If Rays owner Stuart Sternberg decides Tampa Bay can never support Major League Baseball, he reportedly has a new home in mind: Montreal.
MLB’s return to Montreal is seen by many in the game as being inevitable, especially for the younger number-crunchers who see Montreal’s emergence as one of the most economically healthy cities on the continent. With a growing corporate base, Montreal has been touted in studies as being very capable of hosting MLB. Add to that some sentimental feelings out there about the Expos and their status as perhaps the most unique franchise ever — fueled by the likes of Jonah Keri — and you’ve got plenty of folks rooting for Montreal. (Lest you think we are totally swayed by sentiment, the summary of the Ernst & Young economic study re: MLB in baseball can be found here.)
So while it’s no surprise an MLB owner has been associated with Montreal, at least by Bill Madden in the New York Post. And it may not be a surprise that the Rays are in play. It’s been a horrible offseason for the Rays, following a disappointing 2014 campaign, with Andrew Friedman bolting for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Joe Maddon walking away from the last year of his managerial contract, deciding to exercise an option to leave the team if Friedman left. While Maddon has been a stellar leader on the field, he’s reportedly disappointed with the lack of community support for the Rays, even with the team posting a 754-705 record and several 90-win seasons, as well as the franchise’s only pennant, under his leadership.
And apparently Maddon isn’t the only one disappointed with the lack of support. Here’s what Madden wrote:
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has been frustrated in his efforts to get out of Tropicana Field in St. Pete and move to a new stadium in Tampa, but there is growing belief that the economically depressed Tampa Bay area won’t support the Rays no matter where they play. And according to sources, Sternberg has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a major-league franchise since the Expos were transferred to Washington in 2005. As one major-league official put it to me Friday: “Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year.”
When Vince Naimoli owned the team, a constant criticism from Tampa Bay residents was that they should not be expected to support a losing team. So Sternberg and crew built the time the right way — patiently, through the draft — but the fans never did support a winning team: as noted, even when the Rays were winning 90-plus games, the Rays never drew 2 million a fans a year after the team’s first season. That lack of support may be making Montreal look mighty good, but a move won’t be cheap: Olympic Stadium could work as a temporary home, but a new ballpark would be a must before the MLB powers that be look favorably on a move north of the border.
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