The Tampa Bay Rays plan to share home games in Montreal has been shut down by the MLB earlier today. Commissioner, Rob Manfred informed Rays owner, Stu Sternberg that the council rejected the plan on Tuesday, January 18th.
The Rays were as surprised and discouraged of the news, as they understood their two and a half year plan to have a sister city was in full effect and approved by the commissioner. He was in such favor as he stated in a 2020 interview with Tampa Bay Times.
""I am 100 percent convinced and, more importantly, the other owners have been convinced by Stu, that this is best way to keep Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.”"- Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner
Besides the fact that the lease for Tropicana Field expires at the end of the 2027 season, there are many reasons why the Rays want to implement this very innovative and outside of the box plan.
For starters, Montreal has been missing baseball since 2004. The Montreal Expos represented the Canadian city from 1969-2004 before moving to Washington, D.C. where they became the Nationals. Much like the new Vegas Golden Knights (NHL) and Seattle Kraken (NHL), cities tend to embrace new teams with open arms. It's not the same as getting a brand new team with players chosen from an expansion draft, but it's something Montreal could call their own.
Even if the Rays are shared by two cities, the idea is their brand image and fandom could potentially double. The Rays would share home games in Tampa and Montreal, with Montreal getting more of the games in June thanks to their nicer weather.
What is going to happen now that the split city proposal has been rejected?
The issue the Rays are facing is they are trying to find a way to keep the Rays in Tampa while also solving their ballpark location and attendance numbers. The Rays rank 27th in payroll, and that's mainly thanks to their terrible attendance numbers for home games.The ball park isn't even in Tampa Bay, but instead in an awkward location in St. Petersburg that is inconvenient for Florida's higher densely populated areas to get to. The dome forces fly balls to sometimes touch the roof, which effects the outcome of plays and games (outs vs home runs.) Lastly, the baseball community feels there is something missing at Tropicana. Besides the roof being too low (thanks to miscalculations converting it from a hockey arena,) the white walls and white roof make the viewing experience a little bland. Areas around Tampa that the owner is potentially looking at include; Tampa, Ybor City, and Orlando.
While time is ticking, the Tampa Bay Rays will look to succeed under pressure, as they always do. This current regime in management, coaching, scouting, finances, and marketing has done a marvelous job just to get to this point under the circumstances. Who thought a team with one of the lowest salary caps could even make it to the World Series in today's day and age of big free agent signings?
This sister-city plan should be no surprise to Rays fans, as they have seen this organization make outside of the box decisions like relying solely on analytics, starting openers in big games, and utilizing their farm system more than any other organization.
With the news of the Montreal plans being shut down, Tampa fans can hope for a modern stadium and location that's closer to their homes and hearts.