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Tampa Bay Rays: Escape from the Trop


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I know the wheels started in motion for the Expos' demise around 2001 or so (if not with the 94 strike), but do you think Bud regrets pushing the Expos to Washington now?

Not in the slightest.

MLB got a team in a major American market with disposable dollars, extorted the DC government out of a $600 million showpiece ballpark and kept Congress at bay all in one fell swoop.

You have to remember how bad things got in Montreal and how unwilling the provincial government AND local businessmen were to support the Expos (or even the general concept of Montreal baseball). This is precisely how Jeffrey Loria got his dirty paws on the franchise in the first place...NO ONE in Montreal was willing to step up to save the thing.

Also recall that Stade Olympique was (and is) like playing baseball in a giant cave - and this was not going to change because when push came to shove, no one wanted to build a new ballpark.

Given all that, just about ANYTHING would have been an improvement over Montreal. The fact that MLB got all of the goodies out of DC in the process was just gravy.

I do hope Montreal gets back in the baseball game, but it would have to do quite a bit to convince anyone who was paying attention to the Expos fiasco that Montreal can support a professional team - including building a new, modern outdoor facility. I've always advocated that they should go after a AAA team, build a park that can be expanded to MLB size at a later date, and develop the fan/corporate support necessary to take that next step up at the appropriate time. Either way, I hope that they can get baseball back, but I won't hold my breath.

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OK, to be fair.....to those of you who say relocate, name me some REALISTIC places that could get them. Don't just name places you WANT them to go.

Montreal

Charlotte

Portland

Nashville

Brooklyn

I can't fathom why Charlotte always gets mentioned as a candidate. It's got the same transplanted-population issue that Tampa does, with an easy 1 million fewer people living in the metropolitan area than Tampa. The Knights were dead last in International League attendance last year, attracting just over 4,000 people per game. They DO have a good corporate base, but so much of that is in banking and finance, and I don't think those companies are chomping at the bit to get involved in sports sponsorship right now. The area still has unemployment above 10%. The Panthers are supported well, but it's no secret that football is king in the Carolinas and they only have 8 home dates a year.

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You can't understate the effect of the language charter (Loi 101) on baseball in Montreal. I'd say the wheels really started turning when the province made it unpleasant to speak English in Quebec. Baseball was always more of an anglophone game, which isn't to say that that francophones didn't like the Expos, just that culturally speaking, as it were, baseball isn't very French. Remember that it was Montreal, not Toronto, that was the largest city in Canada when the Expos were established. Part of the reason it isn't anymore is that so many anglophones, about 300,000 I believe, were de facto expelled from the province and moved to Ontario. Montreal's not the same. Vancouver is a more intriguing Canadian destination now.

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The problem is there just aren't many viable markets out there that don't already have an MLB team and an even bigger problem, no market has an MLB ready stadium that doesen't already have a team. What the Rays are going through isn't all that different from what most teams in the South go through. If your not a College Football team, a NASCAR race, or are out of first place, your not drawing. And lets be honest the Rays were left for dead by the end of June.

A .500 baseball team in Tampa will not draw and that is roughly what they were for most of the year.

Sad part is you can talk about potential markets all you want. Portland, OKC, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Austin, Mexico City, Bangladesh, Greenland, Montreal. I don't think the Rays are going anywhere for at least another five years because of the ballpark issue.

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You can't understate the effect of the language charter (Loi 101) on baseball in Montreal. I'd say the wheels really started turning when the province made it unpleasant to speak English in Quebec. Baseball was always more of an anglophone game, which isn't to say that that francophones didn't like the Expos, just that culturally speaking, as it were, baseball isn't very French. Remember that it was Montreal, not Toronto, that was the largest city in Canada when the Expos were established. Part of the reason it isn't anymore is that so many anglophones, about 300,000 I believe, were de facto expelled from the province and moved to Ontario. Montreal's not the same. Vancouver is a more intriguing Canadian destination now.

Montreal will never see a Major League Baseball team in the next 20 years. A lot of it has to do with the things you said, but the biggest factor causing the downturn in interest in Baseball in Quebec was the rise of Football as the most popular summer sport in the Province. Football is leaps and bounds ahead of Baseball in interest now in Quebec and it's still growing.

