Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Romano Now Calls on Rays to Step Up to Plate on Stadium Negotiations

This morning, we read the Times' John Romano is happy there may be a little bit of progress in the Rays' Stadium Saga, with numerous St. Pete councilmembers now naming their prices to allow the Rays to take off for Tampa.

Romano even calls on the Rays and owner Stu Sternberg to come back to the table and re-re-re-re-negotiate if they truly want out of the contract they have with the city (which allowed Sternberg to buy the team at a steep discount & ultimately turn tidy profits).
Although, Romano acknowledges, "the Rays cannot be happy about this."  He continues:
We have been chiding council members about making a potentially historic blunder because they couldn't see the bigger picture.

Well, now council is offering its own version of a deal. And it's up to the Rays to consider a new version of the bigger picture.

A compromise exists. It's time to find it.
It's a nice column from Romano, who wrote a year ago that Mayor Rick Kriseman likely couldn't have negotiated any better of a compromise than the roughly $2 million/year in departure fees.  But now, it seems Romano is more optimistic St. Pete councilmembers may be able to drive a better deal.
Of course, Romano isn't the first one to call on the Rays to sweeten the pot enough so St. Pete councilmembers could continue to show their faces in the city...
In 2010, I pointed out how the Supersonics' departure from Seattle wasn't a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, but when timing was of the essence, they had to cough up $45 million for leaving two years early.  That figure helped councilman Steve Kornell suggest the Rays pay $55 million earlier this year.
UPDATE: Some folks dismiss the Seattle payoff figure because bonds were still owed on the arena.  Well, an interesting side note to the Rays talks is that the state is still paying $2M/yr. in Trop bonds and the Rays may have to eat those payments too.
And when I wrote, "How the Rays Are Playing Hardball...and Winning," I detailed how St. Pete may not even realize it has the upper-hand in the negotiations....and may not ever again.
So will the Rays balk at the idea of re-re-re-negotiating again?  Or will they step up to the plate to secure the deal they supposedly desperately need?

One thing's for sure...you shouldn't expect any editorial boards to echo Romano's call for further compromise.

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  1. So what's the proposal that the majority of the city council members agree?

    Now that the council members seems to be ready to debate the MOU and their strategy, tough for Sternberg to sit down and talk when there's no consensus.

    Before calling Sternberg to the plate, let's make sure St-Pete have a commitment behind a proposal.

    Then, Sternberg will need to step-in and probably do what he said he won't: re-re-re-negotiate. And if it's the case, I sure agree that St-Pete will then have the lead in the negotiation process.

  2. "It's a nice column from Romano"

    Actually, no, it's NOT "a nice column". It's full of crap. The fact that he likens paying a ball player $16Mn as a justification to pay $25Mn to be able to look around an area that is just not suitable is reckless. He makes no mention of suitable areas or the fact that regardless of where the Rays build a stadium in the Tampa-St Pete area, there is no suitable site that will alleviate the attendance issues.

    Now, if he's suggesting the compromise is that the Rays take the deal and leave Florida for Montreal, then perhaps, just perhaps, that's a win-win for all.

    1. You sound a little biased...Vous ne pensez pas ?

    2. I do think we can live in a world where both the Rays and Expos exist, and I don't just mean from 1998-2004. I admit that it would be tempting to jump ship if a team came back to Montreal, even if I have enjoyed watching the Rays for these past few years. I'm biased as it would be a quicker drive for me to Montreal than St Pete, although that hasn't stopped me from seeing the Rays at home and on the road. And MLB.TV lets me have up to 4 games open at a time, so in theory I could watch both teams.

      My point is that now is the time for the Rays, St Pete city council, and everyone else to stand up. Line in the sand, do you want the Rays in Tampa Bay or not? Montreal fans would be happy to take your team, but it's pretty obvious we'd be just as pleased with an expansion team. Manfred and the rest of us can't wait around forever though. He knows that baseball is more popular in Canada now than it has been since the strike, and it would be good to strike while the iron is hot.

      If there's a plan, do it. Sitting around for the last five years has done nothing for this franchise, despite it being their most exciting period in their history.

    3. Exactly Matt. In Montreal, we know what it is loosing a team for good or bad reasons. And this is why we are doing our homeworks again with MBP and the Homerun Project with the tremendious support of Mayor Coderre, former Minister of sports in Canada as well as Immigration.

      And it's important to point out that the initiative of getting MLB back is not link to the fact that the Rays were having problems with attendance and their new stadium.

      The initiative started way before 2010 and grew-up from years to years to a point that the whole business community is involved/aware/anxious of getting baseball back, downtown Montreal. Remember that Montreal supported a baseball team between 1969 up to 2004 without a real baseball stadium (Jarry Parc was a temporary stadium and Big O is not appropriate for any specific sports considering the configuration and the design). We don't even know what it is watching a game in a real MLB stadium (except for the ones that traveled and attended games in the US).

