I’m going to try my best not to contradict myself.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column arguing that Major League Baseball does not have a future in the state of Florida.
I still don’t believe the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins have enough fans to warrant their existence. The fans they do have, however, deserve to be treated better than Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg has treated them.
I’m sure you’ve seen it by now: A couple of weeks ago, the Rays announced plans to split their home games between Tampa Bay and Montreal, with two new ballparks built as a result.
You, the reader, don’t need me to tell you how ridiculous the proposal is, but I’ll do it anyway. It would be a logistical nightmare for players, broadcasters and others affiliated with the team who would literally have to move to another country in the middle of a season. There is no common ground between fans in either city, and both demographics would still feel like they deserved their own team. Sternberg, who has been trying to rip off taxpayers in Florida for years with various stadium proposals, would never get any public money toward a new stadium to be used for only half a season.
The entire proposal is a slap in the face to Rays fans, who have lined Sternberg’s pockets over the years despite the fact that he continually trades fan-favorite players; despite the fact that the team plays in a bad stadium in a worse location; and despite the fact that the team hasn’t won a playoff series in over a decade.
The split season proposal is, in all likelihood, just another negotiating tool in Sternberg’s arsenal as he attempts to get a new stadium in Tampa Bay. After all, the Rays have a contractual obligation with St. Petersburg to play all home games there through 2027. Mayor Rick Kriseman almost instantly shot down the idea as soon as it was announced, calling it “silly” in a press conference and assuring fans that St. Pete had no intention of allowing it to happen.
Which makes Sternberg’s comments at a press conference a few days later all the more perplexing. A few highlights:
“We want to do this because we are champions of Tampa Bay.”
“(People from Montreal) will come here in droves to watch our baseball team, to set up businesses, visit our beaches, shop in our shops, eat in our restaurants, share in our community, perhaps retire here.”
“I don’t see it. I don’t see it happening in St. Petersburg, and I would be hard-pressed to see it in Tampa as well, given what I know… We are simply not well-suited for a Major League Baseball team that needs to draw tens of thousands of people for each of its 81 games to its ballpark.”
You don’t deserve this, Rays fans. Stuart Sternberg made a mockery of the entire Tampa Bay area. No businessman should treat his customers like this, and if that’s the way he’s going to act, then he has no business owning a Major League Baseball team.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected].