With Spring Training now under way, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been making the rounds with media members and has updated everyone on what he expects in terms of a timeline for the Tampa Bay Rays stadium issue to be resolved in Ybor.
Here’s what he had to say,
Manfred on #Rays timetable for new stadium and MLB’s view of overall Tampa Bay market … pic.twitter.com/1FZAcU52S0
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) February 15, 2018
That 2022-2023 timeline has to be discouraging to Expos fans who may think this means that in 2023-24, expansion occurs, but there’s a silver lining if you pay attention to how Manfred has worded his stance on expansion,
“I think for us to expand we need to be resolved in Tampa and Oakland in terms of their stadium situations,” he said. “As much as I hope that both Oakland and Tampa will get stadiums, I think it would be difficult to convince the owners to go forward with an expansion until those situations are resolved.”
The focus on the “situations are resolved” squeezes the expansion timeline much closer than 2022-23. What it points to is that as soon as the paperwork is done for the construction to go forward – when the “situations are resolved” – expansion can go ahead. The reason being that the owners of both Tampa Bay and Oakland will then know that they’re good to go and they won’t have the next best option swept from under them.
In essence, Oakland and Tampa Bay owners are using possible expansion sites as safety nets should things go badly and a move is required.
So how do you define the situation as resolved? I’d like to think when the paperwork’s signed.
The frustrating part for those potential expansion sites is that there are more credible locations than the 2 that are likely to inherit a team. Montreal, San Antonio, Charlotte, Portland, Mexico City, and Las Vegas represent those mentioned most often. Those 6 cities could have ben involved in MLB for years now, increasing the league’s revenues. Instead, everyone waits.
Of course, the Stadium only happens in either case with the support of both politicians and the business community that surrounds them.
You can read Marc Topkin’s piece linked in the tweet below which points to this issue.
For #Rays Ybor stadium to work, @MLB commissioner Manfred says there are "significant businesses in this community that need to be involved" https://t.co/xFPyoPTDdE
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) February 15, 2018
Now, we already know that both Oakland and Tampa Bay are devoted enough to have been targeted as MLB cities in the past, so it seems to be more of a posturing tactic than a real threatening portion of the stadium issue. It is important of the businesses in the areas to support these initiatives, but it’s expected that they will do so.
Back peddling a little, let’s revisit the Oakland situation.
On their timeline, here’s the latest and greatest,
“We’re still on the same timeline that by 2023 we’re going to open the new ballpark, but by the end of this year that’s our deadline to have an agreement, we gave ourselves at the end of last year a year to get an agreement with the city or the county, whoever that ends up being,” Kaval said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday at new Jack London Square headquarters where the team moved into offices this month. “So we’re still on that timeline”
Well that’s very significant news, because it just so happens that the Tampa Bay Rays are also working within that 2022-23 timeline, which would also put them on course to have the agreement in place by 2019 or early that year.
I recommend Keith Reichard’s article (Jan 28th) on this issue if you want to catch up on what issues the A’s ownership face and what their plan B entails.
Questions – and lots of them
Let’s say there are no huge upsets between now and 2019 (like an MLBPA strike) and that the stadium builds are agreed to and the “situations” are settled.
Is Rob Manfred then going to open up expansion and finally open up bidding?
It makes sense financially speaking, because we are talking upwards of $1 Billion headed into MLB’s coffers if two teams are part of the expansion. It also can help serve as an olive branch to players who’ve struggle to get teams to meet their asking prices and could certainly use the extra eighty 40-man roster spots.
If that were to happen, so many other questions pop into our heads.
How much money will he ask for and what will the expansion timeline be?
Will the new Montreal Mayor support the initiative enough to obtain a team?
What will the ownership group look like, and will they be able to build a nice stadium and field a competitive team with a good budget?
When will the first year of playing time be, and how will the expansion teams draft their players?
The point is, that as soon as the situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay are settled, all of those questions may be answered fairly quickly. And that will be a great day for all Expos fans, assuming Montreal lands an expansion franchise.
– Mat Germain, baseball writer for Expos Reloaded and SB Nation’s DRaysBay, with more than 10 years covering the Toronto Blue Jays (Jays Journal) and Tampa Bay Rays. Still serving in the Canadian Armed Forces as a Reservist and Operations Officer for 413 Search and Rescue Squadron in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. Follow Mat on Twitter @MatGermain76.