Rays Confident Montreal Plan Will Gain Support Despite Initial Reaction
The Rays knew that the idea to split games between Tampa and Montreal "wouldn’t be well received locally, but they seem to have underestimated the negative reaction," according to Marc Topkin of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg has since "admitted the levels of vitriol and suspicion were 'higher' than expected." Still, the Rays "fully expect people to warm to it the more they think about it." The Rays will "continue to sell the economic benefits of a new open-air" ballpark that could host "spring exhibitions, 35 or so regular-season games, soccer, concerts and more." One way the Rays are "selling the idea is how the additional revenue from having two home markets will allow them to move into the middle tier" among MLB teams, revenue-wise, and "thus spend more on players than they typically do" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 6/30).
ART OF THE DEAL: In Tampa, Frago & Solomon noted former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster is "at odds" with the Rays, as the team's future after '27 is as "unsettled as ever." While serving as mayor from '10-13, Foster "took the most hard-line stance" against the Rays, as he had "long feared the team’s ultimate goal was to leave the bay area." He said, "I would say the most unpleasant part about my job when I was mayor was dealing with the Tampa Bay Rays." Foster said he and Sternberg "were just never able to warm up to each other." Meanwhile, sources said that the relationship between the Rays and current St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman had "been on the wane for months" leading up to the Montreal announcement. However, Kriseman is term-limited, so if the team "can't work it out with him, the Rays will once again become a campaign issue," this time in the '21 mayoral race (TAMPABAY.com, 6/29). In Cleveland, Paul Hoynes wrote the Rays during negotiations for a new ballpark have "tried to do it the right way," but now the "time to play nice is over." The "time for threats and leverage has arrived" (CLEVELAND.com, 6/30).