Friday, July 17, 2015

The Brilliant Way Rob Manfred is Manipulating Fans All Across North America

Gotta give MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred a lot of credit - he's a smart guy.  His recent All-Star Game comments about the Rays not only positioned him as a more open-minded and patient version of his predecessor, but at the same time, they also may serve to create more competition for franchise relocation.

The Times' Marc Topkin writes:
Manfred also said MLB "absolutely feels the (Tampa Bay) market is viable" and the Rays' attendance issues are "facility related," in terms of the Trop building and location.
Manfred did say he is "open to the idea" of possible expansion, and that MLB has a list of viable cities, and offered some praise for Montreal. But, after noting the success of exhibition games the last two springs at aged Olympic Stadium, Manfred said, "It's a long way from two exhibition games to 81 home games in a facility that is consistent with major-league standards.''
Manfred's mention of possible expansion sure drew a lot of headlines in Charlotte, Portland, North Jersey, Montreal, etc.  But if you believe big-market teams like the Red Sox and Yankees hate sharing revenue with mid-market teams like the Rays, they sure as hell don't want to dilute league revenues more with more mid-market teams.

Ultimately, Manfred's comments are a "step up your game!" call to fans and politicians in the aforementioned cities.  Because the more excited and willing they are to subsidize a new stadium, the more it'll help teams like the A's and Rays leverage their current markets for new stadiums.

Bud Selig spent five years hinting the Rays may move without a new stadium.  But there was nowhere to move them.  Now, the league is fortunate enough to have Montreal as a possible relocation market (even though it failed miserably last time)...and it would love a few more mid-sized cities hungry for a team, just as it had in 1990s, the golden ages of stadium subsidies.

That Manfred sure is a smart guy.

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  1. Anything that will speed this process along, or more aptly, actually get the ball rolling in the first place sounds good to me. No blue ribbon committees needed. Everyone knows the Rays need a new stadium, and while I'm not convinced it is the sole reason for their attendance woes, at least a stadium plan will create some stability and end the Rays to "insert city here" conversations.

  2. Com'on Noah, let's not just think about whats reported like most naive people, do you not think if say the Rays & Tampa already have plans together w/ all the data & projections that Manfred doesn't know about it, and might be excited, and might agreed to a MLB ASG???
    Again, it's not about NOW, it's about Central Fla in 2025, 2030, 2050, etc....
    Also, if the 2030 "mini ice-age" thing is true, how viable will a Montreal market be over nice sunny Florida? LOL

  3. ... and having 2 of the biggest US's TV markets in the top 20, 4 in the top 50, and 5 in the top 65 helps too!

  4. Part 1

    "Now, the league is fortunate enough to have Montreal as a possible relocation market (even though it failed miserably last time)..."

    Noah, be careful when you pick words. "failed miserably"

    Let's apply to the Rays the exact same conditions and events that we had to go through in Montreal between 1995 and 2004 to see if the Rays will have a better ending. Event the Montreal Canadiens would have been destroyed by such sequence of events.

    Take the time to read this very good articles on the events.

    "The real reasons that fans stopped going to Expos games

    – In a climate where it’s winter for six months a year, fans don’t want to spend time indoors in the summer, nor travel to an undesirable part of town with no night life or entertainment. This is a major reason why fans began to stay away in droves from Expos games in the east end of town

    – In 1991, a chunk of concrete falls of the Olympic Stadium, forcing the Expos to play the rest of their games on the road. This scared away a small portion of the fan base

    – In 1994, a strike occurred, cancelling the rest of the season. The Expos had the best record in baseball at the time. As a result, local ownership decided they couldn’t afford the top players and they didn’t bring back their cleanup hitter, their centrefielder, their top starting pitcher and their closer. It is estimated that anywhere from 15-25 percent of the base never came back

    – Following the 1996 season, the Expos deemed fan favourite Moises Alou too expensive and shipped him out. More fans stop showing up

    – After Pedro Martinez wins the Cy Young Award in 1997, the first such award for the franchise, the Expos shipped him out. Many diehards become jaded and see the writing on the wall

    – In the late 90’s, the Expos tried and get a new stadium with help from all levels of government. During the campaign, the team tells the media that Olympic Stadium is no longer viable. The fans receive the message and stop showing up. The stadium deal never happened

