Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tampa Tribune Takes Embarrassing Turn on Fearmonger Train

The editors* of the Tampa Tribune should be ashamed of themselves.
*If there is even more than one editor left there.

The paper took a perfectly reasonable Chris O'Donnell article that adds a little context to MLB's Montreal fears...and turned it into a "click-bait"-type of headline that unnecessarily adds to the fearmongering:
This isn't a service to readers; it's an intentional distortion of facts to sell well as push the paper's editorial agenda of pressuring the City of St. Pete to back off its contract with the Rays*.
*It's not the first time

As I pointed out earlier in the week, all new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred did was respond to a question about Montreal's viability with an open-ended, "sure it could work again."  That means the new guy was merely to keep the league's leverage in-tact as MLB supports the Rays' campaign for a new Tampa Bay stadium.  Most of the insiders interviewed in the Trib's story even acknowledge this!

In fact, the only person quoted in the O'Donnell's Trib article who thought the Montreal threats were viable was Hillsborough Co. Commissioner Ken Hagan, who also once claimed a single college football game could create 1,700 jobs in Tampa Bay.

Compare the article's print headline to its online counterpart:
The caption even notes the commissioner only said a few "nice things" about Montreal*.
*The editors/editor at also missed a glaring typo

I get that those of us who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.  I get that we should we be just as disappointed in MLB for pitting one city against another, and for penalizing Tampa Bay for its bad business decisions of the past.

But Trib & Trib readers: don't believe the hype - I've written countless times about Montreal's longshot bid - Tampa Bay is still a lot closer to building a new Rays stadium than anyone else.

ALSO SEE: Three things the Stadium Saga needs in 2015


  1. As someone who would like to see teams in both regions, it is a fact that Montreal and Tampa Bay are going to be linked for the foreseeable future. Montreal has two options, relocation or expansion. Expansion won't happen until Tampa Bay and Oakland settle their stadium issues. That only leaves the former.

    I like your work Noah, but I have to ask, how is Tampa Bay closer than any other region on building anew stadium? It feels like they have been spinning their wheels for years now, while in the meantime Montreal has lined up investors with deep pockets, and revitalized a long thought dead fan base. Tampa Bay may be "closer" now, but they are crawling at a snail's pace. We can all say that it will never happen, but day by day, Montreal is gaining credibility, and I don't think it can be dismissed so easily.

    That being said, with the Canadian dollar sinking these last few months, it may give Tampa Bay a reprieve for now. But if the fans don't show up for 6 consecutive seasons of winning baseball, who's to say what the opposite will bring?

    1. Tampa Bay is probably only $100-200M away from closing the gap on funding a new stadium.

      Montreal is not only several hundred million away from closing the gap on a new stadium, but its also in the unenviable position of having to build on spec, as Tampa Bay did in the 80s. Luring a team away is not as easy as building a new stadium....

    2. I think we all know that it isn't a $100-200M gap that is holding back the new stadium plans. It sounds like the counties involved can't agree on what time of day it is, let alone where a stadium will go. Whereas the three levels of gov't in Montreal seem a bit more united in their efforts. I know that building a hockey arena isn't the same level of commitment as a baseball field, but Quebec has already shown that they'll build before one they secure a team, so it's not like it couldn't happen again. Montreal may be a boogeyman right now, but they wouldn't be a threat if there wasn't some legitimacy to their progress. And that is the key right there, progress in a short amount of time, which is not something we've seen with the stadium situation in St Pete.

    3. Tampa Bay's problem isn't the counties's the Rays unwillingness to compensate St. Pete for breaking its contract. It's the same hurdle that stands in the way of a move to Montreal.

      Ultimately, it's a small hurdle....IF someone wants to just cough up the cash. The Rays, a Tampa developer, etc.

    4. a new owner, or a fed up Sternberg, who is determined to move would be more than willing to compensate St. Pete. the amount required would be more than what the Rays were willing to pay in the MOU, but its no where near the cost of buying a team or building a stadium. you're kidding yourself if you think its in the hundreds of millions of $

    5. I have to giggle about the comments comes down to one thing....MLB does not work in Tampa Bay, new stadium or not . Folks google the Montreal Baseball Project or ExposNation and then you will see how big this movement is....

