Sunday, April 5, 2015

Montreal May Be a Better MLB Home than Tampa Bay; Too Bad it Doesn'tMatter

A.K.A. - Rays to Montreal? Fat Chance (Pt. IV)

No article about Montreal's 96,545 fans for two exhibition games this weekend drew as much attention as Jon Paul Morosi's column, "Tampa Bay fans, take note: Passion for baseball is greater in Montreal."
Based on my firsthand experience, I can tell you -- unequivocally -- that there is greater passion for baseball in Montreal than Tampa Bay.

Does that mean the Tampa Bay Rays are about to become the Montreal Expos? No. The Rays have a lease with the City of St. Petersburg to play at Tropicana Field through 2027. An agreement with the city and/or a lengthy, expensive court battle would be required for the Rays to leave for a new market before then. Neither process is afoot.

But another extraordinary turnout at Olympic Stadium this weekend should be noted for what it is: a clear demonstration that Montrealers feel a greater connection to the team they lost than Tampa Bay fans do for the team they still have.
There are good Major League Baseball fans in Tampa Bay, but there aren't enough of them. It may be that the Tampa Bay region -- with plenty of families and retirees who love the game -- is best suited for spring-training afternoons and inexpensive minor-league games. There is no shame in that.
Here's the shocking thing - I think Morosi's column is largely on-the-money.   Compared to Tampa Bay, Montreal holds advantages in transit, corporate support, and 30- and 40-somethings with disposable incomes that grew up watching the team.

However, it's a moot point right now because Tampa Bay has a team.  And a contract.

Because of the legal issues, there's no chance the Rays leave Florida in the next five, six, seven, or eight years.  Maybe longer.

Eight years.  Do you realize how more Montreal columns Morosi will be able to milk out of this?!?

ALSO READ: 3 Things the Rays Can Do to Break the Stalemate
The question isn't which market would be better right now;  the question is, which market would be better for MLB in 2026, 2027, or 2028?  And how long it would take MLB to recoup relocation investments?

There's plenty of indication that leaving prior to 2027 would be costly for the Rays;  the city of Seattle got $45 million from the Sonics after they left for Oklahoma City with two years left on a lease (which nearly became $75 million), and Minneapolis got an injunction blocking the contraction of the Twins since the team still had one year left on its lease at the Dome.

So you're plunking down money now for those 2022 Montreal Rays season tickets....I've also got some submerged land in Tampa Bay to sell you.

FLASHBACK Oct. '13: Rays to Montreal? Fat Chance
FLASHBACK Mar. '14: Rays to Montreal? Fat Chance (Pt. II)
FLASHBACK Dec. '14: Rays to Montreal? Fat Chance (Pt. III)

Morosi acknowledges an MLB return to Montreal is - at best - a long way off, but an even better handicap of the situation in Quebec actually comes from British Columbia, where The Province's Ed Willis writes the strong showing may be all for naught:
So it has the endorsement of MLB. But what does that mean? Montreal might have value as a potential market, but it has more value to baseball as a stalking horse. Selig’s comments were made as the Oakland A’s continued their interminable search for a new park in the Bay Area. Manfred spoke as the Tampa Rays were trying to leverage a new ballpark in their town.

Hate to be cynical, but we’ve all seen this game played too often in too many places to buy the story MLB is selling.

In the end, it would be like the Jets’ return to Winnipeg. Maybe it isn’t the ideal market, but there’s enough history, enough pride and enough love to sustain a franchise. Montrealers can see it. The question is, can anyone with some real dough see the same thing?
Willis' conclusion that it all comes down to money is spot-on...which is why a potential hostile departure from Tampa Bay would be at least a decade away.  It would just be too damn expensive otherwise.

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  1. I've followed your posts for a while Noah, and this could be the first time I see you say that Montreal may be better for MLB than Tampa Bay.

    Your reasoning that a hostile departure is a decade away makes sense, but what about a departure that ISN'T hostile?