    – For the 2000 season, new owner Jeffrey Loria didn’t like the media rights landscape and pulled the Expos from English radio. Dave Van Horne finished out his broadcasting tenure with the team on Internet radio only, alienating more fans

    – In late 2001, Major League Baseball purchased the team and attempted to contract them, before eventually operating them the final three years. Signalling the end being near, fans found supporting the team to be painful and pointless

    – In 2003, the Expos somehow competed for a wildcard spot and Major League Baseball doesn’t allow them to call up additional players in September, combined with the team playing some home games in Puerto Rico. By 2004, the final season, Expos fans had had enough.

    If these conditions happened in any other small-to-medium Major League Baseball market, they too might have lost their team. Under reasonable conditions, playing in a new downtown stadium, Montreal IS a MLB city. Period."

    To be continued.

    1. Part 2

      "The Expos were sold to a group of 14 investors in 1991.

      After the lost season of 1994, and with the writing on the wall, the owners instructed general manager Kevin Malone to strip the team of its well salaried stars. The team didn't offer salary arbitration to any of them, which meant that while the players could not return (and the team was rid of their salaries), neither would the team receive draft picks as compensation for losing the players.

      Larry Walker, perhaps the team's biggest star, told that he would have been happy to take a pay cut to stay in Montreal, but the Expos never contacted him after the season ended.

      Not only was the major league roster being decimated, but the minor league system was not being replenished either.

      Disaster was just around the corner.

      Jeffrey Loria had wanted to own a baseball team for quite some time. In his early 50's, the native New Yorker had made his fortune in the art world.

      He bought the Oklahoma City 89'ers, a 'AAA' minor league team, in 1989, but sold them four years later to pursue a major league franchise. He tried, but failed, to buy the Baltimore Orioles in 1994, losing out to current owner Peter Angelos.

      Five years later, in 1999, Loria was able to buy a minority interest in the Expos for $50 million and became the team's managing general partner.

      Over the next couple of years, Loria bought out the majority of the general partners, eventually owning 92% of the Expos.

      Disaster had landed at the doorstep of the Montreal Expos. It's name was Jeffrey Loria.

      In his first speech as owner of the Expos, Loria demanded a new stadium for his team. He bluntly said of Olympic Stadium, "We cannot and will not stay there."

      The city made it very clear at the time that they would not build a new facility when millions were stilled owed on the existing stadium.

      Later, though, the city began to warm to the idea of a new stadium and LaBatt Park was designed and was ready to be built using a combination of public and private financing. The facility was to be ready for the 2002 season.

      However, Loria balked and demanded that the city pay a higher percentage of the building costs.

      The city, weary of dealing with Loria, cancelled the project.

      In 2000, Loria's demand for increased broadcast rights' fees was so great that the team could not find any English-speaking radio or television stations to carry their games.

      Manager Felipe Alou, who had been with the organization for 27 years, was one of the most beloved of Expos. He had recently been offered a hefty raise to leave Montreal and manage the Los Angeles Dodgers. He refused, citing loyalty to the Expos as his reason.

      A short time later, Loria fired him and replaced him with friend Jeff Torborg.

      Now, this is where it get's confusing.

      Loria wanted to buy the Florida Marlins, which was then owned by John Henry, who wanted to buy the Boston Red Sox.

      With a little sleight-of-hand, and a lot of money, and a few winks from Major League Baseball, Henry bought the Red Sox, Loria bought the Marlins, and the other 29 owners bought the Montreal Expos for $120 million.

      Did you follow that?

      Loria brought from Montreal to Miami the team's computers, all the equipment that didn't have an Expos logo (and a few that did), office equipment, all of the team's scouting reports and other proprietary information.

      But he didn't stop there.

      Loria also took the team manager and the entire coaching staff.

      What he left behind was a team headed for contraction.

      A month earlier, Major League Baseball had voted 28-2 to contract both the Expos and the Minnesota Twins.

      The team, stripped of everything but a few players and their uniforms, was headed into oblivion until the governing body of the Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis sued Major League Baseball for breach of contract.

      And won.

      The Expos were given a reprieve."