    6. want history??? watch this
      search on youtube....1994 Expos Tribute Ceremony at the Big O feat 94 Fall by Annakin Slayd

    7. Whoa! The Montreal Baseball Project has a website?? They are legit.

      Just like Oregon:
      And right behind them, Louisville!

    8. Noah, thanks for my you tube link I sent yesterday and tell me what your thoughts are.....

    9. Tampa Bay might have the edge and be in the driver's seat, but geez, do you think they could actually put the key in the ignition??

      A few random thoughts:

      First, even if St Pete allowed the Rays to explore the Tampa Bay region, I'm not confident anyone could agree on an optimal location, because it seems as it is that nobody is willing to travel any sort of distance to see this team play at the Trop.

      Yeah, the Rays might not have had the history that other teams and cities have, but what is more alarming was their more recent present, and the fact that despite 6 straight winning seasons, a World Series appearance, 4 playoff appearances, a Cy-Young Winner, Rookie of the Year winners, Manager of the year, blah blah blah, they still rank at the bottom of MLB attendance. Consistent winning has always been the blueprint for improving attendance. If people aren't willing to come see an innovative manager and executive team cultivate talent on a shoe string budget, beating historical teams like NY or Boston with huge payrolls, maybe baseball just doesn't work there. Its a shame because I love the area,but look at the numbers. They win the AL East in 2010 and 2011's attendance goes down by over 300K people. And they still went to the postseason!

      Noah, the proof may even be here on your website that locals are apathetic to the whole issue. Look at the articles that mention Montreal, and see how many people comment on them compared to the articles that don't.

      Like I said above, Montreal and Tampa Bay are going to be linked together for the foreseeable future. I'd love to see the Expos and Rays battle it out in the AL East. But realistically, I think it will be tough to convince taxpayers and basically anyone without a monetary interest in the team that attendance will go up and the region will make money by investing in a shiny new ballpark, wherever they put it.

      Finally, 2027 may seem like a long time away, but if a few losing seasons keep the fans away, I guarantee Stu and MLB will start chirping much louder that they can't compete, and as each year goes by St Pete loses leverage and overall compensation.

    10. well worded Matt and 110% correct

    11. Coming soon to a TV near you, "The Perfect Storm".

      Watch the trailer. I'm one of the backers from Montreal and I already saw the documentary back in December 2014 (we had a private link). What a team!

      It will air just in time for the April games at the Big 'O'.

    12. Noah, don't compare Montreal to Oregon or Louisville. You can do better than that, unless you really believe it. In that case, you really need to travel and open your mind to what is going on in other cities/countries like in Montreal.

      MPB is backed by billionaires, chamber of commerce, huge enterprises (like Bell Media own by BCE), fans like Expos Nation and the mayor (which is a real baseball fan, traveling in all the MLB cities to meet the owners and players/coaches and share his vision, learn about their experiences). Does Oregon and Louisville are backed by such team and such actions?

      I've been to your beautiful region of Tampa Bay last summer for vacation and attended a Rays game with my Expos cap, I loved it. But beside the sun, the heat, the beautiful beaches, this is not even close to Montreal and the history of this city.

      I invite you to the April's games to feel the hype, the excitment and the atmosphere that is unique to sports fans from Montreal.

      Montreal is a very special city. We are vocal with our teams. When they loose or they don't demonstrate that they compete, we are terrible with them. But when they work hard, they compete and when they win, it is probably one of the best city in the world to live in (all sports included).

      Back in 1986 when the Habs won the Stanley Cup, we were 1M downtown Montreal to cheer for the players and celebrate. And I was there, corner of de Maisonneuve and Université.

      So please, make sure your comparisons are up to the quality level of your great analysis. Otherwise, you will loose a lot of credibility.

    13. Forgot to mention that only 6 or 8 people from St. Pete showed up at the city council meeting back in December to share their opinion and view on the MOU.

      This is exactly what Matt is saying. Apathetic.

      In Montreal, we have a mix of french and french/english expression for apathetic: "Inodore, incolore et sans flavore!'

      And yes, I can say that Montreal baseball fans were like that back between 2000 and 2005. And to some extend, we were so frustrated against Selig, Brochu, Loria, the Quebec Inc. that we were hoping that nobody will show up in the Big 'O' at the Expos games to protest and to demonstrate that we were insulted and been hurt by the fire sale, the lack of leadership and the 'je m'en foutisme' of MLB and the owners.

