Like everyone else around the baseball world right now, I’m reeling a bit at this bombshell:
BREAKING: The Tampa Bay Rays have received MLB's permission to explore becoming two-city team: the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, sources tell ESPN. The plan: Play early-season home games in the Tampa Bay area and finish the season in Montreal. News at ESPN: https://t.co/X6uSt4KLfC
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 20, 2019
It is certainly a creative solution to the question of how to sustain baseball in cities that can’t quite sustain it for a full season, and how to expand without expanding, but could this even logistically work?
For one thing, the plan would apparently involve constructing not one but TWO new stadiums (one in Montreal, and a new, dome-less (cheaper) stadium in Tampa/St. Petersburg). So this wouldn’t just be about getting the Rays to move to a more geographically appropriate area of the Tampa Bay region. Instead, it seems like a half-measure way to “keep the Rays in Florida,” while also taking advantage of a baseball-starved area in Montreal.
But does that work for the fans? Would Montreal fans really embrace a team as “theirs” if it felt more like a team from Tampa playing some of its games in your neighborhood? And what about free agents? Not that the Rays sign many as it is, but what a pain in the butt to try to live so many places at once.
I don’t know. This is only in the exploration phase, but apparently it’s serious. To me, this feels more like a threat: finally get us our new stadium in Tampa, or we’re going to look elsewhere for half – or more – of our games. My gut says this winds up being only the first step in the Rays either getting what they want or simply moving.