      And at some point, the Rays situation (attendance and stadium) was highlighted in the media in 2012 if I remember well.

      So for sure, we prefer to have an expansion team and build our own team and play against the Rays. And MLB will prefer to have expansion money from Montreal instead of just relocating a team over here and losing a good city for a future expansion.

      Montrealer will wait until one of the two scenarios is proposed.

      But now, it's time for St-Pete, TB and the Rays to make their minds. Because I, for sure, prefer to talk about the baseball rivalry between TB and Montreal in the MLB. And in Montreal, we can't talk about that until Rays situation is resolved (positively or negatively).

  3. So, basically the Councillors want the Rays to pay $25 Mn extra for a pathetic 25,000 capacity stadium which will still not get filled... laughable.

    1. Incorrect. They expect the Rays to pay more to break the contract they agreed to in 1998 (and Sternberg agreed to 2005).

  4. Attendance doesn't matter as much as professional sports entities want people to think.

    1. Annoying mouse - you are an idiot to think that. If you think attendance doesn't count, then why bother with a new stadium? Have them play in a studio somewhere with no audience seats....

      Of course, the players love playing in an empty stadium... and I'm sure the sponsors will pay millions for that too....

    2. And at some point, players will say "I'm not playing there." And the day they start saying that, it will be the beginning of the end, with or without a brand new stadium.

      Nerver underestimate the impact of the fans on the game, on the team players, on the quality of the entertainment on TV. Especially if TV will be the revenue driver in the future.

    3. Pat,
      As long as the players are getting paid, they will play anywhere.

    4. Scott, there are numerous examples of sports players refusing to play in some cities/for some teams or forcing teams where they want to play.

      In the NHL, you have non-trade clauses in players contracts and sometimes, with a list of 4 to 5 teams that they will accept to be traded to.

      By example, Josh Georges refused to be traded to Toronto because of their poor team/organization, Drogba forced Chicago to trade his negotiation rights to Montreal because he wanted to play with a certain team in a certain environment (french school for his kids, beautiful training center, ...), Expos players in 1995 were ready to accept a salary cut just to stay in the team with their teammates considering their chances to go to the World Series.

      Bottom line, some teams will not be able to attract free agents because the stadium/field/city/fans are weak (or not appealing).

      Remember that players will voice their appreciation of the team, city, fan support, stadium, facilities, ... but will be discreet when they are not happy or don't like things. Players comments or non-comments about fan support, about quality of the environment (at large) is an indicator that need to be taken seriously by any team, any city or region.

      The Toronto Leafs is the best example. Money is not an issue, the city is great, fans are there. But players have little or almost no motivation to play for such team in the past. With their new managing team, hopefully they will change their mindset (and the perception) and build a competitive organization that will attract players and offer a very good environment to perform.

      The TB Lightning is a great example of a team that changed its mindset with the arrival of Steve Yzerman, Julien Brisebois and Jay Feaster to build a winning organization that can attract good players because of the overall environment.

      So yes, salary is important but like any persons that works in the real world, salary is rarely the number one reason why they works for a certain company or they accept to perform a specific job.

    5. Assuming players won't play where teams are offering them money is ridiculous. Few MLB stars have no-trade clauses and the Rays wouldn't be able to afford most of them anyway.

      Stars played in Montreal in the 90s, and they'll play in Tampa Bay now. Especially since Florida doesn't have any income tax.

    6. In Montreal (with the Habs), with the highest tax rate in North America, we had problem attracting stars players back in the 90's and 2000's. And this is a well known topic discussed amongst players in the NHL at that time.

      In 2015, with the same tax rates, players want to play for Montreal.


      Because the team is now well structured (way better than 10-15 years ago at all levers), with the right facilities (training center and Bell Center), the fans are behind the team (which what not the case back in the 80's and 90's, in 1981, the Montreal Expos were more popular than the Habs in Motreal, believe it or not) and the team is composed of very good players that have a chance to win-it-all.

      So money is important but not the main driver.

      Focussing the debate on money only (public money for a stadium, profits of MLB teams, lack of investments from an owner, salary of players, income tax that are low or null) is a good way to get readers/eyeballs in the media (and money to pay your salary of course!) but it's not the most important aspect of a sport team success or evolution, especially when the team is already established for some time.

      Like any organization, the mission must be clear, supported by the community (fans, businesses, politicians, ...) with tangibles (and intangibles) actions that supports it.

      Then, and only then, all the money topics can be addresses with the right mindset from all parties.

    7. "Like any organization, the mission must be clear, supported by the community (fans, businesses, politicians, ...) with tangibles (and intangibles) actions that supports it."