      So I agree, apathetic is the right word. The only difference here is that the Rays have a great owner (way better than Loria, believe me), great teams (way better than what we got back in 2000-2005) and nobody show up. The huge fan base prefer to stay in front of they TV/computer/device to watch the games. Yeah, right!

  2. Noah, I'll post it again since you didn't answer the last one:

    I don't understand why you continue to disregard Montreal, thinking it's on the same level as Charlotte, San Antonio, or Portland.

    Nothing you have written on this site has led me to believe the Rays future here is safe.

    I, and am sure others like me, tend to worry about Montreal more than you do. Here is what worries me:

    1. Montreal has the Canadian equivalent of Comcast, and a couple of billionaires who are richer than Stu, reported as possible owners.
    2. As you yourself reported, these guys have $200M ready to go. Do you really think the above folks will have a hard time finding the rest of the money? Come on..
    3. I cannot find any reason why we are more likely to build a stadium here in Tampa-St. Pete than they are in Montreal. What makes us more likely to find the public funds??
    4. How are we more attractive to Stu or any other owner? You wanna talk about audience? Montreal with 4 million has a larger metro population than Tampa with 3 million (more people available to come to games every night). You say TV audience is higher here with Orlando? Well if the Blue Jays can market to 35 million Canadians, I'd assume a 2nd Canadian team could market to 17 million.
    5. Sure 100,000 people for 2 games a year is no indication of year-long attendance. But that is not the perception around MLB. People all over MLB have been talking about how "passionate" they are for baseball in Montreal. Then you look at us and there's 12,000 "in attendance" most nights (attendance is at 19,000 just because of weekend games skewing the average).
    6. Montreal, unlike St. Pete hasn't soured a relationship with the Rays by keeping them at the Trop for 10+ years.

    I'd like for you to convince me that these concerns are false. They are how I see things, and they make me worry about the next few years.

    Please address these topics, because so far when I've posted you have simply said "don't worry, the Rays have 12 more years."

    1. 1. That's cool, but they can't act until the use agreement is up, so Tampa Bay can continue to negotiate.

      2. They could probably find the funding.

      3. Because we currently have sole negotiating rights with the team. When we get near the end of the use agreement, this make sense.

      4. Sure, they have a larger potential audience. I don't know the numbers so I'll leave this be...

      5. I don't think any person who actually has the power to make a decision believes the perception. They have to do a lot of long term planning with this, and selling out a few spring training games each year isn't going to be a huge factor in their decision process.

      This next part is funny. "just because of weekend games skewing the average" As if weekend games aren't important?! Why do we care about the week night average and not the weekend average? Because it somewhat supports your argument?

      This also doesn't prove that the Montreal franchise could do better than Tampa Bay. It's easy to point out a problem, but who can prove that Montreal would have significantly better attendance? As you indicated, spring training is no indication of year-long attendance.

      Montreal lost their franchise for many reasons, one of which was fan apathy.

      6. St. Pete still has sole negotiating rights, so if Stu wants to stay in Tampa Bay, it doesn't really matter. If he wants to sell the franchise to someone who will move the team, then he will receive less because the new owners wouldn't be able to move the franchise until the agreement is up. This gives St. Pete and Tampa Bay plenty of time to get something worked out.

      Montreal could get the franchise, but not any time soon. I think TB is in the driver's seat.

    2. @J

      Fair points, but you put so much faith in the use agreement. What's got me is the fact that the potential investors could come up with the money. I'm not going to be naive and assume the agreement and negotiating rights will keep the Rays here for 10+ years. They mean nothing when enough money is on the table, especially if an owner is set on moving.

      Secondly, it's not about "proving" whether Montreal could do better than Tampa. We can't even "prove" that a new stadium in Tampa will boost the Rays' attendance. Look at Miami. You can't prove business decisions because they are uncertain.

      It's about opportunity vs risk. There is no risk for any owner because of TV deals and skyrocketing team values. Owners will make money no matter where they are even with 0 people at games. Which leaves opportunity. And my point was that an owner seems to have a bigger opportunity to make money in Montreal with the larger market.

      And when I mentioned the weekend attendance, I never said it was unimportant. I meant that if you have 4 straight games with under 14k in attendance, then 2 with 25k, people will only remember the low numbers because they are more frequent.

