums during the past 25 years.

The White Sox were going to move to St. Pete. The Rangers were going to leave Arlington for Dallas. The Giants were also coming to St. Pete. The Astros were going to northern Virginia and the Mariners, Orioles, Indians, Brewers, Marlins, Padres and Pirates were willing to go anywhere.

But there is a huge difference between those situations and the Rays' standstill. In all of those cases, the teams either controlled or were near the end of their stadium leases. So any threat to leave at least had the appearance of being legitimate, if not the reality.

That, obviously, is not the case in Tampa Bay.

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