Wouldn't it be brilliant if the Rays & MLB came up with the Braves-to-Toytown proposal in order to create the kind of leverage they weren't able to create via a St. Pete/Tampa tug-of-war?
MLB rules prohibit spring training stadiums and big-league stadiums from infringing upon each other...without permission. So there's no way the Braves got this involved in a Toytown spring training proposal without consulting MLB & the Rays.
CORRECTION: The Tampa Bay Times reports this does not apply to spring training ballparks.
That could mean one of three things:
- The Rays & MLB are assuming the Rays will be gone from Tampa Bay in a decade or so, thus diminishing any negative impact of a Braves spring training relocation. In fact, it could be positioned as a consolation prize for Pinellas County.
- The Rays & MLB want to stay in Tampa Bay, but are using the pressure on Pinellas County's limited tourist tax bonding capacity to force St. Pete's hand. Forced to make a decision about where bed tax revenues would be best-spent, the city could allow the Rays permission to begin negotiating for new stadium sites.
- The Rays & MLB want a taxpayer-funded stadium at Toytown and - unable to negotiate with Pinellas County right now - the Rays have coordinated with the Braves, MLB, and developers to orchestrate a bait-and-switch. The proposed 10,000-seat stadium becomes a 25,000-seat stadium and the Rays move closer to the bay bridges. The Braves could even share Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater without major expenditures.
The team, of course, had no comment this week. St. Pete councilmembers tell me they were caught a little off-guard by the Braves news, but it didn't have a big impact on where they stood.
But county commissioners, who have the job of deciding where those bed tax dollars go, may have their hands full in upcoming months trying to sort out all the outside interests.
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