    3. I guess we disagree on the amount of money needed to get the franchise out of the use agreement and moved to a new city. That's a lot of money required to build a new stadium and pay/fight a law suit. I just don't see that happening.

      The rest doesn't matter too much - the will is there to move the team from certain people and if they can get the money, nothing else matters.

  3. I like your work Noah, but every time you put off Montreal I just don't get it.

    If you read anything coming out of Montreal regarding them getting a team back, you would know that they have stated that they'd only build a stadium with a guarantee that they'd get a team; they wouldn't build one under speculation like St. Pete did.

    I suspect that while you may be well-informed when it comes to the Rays' stadium saga, you aren't when it comes to other cities, especially Montreal.

    It's not 2009 anymore. Montreal has made significant strides in the last few years. Every time Montreal is in the news in regards to baseball, they get one step closer. 1) 100k for spring training, 2) Sternberg reportedly talks about moving the Rays there, 3) potential owners have $200M, 4) the names of the investors get leaked and it turns out they're heavy hitters.

    I mean, all you have to do is Twitter search "montreal baseall" and you'll find a tweet by some freelance reporter that Montreal has apparently contacted Populous, the architects who've designed so many MLB ballparks. I don't know how credible it is, but my point is that it's so easy to see that Montreal continues to make progress with each news report; I don't know how you deny it.

    In the meantime, as Matt mentioned above, the Bay Area is stuck in the same spot it's been in for the last 7 years! They still can't even agree on letting the Rays LOOK across the bay.

    You are so thorough when it comes to the Rays' stadium search, that it surprises me you can't see that Montreal is serious and is coming.


    1. Paul, you are 100% right....I will be one of the 90,000-100,000 people to show up in Montreal again in April to show how important baseball is to Montreal. I challenge anyone one of you to google the history of the Montreal Expos and compare it to your history of the Rays....not even a close. Let's not be fooled here. Montreal will get a MLB team again, eventually

    2. Me too Mike, I'll be there this year. Just got my Expos jersey and official bleu Expos cap.

      After the 2 games in 2014, Beeston phone was ringing: at least 10 teams were asking if they can play in the Big 'O' in 2015!

      And yes, it is just a matter of time before we get a team back. You know, MLB missed Montreal. Every time Mayor Coderre is visiting a stadium, people are asking to take a picture with the Expos cap! This is history and tons of story to tell.

  4. Montreal can wait until 2027 and get just bad baseball. Or they can sniff around down here before then and end up with both bad baseball and a massive lawsuit. It is up to that city to decide whether it is worth it to jump on the bandwagon of Rays saber-rattling. They can build a new stadium or a space station for all we care. St. Pete will take the full benefit of its bargain with the Rays and MLB, then MLB can move on. Knock yourselves out. But be careful. As Montreal knows, MLB can be the worst tenant on the planet. Trending on twitter: montreal baseball. Not trending: an ounce of legal knowledge. St. Pete's organic growth will continue with or without baseball. The city's resurgence and desirability has precious little to do with pro sports.

    1. Come 2027, nobody is "just getting baseball" unless they cough up the same half-billion dollars Tampa Bay would need to cough up to build a new stadium.

      Until 2027, Tampa Bay has a significant edge over anyone else.

    2. Noah, you guys are grasping at straws. You have created this mess with this fiasco of a stadium issue. Montreal is just showing its passion for baseball. it has you Rays fans very worried...thank you for all the FREE publicity to getting a team back to Montreal

  5. The whole problem here is low class St.Pete. Their feelings are hurt, so they hinder progress on the issue. MLB told them not to build the TROP. I love how the owner of Ferg's acts like his business will go to craps, especially when there is nothing else around the ballpark. The sports world knows St.Pete is a joke. Please St. Pete baseball does not want you!!!!

  6. Well that feeling is mutual. If baseball is still a thing in 12 years, then you can have it. The baby boomers won't be around forever. Will games be 5 hours long or 6 hours long by then? Will there be formal nap times? In a Netflix/Hulu, post-cable tv world, will baseball be able to compete? Maybe. Montreal, spend $500M (just a teaser amount to get you to take the bait) in order to find out. If a legacy industry falls in the forest and no one's there to hear it, does it make a sound? If Montreal wants to bend over for baseball, let them do it.