Vancouver would be a much better candidate for a Major League baseball team. It's the biggest hotbed of baseball in the country and has been for a while now. However with the money they just spent on the Olympics and the renovations to BC Place, there's no way a MLB calibre ballpark will be built in the area, unless it is 100% financed by the private sector, and I just can't see that happening.

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If this team was in Kansas City, Pittsburgh or Baltimore, where the fans are loyal but hungry for a winning team, they would sell out every single night.

Are there any cities with an MLB-ready baseball stadium? I don't think there is.

But as far as markets, I think that Portland is the only realistic option, they just have to build a park.

Vancouver would be nice, but I understand the MLB's reluctance to try Canada again.

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A .500 baseball team in Tampa will not draw and that is roughly what they were for most of the year.

True, but a baseball team leading its division every day of the season won't draw there, either. We've seen that.

A pennant-winning baseball team there won't draw. We've seen that, too.

A baseball team fighting for its playoff life won't draw. Neither will a baseball team actually playing playoff games.

It's looking pretty clear that no baseball team will draw in Tampa Bay.

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I know the wheels started in motion for the Expos' demise around 2001 or so (if not with the 94 strike), but do you think Bud regrets pushing the Expos to Washington now?

Not in the slightest.

MLB got a team in a major American market with disposable dollars, extorted the DC government out of a $600 million showpiece ballpark and kept Congress at bay all in one fell swoop.

You have to remember how bad things got in Montreal and how unwilling the provincial government AND local businessmen were to support the Expos (or even the general concept of Montreal baseball). This is precisely how Jeffrey Loria got his dirty paws on the franchise in the first place...NO ONE in Montreal was willing to step up to save the thing.

Also recall that Stade Olympique was (and is) like playing baseball in a giant cave - and this was not going to change because when push came to shove, no one wanted to build a new ballpark.

Given all that, just about ANYTHING would have been an improvement over Montreal. The fact that MLB got all of the goodies out of DC in the process was just gravy.

I do hope Montreal gets back in the baseball game, but it would have to do quite a bit to convince anyone who was paying attention to the Expos fiasco that Montreal can support a professional team - including building a new, modern outdoor facility. I've always advocated that they should go after a AAA team, build a park that can be expanded to MLB size at a later date, and develop the fan/corporate support necessary to take that next step up at the appropriate time. Either way, I hope that they can get baseball back, but I won't hold my breath.

I understand all your points. I was merely stating that Montreal was a better situation than Tampa because Montreal at least had potential. If an owner came in who made nice with the government, put money into the team and marketed to the Francophones (instead of eliminating all French broadcasts, as Loria did), the Expos could have seen a renaissance. The people of Montreal loved the Expos at one point. That could never be said about Tampa Bay and the (Devil)Rays.

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I do hope Montreal gets back in the baseball game, but it would have to do quite a bit to convince anyone who was paying attention to the Expos fiasco that Montreal can support a professional team - including building a new, modern outdoor facility. I've always advocated that they should go after a AAA team, build a park that can be expanded to MLB size at a later date, and develop the fan/corporate support necessary to take that next step up at the appropriate time. Either way, I hope that they can get baseball back, but I won't hold my breath.

You realize that MLB basically sabotaged the market right?

I'm not saying the Expos should have stayed, they shouldn't have. MLB was committed to getting out of Montreal and into Washington, and they got what they wanted. That being said, the Expos did draw before MLB decided they wanted nothing to do with the city.

In hindsight, perhaps. But Montreal was really a no-go at the time.

I'd like to see them step up now and take the Rays. They were a great market in need of a good team, and the Rays are a great team in need of a good market.

I feeling I get from Montreal (and locals are free to correct me on this) is that they'd welcome MLB back if they decided to put a team there, but they won't go out of their way to build a new ballpark to make it happen. Which seems reasonable, given how MLB treated the city in their last go-around.

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You realize that MLB basically sabotaged the market right?

No, MLB basically didn't do any such thing.

They were desperate to get Parc Labatt built. The team was in a downward spiral, attendance was terrible, and MLB tried to do what it had successfully done in other cities - boost attendance (and income) with a new ballpark.