    What about this scenario:
    let's say in 7 years, no stadium deal is done in Tampa or St. Pete, and Sternberg decides to sell the Rays like he said. The rumored Montreal ownership group buys the team, and it's obvious they want out of the area. Is it not beneficial for St. Pete to allow the new owners to pay their way out so that they could develop the Trop land? These new owners would obviously not look for a stadium in St. Pete after 2027, so wouldn't the city want to profit off the land sooner rather than later?

    What do you think?

    1. That is what I don't get. I would think that St Pete would want to re-develop the Trop site as soon as they could. If the Rays stay until 2027, they get no money, plus I assume they pay yearly operating costs and whatnot to keep the Trop operational. Can the Dome make it to 2027 without any significant investment? Who pays for that? Isn't any money that is put into the stadium at this point a waste, since we all know they will demolish it? Obviously the city council is trying to get as much money as possible, but wouldn't that also be sooner rather than later? 12 years of 2-3 million would be more than 4 years. Honestly, aside from having the Rays and the economic benefits to the area, which many on this site are skeptical of anyway, what else St Pete council looking for by keeping the Rays around? Are there any council members who voted "no" simply because they want to Rays to stay in St Pete? I think the minute they get the right offer, which will be many millions less than any "damages" they'd get in court, those "no" votes will switch, and the Rays will get a new home, in Tampa or elsewhere.

    2. Sure it might be beneficial if someone bought out the Trop contract....but its just not worth it for anyone to pay St. Pete $50-$100M to buy it out (on top of cost of franchise, and cost of $500M stadium.

      Buying out the deal for $10M/yr is not worth it for Sternberg, it's not worth it for MLB, and it's not worth it for anyone in MTL either.

      As for the rush to redevelop, there are many who feel baseball isn't very good for the community and they'd prefer other kinds of redevelopment. They are in a rush. But its ironic the Rays would encourage the kind of thinking that they aren't bringing as much to the community/economy that other types of businesses would.

      The bottom line is most folks in St. Pete would still rather 13 more years of the Rays than 4 more years of the Rays and $20 million.

    3. Yes, but what about the operating costs of keeping the Trop open? If the roof leaks, who is paying to fix it? My point is, if St Pete is paying to keep the Trop open, isn't it throwing good money after bad since after the Rays leave, the whole place will be leveled anyway? If they accepted a buyout, surely the money that would have gone towards keeping the stadium functional could go somewhere else, along with the money they'd be getting from the Rays to look across the Bay or elsewhere.

      From reading this site for a while now, I have the impression that the re-development of the Trop acreage is worth more money than the economic benefits the Rays bring to St Pete. So why would the city council drag their feet of this is so? Are they currently making much money from the Rays being their tenant? If they were, I could understand it, but most business owners don't talk about killing their cash cow so they can start from scratch and re-develop.

    4. Some believe the redevelopment is worth more than baseball; some would rather keep MLB for its economic benefits.

      Since there is great debate over baseball's impact, there is great debate over the opportunity cost of retaining the Rays.

  2. Lots of passion in this post. Tampa will move to Montreal as soon as possible because:

    1) A back room deal has already been struck between Sternberg and Montreal.

    There are owners ready in Montreal with check book in hand.

    2) 2027, 2022, 20-whenever it doesn't matter. A deal has been made and yes, there will be a lawsuit and the lawyers will drive the legal costs sky high. Guess who will run out of money first? MLB or St Pete?

    Back in the day Montreal tried to file a RICO case against MLB and it went nowhere.

    My guess is St Pete will throw in the towel, blow up the Trop and redevelop the 85 acres and not give Sternberg any share of the redevelopment profits. That's the best the city of St Pete can hope for.

  3. MLB should just use the expansion fees from Montreal and whomever to buy new stadiums for Tampa Bay and Oakland and we can be done with this whole stalemate. Then the Rays and A's won't need revenue sharing as much, so everyone keeps more of their money.

    Far fetched? Maybe, but it beats waiting another decade or more for this to be settled.

  4. Noah, the contract (Use Agreement) is good for St. Pete but also for the Rays. If the Rays are not ready to pay what St. Pete want (or expect) to get out of it that's fine.