      So, for the Rays

      fans: very limited support
      businesses: very limited
      politicians: divided

    8. Guaranteed that if a player has a contract offer for the same amount of money/years from both St Louis or Tampa Bay, they go with the Cardinals. Why? Because players like to play meaningful games in front of sold out crowds. More exposure for them, which helps for their next contract or endorsement deal. Sure if it was somebody that had virtually no offers elsewhere, and it was the difference of playing in St Pete or Taiwan, odds are they'd pick the Rays. But really, is that the type of player that will put butts in the seats anyway?

    9. Hi Matt,
      Not guaranteed! No state income tax in FL which means the player is guaranteed that at least half of his game played will not incur state income tax - it's a wash for games played in Miami and Texas where there will be no state income tax as well. And let's say the player has a wife and/or kids. Wouldn't it be nice if where the player domiciled for half of the year found the area attractive enough to live year round. Tampa Bay or St. Louis - let me think on that. Pretty easy choice. St. Louis is more likely to get to post season, but that is certainly not the only consideration that a player and his family makes.

    10. Would a player choose the Rockies, Padres, or Orioles automatically over the Rays? All draw better than Tampa Bay in new stadiums....but I wouldn't say the Rays are at any disadvantage to most MLB teams. Guys like playing and living in Fla.

    11. Just to nitpick, Coors Field is 20 years old. Camden Yards is two years older than the Trop. All three have lost their new car smell.

      More importantly, have there been any major free agent coveted by several teams that have ended up in either Tampa Bay or Miami? I'm sure Giancarlo is happy that he's not paying income tax on his crazy contract, but I think he'd be even happier to be playing meaningful baseball at some point in his career. I suppose Reyes signed in Miami before being shipped off after a season. Obviously the Rays are never going to be in on the $200 million guys, unless they sign for under market extensions like Longoria. Stu will never open the pocketbook, which makes it moot anyway. It would also help if there weren't so many instances of Rays players and staff complaining about the lack of fan support. Right or wrong, I'd be disappointed if there was no attendance spike when I clinched the AL East at home.

      At the end of the day, unless the money was significantly different, players play to win games. Every city and state has nice neighborhoods and fancy places for our favorite millionaires to spend time in. If Florida was so much different, it would be a top destination for the best free agents, which has never been the case for either Florida team.

    12. Whoops! I mean Camden Yards is two years newer than the Trop :P

    13. So are you advocating spending tax dollars on new stadiums every 20 years in every MLB city in America?

    14. ...because that's what the NFL and MLB have been pushing for at least 10-20 years. If every city is worried about falling behind the "Joneses," they'll keep funneling more money as fast as possible to the leagues.

    15. Not advocating that at all. Talking about fancy neighborhoods and nice areas in each city, not stadiums. Saying that Florida is not alone in having nice areas where players would want to play and live with their families. Nor is Florida alone in having great weather and beaches. Tampa Bay may be aesthetically more pleasing than St Louis for example, but I'm sure that the players aren't living in slums there either.

      Aside from Turner Field, which I believe to be an anomaly, every MLB park that was replaced in the last 20 years was a dump. Tropicana Field has the unfortunate position of coming in just as the bland, concrete, multipurpose stadium concept was ending. However, I don't believe it is as bad as it is made out to be, but it takes people's attention away from questioning the validity of the market itself. I would be interested in hearing your take on the long term strength of the Tampa Bay MLB market, either with or without a new park. I'm not convinced there will be much difference in what you find.

  5. Attendance is the fodder used to pit cities against one another. Do you think the Marlins will move anytime soon? Of course not, because they have a new stadium. They could average 500 people a game for the next 10 years but they won't be moved because of the new stadium. The 49'ers are having trouble with attendance as well. They have a new stadium, so the concern regarding attendance no longer matters. Take that little mouse. Do some research like I have been doing for 12 years now. One day, you'll get out of your parents spare bedroom and get a clue and a life.

  6. Marlins got a stadium built because they promised increased revenues and attendance.... No one is going to shell out $600M for a new stadium when they will not see a single dime back - not the government nor private enterprise.

    And thanks to the Marlins, the Rays will not get gov't money for their stadium because folks are much more responsible now...\

    And to top it off, the Rays don't have a new stadium right now, so the time is right to contemplate their move ahead of one being built. The public scrutiny otherwise will be too much to bear and we know the Rays will not fully pay for one. Now, if they manage to get season-ticket holders to buy a bucket load ahead of a new stadium, then maybe one will get built... else, they'll be toast.

    Holding up the Marlins as an example .. wow... your stupidity knows no bounds.

    1. Actually, Miami-Dade gave the Marlins $600M without a promise of anything.

    2. Possibly.. but MLB threatened Miami-Dade to give a stadium or lose the team...

      "I just want you to know that if you decide not to make a decision tonight, that will be the death knell for baseball in Miami. We are out of time."

      Bob Dupuy to Miami Dade

    3. I suppose there was probably a mention by Jeff and David to spend more money on the team, or actually make them relevant, which has still yet to happen. Basically salted the Earth on new stadiums though. There's something to unite Expos fans and Floridians alike, a mutual hatred towards Loria.