      To be continued

    2. Part 3

      "Major League Baseball authorized the team to play in Montreal in 2002 but they were very clear that the league would appeal the judges ruling and fully anticipated that contraction would indeed occur sometime after the season.

      And then Major League Baseball realized that they didn't have either a coaching staff or any front office personnel for the Expos.


      Major League Baseball chose baseball's chief disciplinarian, Frank Robinson, to be the team's manager. The Angels' vice-president Tony Taveres was named the Expos president, and Mets' assistant general manager Omar Minaya was named the team's general manager.

      Later that season, Major League Baseball agreed not to contract the Expos and Twins.

      But wait. For more than a year, Bud Selig told the people of Montreal that they had no interest in keeping baseball in their city. The people stopped coming, and they stopped caring.

      But instead of moving the team to a new city, and giving the team their future back, Bud Selig decided that the team would play a quarter of their home games in Puerto Rico.

      The additional attendance was negligible.

      New general manager Omar Minaya treated the team as though they had no future. During this period of uncertainty, Minaya traded away minor leaguers (and future stars) Jason Bay, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Cliff Young away for basically nothing.

      The Expos' players realized there was no hope for baseball in Montreal late in 2002.

      In spite of all the trades and unusual roster moves, the Expos were actually in the pennant race. The players were tired and looking forward to the traditional roster expansions that occur September 1st, when teams call-up their best minor leaguers and give them some major league experience.

      One small problem, though. Major League Baseball turned down GM Omar Minaya's request to bring up the young players.

      Too much money, they said.

      The Expos, realizing they had no help coming, lost badly in that final month and were an afterthought in the National League East.

      And they were an afterthought in 2003. And 2004.

      Things were so bad in that final year in Montreal that I'm surprised they found enough working trucks to haul everything down to Washington in time for the start of the 2005 season."

      BTW, the reason why Rays and other MLB teams have sharing revenues and are profitable in small/medium markets is ingrate part because of the 1994 Lock-out and Claude Brochu work (with other MLB owners) to implement such program.

      So it was the price to pay (Montreal lost its franchise) for the benefit of the league.

    3. Great history of the reason Montreal isn't a city ready for a MLB team, and not in the near future

    4. Then, tell us the reasons why TB is a great city for a MLB team.

      Great ownership, not too bad stadium (better than the Big O except mass transportation), great broadcasting deal, great players.

      Why such low attendances?

    5. @ Anon 9:04 pm:

      Ok, yes those three posts were long, but could you even pretend that you read them? The city and fans of Montreal could not control the poor leadership, and the product/brand/fans all suffered for it. That does not have any bearing on what future, competent owners would be like.

      Again, as Anon 9:36pm asked, why such low attendance? By reading the above novel, there are plenty of reasonable reasons why Expos fans stayed home. What horrors have Rays fans been put through to make them stay away from the Trop?

  5. Montreal deserves the Rays as there is no interest in Tampa ( or Miami for that matter ) in major league baseball. Just look at the pathetic Rays home attendance over the years ? Even with winning teams they could not top 2 million in attendance. Now take Montreal where in their winning years the Expos drew over 2 millions fans per year and those were in the days attendance was taken from people in the seats and not tickets sold like today which would have pushed attendance up even more. In those days early in the year the weather kept many sold seats empty at there was no roof to protect anyone from the elements. Now moving to 2015 there is major movements in Montreal to not only get a team back here but build a stadium in what is probably the nicest downtown of any major city in North America. Add that to the fact that there are now several media companies that would fight for the television right in two languages that did not exist in 2004 when the team left. Furthermore if you think Tropicana Stadium is a bad place to watch baseball then try Olympic Stadium on for size as it make The Trop look like Camden Yards. It is in the worst part of town, has no air conditioning , has been condemned in the past when pieces of the stadium crashed to the ground and snow poured through the roof. Both the CFL and MLS teams could not attempt to survive there and now have their own stadiums. I also see there is a lease in place to keep the Rays in Tampa but I am sure in the history of the world leases have been broken and can and will be again ? I say Mr .Sternberg would be very welcome in bringing or selling the team here where this lease can come and be contested North of the Border just as we start putting the shovel in the ground for our new stadium.