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Rays, MLB begin transition to Montreal

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TSN Baseball Insider


On Thursday afternoon, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported a story from the MLB owners’ meetings that the Tampa Bay Rays have been given approval from commissioner Rob Manfred to explore a plan that would have their team play the first part of their season in Tampa and the rest of the year in Montreal.

The Rays have been unable to find the pathway to a new stadium in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area. Their current lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027.

The idea behind this plan is that splitting the Rays season between these two locations will allow the team to enjoy the best weather conditions in Tampa and Montreal without needing a domed stadium in either city. For the plan to work though, new stadiums would have to be built in both locations. That seems to be less of a problem in Montreal than in Tampa.

Last month, a group in Montreal led by Stephen Bronfman (son of original Expos owner Charles Bronfman) and businessman Mitch Garber reached an agreement with a developer on a site to potentially build a new stadium for a possible MLB team.

Of course, there are so many logistical and practical questions that would have to be answered. What would the team be called? Which city would be reflected on the front of the home jerseys? How would you get free agents to join your team knowing their families will have to relocate during the season? Where would the team’s playoff games be played? Would the administrative staff in Tampa relocate or would there be a completely different staff in Montreal?

The most obvious hurdle: How does a city rationalize being 100 per cent in on a new stadium when the Rays and MLB are only 50 per cent in on their side? If the Rays can’t get a stadium built to house their team for a full season, why would a municipality in Florida build a stadium for a half-season?

Think about it this way: If this is such a good idea, why isn’t anybody else doing it? As a long-term plan, it’s flawed. It’s not possible to build two fully committed fan bases for the same team in two cities. This structure will create two half-committed fan bases, which doesn’t add up to one in this case. It adds up to something less. So, there must be some other motivation behind it.

Here’s what I really believe is going on: The Rays and MLB realize they can’t get a new stadium in the Tampa area, so they’re starting the transition. They will eventually play half the games in Tampa and half in Montreal. Bronfman’s group will buy a minority ownership stake in the club and oversee the........