The Expos tried to get the ballpark built for nearly five years before MLB took over the club. And then a couple years after that to get a deal done to relocate to Washington. The Expos struggled that entire time.

You can't lay the blame at Selig's feet. It just isn't true. He gave Montreal plenty of time to come up with a plan to keep them in Montreal.

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A .500 baseball team in Tampa will not draw and that is roughly what they were for most of the year.

True, but a baseball team leading its division every day of the season won't draw there, either. We've seen that.

A pennant-winning baseball team there won't draw. We've seen that, too.

A baseball team fighting for its playoff life won't draw. Neither will a baseball team actually playing playoff games.

It's looking pretty clear that no baseball team will draw in Tampa Bay.

I'm not defending Tampa at all. I'm just saying all the talk about the Rays moving for now is kinda pointless because there's no city out there capable of hosting an MLB team right now that doesen't already have one. They would need a ballpark and no city has that to offer. The two closest would probably be Buffalo and Omaha, but even those parks would take at least a year to get ready and I'm not even sure if either of those markets would be the best long term. Its not like Buffalo is in the best spot as a city financially right now and Omaha I would say is at best an average AAA market, granted minor league baseball is not a direct compairison for the MLB, but still.

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It's not pointless when players have to call out the fans for not supporting the team, and when the owner admits that they can't keep pouring money down the Tampa Bay drain.

Are there any realistic relocation prospects now? No. But there could be soon, and if Tampa Bay doesn't start to support one of the best teams in baseball, the Rays will be first in line to jump.

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I wouldn't call it a drain if they are making a profit and over the last 4 or 5 years the value of the team has increased by quite a bit.

I think that's what alot of people forget. The Rays may not be making as much money as they could if they were to leave, but they are still making money. If they weren't making money, the MLB would contract them tomorrow. No team operates in pro sports that has zero chance of making money. (maybe the Hornets, but we'll see how long they last)

There's no reason for them to leave Tampa for any reason other then a city building them a ballpark. Say what you want about the Trop, but its a better major league park then anything Portland or San Antonio has. When that fact changes, then maybe you can start to say okay for there's a chance they could bolt, but right now zero chance they leave within five years. The other aspect to this is that Tampa knows they won't leave, so why should they fork over the money for a new park? If the Rays want a new park so bad they can pay for it themsleves.

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That's not the way it works.

If a city wants to get a team, if it wants to keep a team, it pays for at least a sizeable chunk of a new ballpark. Been that way for sixty years, and Tampa Bay residents are hardly on solid moral ground to challenge that now.

I wouldn't call it a drain if they are making a profit and over the last 4 or 5 years the value of the team has increased by quite a bit.

The "value of the franchise" is meaningless, since it only comes into play when the owners decide to sell. When you have an ownership group as good as this one, you don't want them to have to sell.

If they're making a profit, then it's only because they slashed expenses this year. Which is, as he said, untenable as an ongoing business model.

They can't get people out to watch one of the best young teams in baseball. They can't sell out playoff games. Now people aren't even watching the games on television.

That's gone beyond being a struggling market into an outright failure.

There's no reason for them to leave Tampa for any reason other then a city building them a ballpark.

No, there's another reason. A much better one.

They could leave because there aren't enough fans in Tampa to make it worth staying.

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If a city wants to get a team, if it wants to keep a team, it pays for at least a sizeable chunk of a new ballpark. Been that way for sixty years, and Tampa Bay residents are hardly on solid moral ground to challenge that now.

10 years from now, Tampa might be in a situation where they have to cave in order to keep the Rays.

But right now, where are the Rays going to go if the city of Tampa tells them to go to hell in regards to a new ballpark as they have been doing for the past three years?

I see zero reason why Tampa has to give the Rays a new ballpark right now. The Rays aren't leaving anytime soon, and everyone knows it. Either they are getting contracted or staying. And if the MLB does in fact decide to contract the Rays, Tampa may hit the MLB with an anti-trust suit. I'm not sure if the MLB is willing to risk their anti-trust exemption for the sake of getting rid of one team.

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  • LMU changed the title to Tampa Bay Rays: Escape from the Trop
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