  7. If you or anyone else can point to any instance in the history of law where a party was forced to remain in a physical location under a lease or a use agreement I'd like to see it. And if they do leave the damages St. Pete can recover will not be "massive." Lost economic impact is not recoverable damage for a breach of contract, and the actual loss in direct and indirect revenue (sales, bed taxes) to the city is less than $2 million a year. If someone does come up with money to build a stadium to attract the Rays--and I completely agree with you that's is a BIG if--the amount it would have to pay St. Pete for stealing the Rays would be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of the newly built stadium in whatever city.

    1. You probably also can't find an instance in history where a pro team left a contract a decade early.

  8. To Mr. Pransky's point about newspapers carrying the water in favor of new sports stadiums:

    Charlie Frago: "That vote came shortly before the council scuttled Mayor Rick Kriseman's plan to allow the team to explore sites in Tampa in exchange for millions in payments."

    That statement is demonstrably false. The memorandum does not provide for payment in the event of a move to Tampa. I don't know if this is lazy reporting by the Tampa Bay Times or willfully misleading. Neither possibility is a good look for them.

  9. Don't mistakenly equate a "massive lawsuit" with "massive damages." Maybe damages would be a nominal amount, maybe they wouldn't. Maybe the damages truly are incalculable, as the parties agreed, and specific performance would be granted. I suppose what I mean by massive is the headline risk to the Rays and to all of MLB resulting from shady strong-arming of yet another city. As much as pro sports have been in the news lately for cheating, rape, partner abuse, child abuse, and animal abuse, maybe the label "dishonest counterparty" isn't so bad a headline risk. Then again, the airing of this proposed memorandum could be a big hit to the MLB "brand." MLB: We operate in good faith when we want to. The headline risk and reputational risk to MLB has a definite value.

  10. From what I understand of the lease there is no guaranteed buyout amount. That's why there have been discussions between the team and St. Pete's mayor. If the team breaks the lease there's no telling how long the wait to vacate the Trop would be and how much monetary damage could be awarded the city and other interested parties?

  11. Montreal Mayor Coderre is saying "Un plat mijoté à toujours plus de saveurs!" about the return of the Expos. Seems that it starting to get hotter in the stove in Tampa Bay!

    It’s not bon voyage to Rays, but time to do something

    2015 will be a very interesting year. What all that was said in the past 5-7 years, clock is ticking louder than ever.

  12. Every public statement builds St. Pete's legal case. Keep going.

    1. One thing is sure, Sternberg will not be the one moving the Rays out of TB (he said it publicly). So I don't count on him to be in a positioned where St. Pete's legal will sue him for damage (negotiation with another city like Montreal).

      However, if MLB buy back the Rays, then yes, St. Pete's legal need to start looking at scenarios. By then, the value of the Use Agreement will be way lower than what it is right now and rather than trying to enforce the use agreement, St. Pete's legal may have to negotiate an opt-out clause.

      The legal analysis side of the Use Agreement is a very interesting topic considering that brilliant lawyers may challenge the content of the Use Agreement.

      Remember that the Rays only have one card in their hands. It's the development rights of the Trop site. Never under-estimate those rights.

  13. What many Montreal backers miss is that it would take an over-the-top generous offer from Montreal to convince MLB to forego the equity its built in Tampa Bay. Possible? Sure. But MLB is still behind TB when it comes to that kind of financing package.

    The commenter who said Tampa Bay may never find "the optimal location" has a good point in that Stu/Rays may not invest $200M if they don't believe in the new concept. But I'd still bet on a Pinellas/Gateway stadium - fueled by bed tax dollars - before I'd bet on a Montreal stadium.

    We have a long way to go - and a lot of threats/lucrative offers/leveraging - before then, however.

    1. How would it take an over the top generous offer? What equity has MLB built in the Tampa Bay Area that they haven't built in Montreal?

      The Rays have been here for around 16 years, but the Expos were in Montreal for around 35 years... i'd say they built more equity in Montreal than in Tampa Bay.

