The idea of the Tampa Bay Rays splitting their season with Montreal has been topped in stupidity only by one thing — the person pitching it, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg.
In Tuesday’s press conference announcing this bizarre idea, Sternberg came off as ill-prepared, insulting and incompetent when asked reasonable questions by media members at St. Petersburg’s Dali Museum.
Sternberg appeared ill-prepared when he was asked whether the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) would approve such an arrangement. Rather than answer the question, he deferred to President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman, who awkwardly answered in place of his boss.
For what it’s worth, it’s hard to see the MLBPA approving a scenario where players have to maintain homes and pay taxes in two separate countries. In fact, former catcher J.P. Arencibia even tweeted, “This would be a nightmare for players and their families."
Sternberg came off as insulting several times, but none more so than when he flat out said neither Tampa Bay nor Montreal could support a full-time baseball team and the 81 home games that come with it. Why publicly insult one region when you can insult two, right?
“… all to their own is not going to be an option going forward,” Sternberg said in reference to Tampa Bay fans’ desire to keep their team to themselves.
But it’s also insulting to Montreal, a city that also had its own franchise from 1969 until 2004, when the Montreal Expos relocated, becoming the Washington Nationals.
It’s hard to say Sternberg didn’t look incompetent when he seemed surprised at the amount of fan backlash since the news first broke. Sports fans, usually loyal to a fault to their team, expect at least some sense of loyalty in return. This felt like a gigantic stab in the back, especially given the timing of it — the middle of what could turn into a postseason-bound season.
How could he have not seen that backlash coming?
But the wildest thing to come out of Tuesday’s press conference was Sternberg’s absolute lack of awareness. When asked why anyone should believe baseball would work in Montreal after the failure of the Expos, Sternberg said something so insane it’s actually shocking.
Sternberg cited poor attendance at Olympic Stadium as a result of a stadium that was “not very convenient … a closed-roof stadium, a bit of an antiquated facility.”
Everything Sternberg said is everything that has plagued attendance at Tropicana Field over the years.
There’s no reason to dive into Sternberg’s plans — well, plans for plans, since he has no financing or concepts yet — for open-air stadiums in both regions, because that’s never going to happen. But open-air stadiums in either Tampa Bay or Montreal are terrible ideas for various weather-related reasons.
Tuesday’s press conference was an embarrassment for Sternberg. None of the local media bought what he was trying to sell, and in fact, some began suggesting Sternberg violated his use agreement with St. Petersburg by talking with Montreal interests in the first place.
The Rays have more or less stated they have one foot out the door from the Tampa Bay area with this announcement — maybe even more than that, considering Sternberg’s comments that he can’t see Tampa or St. Petersburg being given another opportunity at a full-time stadium, and there is basically a zero percent chance either city finances a part-time one.
As they might say in Montreal, au revoir, Rays. It was fun while it lasted.
Hopefully the rest of the imminent relocation is handled less buffoonish than this.