    But the Rays can also refuse to negotiate the development rights of the Trop. site and offset part of the cost of breaking the contact.

    TB will keep the Rays only if the stadium is attract more fans. Otherwise, there is no way Sternberg will keep the team and will accept to invest into a new stadium without mass transit.

    And Montreal investors are finalizing their plan to buy a team or a new one (money is not an issue and the investors are serious, very serious).

    Stay tuned.

  5. Unfortunately for Montreal, the only hope for a team would be one that is a minor league team. MLB won't be expanding anytime soon and the Rays won't be "relocated."

    1. Unfortunately for you, Montreal will get a MLB team not matter if it's an expansion team or an existing one.

      Mayor Coderre is having meeting with several MLB owners, with Manfred in few weeks, ... Why all those meetings? Just for fun?

      Come on.

    2. Dunno how to even respond to this. Looks like a lot of thought went behind this analysis.

    3. Unfortunately for the people of TB and the Rays fans, they don't seem to have a clue of what is going on. If Montreal have no chance to get a team, why they can organize pre-season games? Why Manfred is speaking openly several times in the last 2 months about Canada and Mexico as the most probable next market for relocation or expansion?

    4. Touché. It's clear that Manfred has marching orders from the owners. Grow MLB internationally. We should see real games in Montreal soon, much like in Tokyo and Australia in years past.

      The only difference this time is Montreal is definitely getting a team.

    5. For all the ones that think that it took 10 or 15 years for this or that in baseball. Remember that Selig did not even used a computer. Old school way of doing things, each moves were conservators.

      Manfred is a man of his era, and he will not take 10 or 15 years to accomplish things.

      So when in the first few hours of days as a commissionner you talk about Canada and Mexico, it's not an old tactic to use words to put pressure on TB or Oakland.

      This is not Selig, this is Manfred and I'm sure when he was elected, there were specific requests and objectives that were identified by other MLB owners to be accomplished in the first 5 years.

      Manfred election process was long, that means some MLB owners wanted a change of guard, a new approach after the Selig era.

      So be ready to experience changes and new ways of doing things. Always comparing past decisions or processes to the ones that are coming is a mistake.

    6. Can't wait to see Manfred's super-duper-new-age magic wands that makes legal documents disappear!

  6. Montreal is getting a team. Just not ours. :) A baseball game in Montreal right now is like the Superbowl. It happens once, or twice in this case, a year.

    That is the only reason why Montreal will pull together for a MLB team. Other than that, there is no other reason.

    Stick to hockey up there, eh? Oh wait, our team also swept you guys this year... Flashback to 2004... LOL.

    1. Haters gonna hate. But how quickly you forget the Lightning's sweep in last year's playoffs against the Habs? Win when it counts, that's why we have 24 cups and you have 1. ;-) Bonne soiree mon ami.

    2. The funny part for the Lightning this year is that only people from Florida will be allowed to buy tickets for playoffs! Zip code of credit cards will be validate upon purchase. They want to make sure the crowd is behind their team. That's sound familiar to me. Free market they said.

      When you need a hockey team to argue about baseball with Montreal folks, it is because you are short of things to say. Poor way of thinking. My father is stronger than yours! Growth up folks.

      TB folks, we don't hate you, we just love baseball. And we will be more than happy to have a team that plays against the Rays, sincerely.

      Show the MLB that you are behind your team and your region IN the stadium. Otherwise, move on.

    3. 24 vs 1. And the Canadians have choked for how many years now? lol... Please. Get your garbage Montreal needs baseball argument out of here. BTW, last I checked, the Lightning were not the first team to do this, nor will they be the last.

      Go troll another team and save yourself any more embarrassment. Show yourself and others that you are not an idiot. Set an example and hopefully more of your kind will follow.

    4. We're not the ones that brought up first the Lightning/Habs comparison/comments. You should tell your folks to stick on baseball.

      And the Habs are an example of a stadium/arena that was built with private money and one of the most profitable sport team and generous team for its community with its foundation. And the arena is always sold out.