      Also, as I said above in one of the Jan 29 posts, how are we more attractive to any owner than Montreal? A Montreal ball club would not only be able to market to a larger metropolitan population, but also advertise to 17 million Canadians by sharing the country with the Jays. Businessmen weigh risk vs reward. There is no risk to move because even with 0 people coming to games, owners make money no matter where they are due to TV deals and ridiculously high team values. And with Montreal's larger market, there is a greater opportunity to make more money. Not to mention the fact that while Montreal by no means had awesome attendance, an owner can be sure that fans would show up to a crap stadium when the team is good; fans showed up for good Expos teams. How can an owner trust Tampa/St. Pete residents when we are at the bottom of the league in attendance despite 6 straight winning seasons and 4 playoff appearances in those 6 years?

      That whole last paragraph is just to say that I don't understand why Montreal would need "an over the top generous offer." Everything I laid out contradicts that over the top offer stuff. Montreal is just more attractive.

    2. Noah, I saw your tweet today (Feb 1, 2015) about the Montreal boogeyman not going away anytime soon.

      I translated the article, did some research online, and now I am convinced Montreal is for real.

      Whoever didn't read it, the French article talks about how the provincial government of Quebec has transferred infrastructure construction & planning to its public pension fund manager, called the "Caisse." The Caisse has assets totalling over $200 BILLION according to wikipedia.

      This agreement means the government suggests infrastructure projects for the Caisse to choose, and if the Caisse finds the project profitable, it will finance it and over see the construction. 2 projects already approved are train lines costing $5 billion.

      If the province of Quebec suggests that the Caisse build a baseball stadium, and if the Caisse decides baseball is worth while, then the cost of a stadium is nothing for these guys.. The agreement means taxpayers don't pay for the infrastructure as the Caisse assumes financial responsibilities, not the government.

      I'm telling you, in a few months to a year, Montreal will have all the ingredients: 1) ownership group whose names have already been leaked 2) a way to fund a stadium 3) a team without a ballpark 4) support from much of the baseball world 5) whatever else that I forgot to mention...

    3. Bingo!

      And one of the train project (SLR on Champlain Bridge) is planned to link the south shore to downtown Montreal. And guess where the train will potentially stopped? Yes, just in front of the potential stadium (or near by). Mass transit we said. Metro, bus, train and SLR.

    4. The over the top offer will be the one to buy back the years of the Use Agreement. If Montreal want a team by 2020, they need to be ready to buys those years back.

      So let's summarized, Caisse de Dépôt et de Placement du Québec is financing the whole stadium and making money with the rent. Investor group buy the Rays with a negotiated buy-back agreement for the Trop.

      It will be a, important investment, probably as high as what it will cost the group to have a brand new expansion team.

    5. Pinellas/Gateway location means mass transit solution. And based on LeClair's comments, by 2016, it will almost be impossible to have a stadium considering the footprint of the building planned.

      So that means an agreement (with St. Pete, with the state, with the developer and with Rays owners) must be achieved in the next 12-18 months. The clock is ticking.

      I still bet that Montreal have more chances than Pinellas/Gateway at this point in time.

    6. Don't assume Caisse wants to build a stadium. After all, stadiums don't generate much dough for the ones who pay for it:

    7. so by this logic, since stadiums don't generate much profit for the ones who pay for it, i guess well never see a new stadium built ever again. i guess neither Tampa nor St. Pete will pay part of the cost of a ballpark. after all, there's no reason for groups (public or private) to pay for something that won't make money. right?

      of course not. this is a useless comment. stadiums will continue to be built whether they generate profits or not. and the fact that a corporation with $200 BILLION in assets is a potential financier only makes Montreal more legit.

      continue to ignore Montreal, Noah, and one day when they have all the necessary pieces, they're gonna steal the Rays away without anyone realizing how much progress that city made

  14. Noah, money is not an issue. I'm from Montreal and there are many creative ways to fund such stadium and team.

    Remember, we are the home of Cirque du Soleil, one of the most creative company in the world. And we have a mayor with extensive federal experience (he was Minister of Sports, Minister of immigration in Canada) and very well connected in the MLB.

    So we have plenty of ideas and ressources for such project.

    1. There are not as many "creative" ways to fund a stadium as you'd imagine. If there were, more teams would use these mechanisms. But almost every stadium the last few decades has been funded in similar fashion: municipality opens its checkbook and team finances 1/3 to 1/2 of costs through ticket fees, naming rights, and other traditional mechanisms.