By Alex O’Connor
Last Saturday, New York Daily News writer Bill Madden explained in a column that Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg had discussions with “wealthy Wall Street associates” about the possible moving to Montreal. This would seem like a sensible move for an owner, given the lack of attendance and a slightly older system in Tampa Bay. In addition to manager Joe Maddon’s recent departure, this could have an effect on the teams current stance. However, Commissioner Bud Selig noted that Sternberg had not informed him about any plans to move the team.
Amidst the reports regarding Tampa Bay’s shaky future, Sternberg came out with a statement to calm the rumors. “We are committed to making baseball work in the Tampa Bay region. We will do everything we can to make that happen.” For now, this calms the reports from Madden. However, the most important part of Sternberg’s statement is “We have not spoken to Montreal – or any other city, including Tampa – about relocation at any point.” Sternberg’s situation is similar to that of Florida Panthers co-owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu. Like the Rays, the Panthers are struggling to attract fans with the lowest attendance mark in the NHL. There have also been financial issues, and a move out of Florida may not be out of question in the future.
Last year, the Rays finished the season at 77-85 and their average game attendance was 17,857, which was the lowest mark in all of MLB. These are all factors working against them in regards to moving. In addition to these factors, General Manager Andrew Friedman left Tampa Bay to take the same job with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Friedman has made several successful player acquisitions and led the team to the teams most successful seasons in team history. The Rays have now lost two key pieces that had a large hand in their team’s success. These factors may have influenced Madden’s column post, as poor play, poor attendance and changes in the front office are breeding grounds for losing teams out of their current location.
It makes sense that Bill Madden published a column about potential rumors of moving the team to Montreal. The aforementioned factors above and the financial constraints of the organization complements his claims. However, Sternberg’s quick response and confidence in the Rays may seem to convey that they will be staying put in the near future. In addition, the Rays are locked into their lease with Tropicana Field until 2027. These factors plus the vote of confidence with Sternberg signals that the Rays will indeed be staying in Tampa Bay.