      So we will continue to discuss on this blog as long as the situation is not resolved for the Rays or as long as we don't have an expansion team.

      The only way to make sure we look elsewhere is by filling the Trop. like yesterday. It was a great opening day for TB, we are happy for you. This is the first step to resolve the situation.

      This is a blog to share ideas and debate opinions, point of views. Right? If Noah does not want that, then he can disable the comments and we will read what he will post and comment it elsewhere anyway.

  7. Get out of here you Montreal trolls. Seriously. This site/blog/discussion area was meant for fans of the Tampa Bay Rays to stay up to date with our stadium issues.

    Not yours, nor your dreams of having a baseball team return to Montreal. Do us real Rays fans a favor and go troll your Canadian counterparts. You have a greater chance of landing another NHL team than a MLB franchise. Try your luck there.

    1. Yes, strange that people would talk about Montreal on an article ABOUT Montreal.

      Face it, these two regions will continue to be linked until a stadium solution in St Pete is reached. Therefore, the stadium issue is of interest to people from all over the place, so this site makes for a great place where they can debate and whatnot, maybe even without childish name calling and baiting. If anything, enough with the hockey crap.

      Do I, and many others want an MLB team in Montreal? Yes. I'd also like to see the Rays complete this comeback over Baltimore tonight, and continue to thrive in Tampa Bay. It doesn't have to be mutually exclusive.

    2. Montreal posters have been very respectful.

      If people from Montreal no longer contribute , then this blog would lose 80% of its comments. Did you watch the game last night? 11,000 people and I saw lots and lots of Orioles gear. Do you see a connection?

      Face it, there is weak support for your baseball team.

    3. Sure, don't worry that there was a playoff hockey game in the area competing for fans...

    4. Edit: I meant Basketball... Women's National Champ

  8. I get the feeling that 2015 will the start of 3-4 year spiral where Sternberg will purposely drive the teams performance down to embarrassing levels in an effort to lower the demands on breaking their term of use contract. I wouldn't be surprised to see MLB trying to help them in their cause, to schedule BOS and NYY series on weekdays in TB, possibly lower the number of intra-division games in a couple of years. If Sternberg has come to the conclusion that the current situation at the Trop won't cut it, he has to take actions to accelerate the next step. Getting out of the contract for as little as possible is of utmost importance. And running the team into the ground is the best way to accelerate it. Step 1, trade your Cy Young winning starter. Step 2&3. Let your brilliant GM and manager go. Step 4, in season trades of Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb for prospects 2 years away from helping out.

    Successful Rays are worth keeping. Crappy circa 2003 Devil Rays, St. Pete will be happy to have anything for them to leave.

    1. Sternberg need to be careful to keep the team value when trading players. And that means TV contracts to be negotiated in the next few years.

      Getting out of the contract (UA) within 2-3 years is not an easy task unless lots of money is on the table for St. Pete, which is a possibility.

      So far, Rays fans responded poorly in the last 4-5 years despite the fact that the ownership and the team invested to be competitive and attractive.

      With such spiral (that we experimented sadly in Montreal), I doubt the public opinion will support the Rays. What is different with the Rays is that the ownership is doing their job with the constraints that they have right now which it wasn't the case in Montreal when Loria took control of the team and when MLB bought back the team from Loria.

      To some extend, I think Sternberg will use the "Proof by contradiction" by demonstrating that the St. Pete market is not viable and by demonstrating how such lack of support affect the total salary of the team and the image of the region. By doing so, he will probably put more pressure on St. Pete city council to negotiate a deal.

      It is clear for me that St. Pete understood that will loose the team and the development of the Tropicana Field site will be a priority in the next few years. Considering this scenario, St. Pete will continue to with their negotiation strategy/approach until they feel it's time to move on to develop the site.

      I already wrote that is it possible that Sternberg (and his investments partners) negotiate with St. Pete the site development in exchange of moving the team before the end of the UA? Rather than writing a check, they can negotiate a deal to invest in real estate and site development. Just thinking out loud here.

    2. Spiral very possible.

      Spiral starting this year? Maybe not. Some would contend it started a year or two ago!