Looks like the Tampa Bay Rays can put away those French-to-English dictionaries.
On Thursday, it was revealed that Major League Baseball has denied the Rays’ request to play a split season between the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and Montreal.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfried informed Rays ownership this week that the MLB Executive Council rejected the proposal and which would have included a move to a new Tampa Bay-area stadium as well.
Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg addressed the media via a Zoom call on Thursday afternoon and made it clear that his group was surprised by MLB’s decision. He appeared to agree when a reporter suggested that perhaps he felt betrayed by his fellow owners.
Sternberg made it clear that the Rays pursued the idea “with MLB’s support and encouragement.”
“That’s what makes the council’s rejection of our plan all the more painful for me,” he said. “I had no doubt that what we tried to pursue with our sister city plan will become accepted in all major sports. Major League Baseball simply isn’t prepared to cross that threshold right now.”
Rays ownership had stated said that the split season plan was their “only” option for keeping the team in the Tampa Bay area. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the team hinted that if a plan didn’t get approved, leaving Tampa Bay would be more likely than remaining there full time.
But Sternberg said on Thursday the team will refocus on finding a site in the area.
“We certainly going to be exploring things in the Tampa Bay region,” he said. “We’ve tried in the past to built in St. Petersburg and we tried in Tampa as well. We’ll see how the stands are filled this year.
“We’re going to regroup and we’ll consider a lot of things.”
Sternberg later said that he is not looking to move the franchise to another location.
“I’ve not threatened to be move the team,” he said. “People have advised me to do that, but it’s not anything I’m thinking about.”
Sternberg, who has owned the team for more than 15 years, also shot down the notion that he would now consider selling the team.
“I’ve owned the team since 2005,” he said. “I’ve never had an intention of selling the team.”
The Rays lease at Tropicana Field expires after the 2027 season. Sternberg pointed to the low attendance numbers at the Trop as a primary driver for the split-season plan.
Tampa Bay, which ranked 29th in the major league in attendance in 2021, averaged 9,513 fans per game despite coming off a World Series appearance and winning the American League East.
“I know we’re not going to go from 9000 to 20000 fans (next season),” he said. “I understand we’re not going to be 12th or 10th (in attendance), (but) it would be ideal if we could fall somewhere within the (top 20) in baseball.”