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As the leaves turn, the “let’s contract the Rays” talk begins anew

Oct 12, 2011, 11:05 AM EDT

Tropicana Field AP

I feel like I spent half of last offseason debunking the notion of Major League Baseball contracting a team, be it the A’s or the Rays or whoever. It’s an easy notion to debunk when you actually think about what contraction of a franchise would entail.

Just off the top of my head it would require the other 29 MLB owners to fork over close to a billion dollars to pull it off, what with paying off the current owners for the franchise, the banks and creditors who are owed money, the governments who are owed money on ballpark leases, the business partners and other stakeholders who would sue, the army of lawyers it would cost to negotiate all of this and then to throw concessions to the union for the loss of 25 major league jobs, 15 more guys on 40-man rosters and all of that kind of thing. Hell, it may be more than a billion dollars. And for what? To keep an owner from losing ten or twenty million here or there? Please.

But the talk starts up again.  This time, however, we don’t have columnists with overactive imaginations to blame for the talk. We can thank Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg, who unleashed this comment yesterday, and which was picked up by Bill Madden of the Daily News and Rick Freeman of the Times of Trenton:

“It won’t be my decision, or solely my decision, but eventually Major League Baseball is going to vaporize this team,” Sternberg said. “It could go on nine, 10, 12 more years, but between now and then it’s going to vaporize this team. Maybe a check gets written locally, maybe someone writes me a check (to buy the team). If I had $80 million to put out there, we’d be moving along in life. We just don’t have $12 million to put into a hitter.”

I like “vaporize” better than “contract.” I hope that catches on.

Anyway, yes, the Rays’ situation is bad. They are just scraping by and there’s no immediate or obvious way out of the financial trouble they’re in.  But let’s also have some perspective here: the two players Madden and Freeman note the Rays can’t afford to re-sign are Kyle Farnsworth and Casey Kotchman. I get the idea that not being able to sign that big hitter is depressing, but if letting Farnsworth and Kotchman walk is the bellwether, we’re going to have to contract, like, 15 teams.

Sternberg is venting. He’s been doing it for a week now.  He’s entitled. But at some point we need to put his venting in perspective and realize that the Rays present a business challenge for baseball. They do not represent an existential crisis requiring vaporization — or whatever else you want to call it — of a franchise.

  1. proudlycanadian - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Lets move the team to Montreal or Vancouver. There are a lot of baseball fans in both cities. The Expos were done in by a very weak Canadian currency. That problem no longer exists.

    • gammagammahey - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      A Montreal team competing in the same division as Toronto would be pretty sweet. If you turned the Rays into a Vancouver team though, some sacrificial lamb would have to be willing to move to the AL East.

    • cur68 - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:45 AM

      Nah, not Montreal again. They’d need a new stadium-igloo, and that East Coast Igloo ice is spoken for; Roger’s Center has it locked up thru 2014…

      Vancouver, though. Nice new ice house there. Retractable roof and everything. Safe to insult Aquaman till the cows come home. Rob McEnna could move there and the ball games would still get played. A baseball starved fan base and a friendly American border to attract some West Coast money, to boot. Yes, the Rays to Vancouver could not fail. Need a new name, though. The Vancouver Super Beavers has a certain ring to it, n’cest pas? Go Beavers!

      • Old Gator - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:33 PM

        I’d call the cheerleaders the Beavers and the team the Spirit Bears.

      • kiwicricket - Oct 12, 2011 at 1:07 PM

        Count me in the committee. Beavers,Bears, Otters, Orca’s…all viable options.
        The uniform color/material are simply too amusing to ignore.

        Although in saying that, the last sporting event I attended in Vancouver was the Stanley Cup finals….

      • cur68 - Oct 12, 2011 at 1:22 PM

        Kiwi; you were there for the finals, eh? Well that explains the riots, I’m sure. You kiwis, always starting trouble…

        Spirit Bears, eh? Has a ring to it, sure. But um, we lose some traction, no? Think of all the headlines you’d miss out on; the Beavers brought some lumber with them last night…The Beavers Getting It Done With the Wood…

        Also, think of the logo: bears have been done (See Cubs, Chicago). No one has a mighty beaver on their logo. Also, yesterdays excellent topic of the day was sausage racing. The Beavers could have wood racing; Fir V. Poplar, Ash v Pine, Willow v Aspen, see the jungle rumble…comedy GOLD

      • kiwicricket - Oct 12, 2011 at 2:24 PM

        Most of the cousins live in Vancouver. A wedding coincided with the Hockey, so I made an appearance….Wedding good. Hockey bad. Weather mildly pleasant.

    • unclearnie - Oct 12, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      Great idea.

      Move the Rays to Vancouver, leave the Astro’s in Houston and move the Pirates to the AL East. Another option is move the Pirates to the AL Central and the Tigers to the AL East.

  2. mikedi33 - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    Wouldn’t you have to contract 2 teams at the same time?

    • natstowngreg - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:35 PM

      Yup. Craig’s estimate of vaporization’s impact is too low by half.

      Bud tried vaproizing 2 franchises (Twins, Expos) and failed. The Twins got a new ballpark, the Expos were moved to Washington and got a new ballpark.

      Unfortunately for Bud and the Rays (but fortunately for baseball fans in the National Capital Area), with Washington off the table, there aren’t a lot of options for moving the Rays. Thus, they have less leverage to extort a new ballpark out of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

  3. halladaysbicep - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    While St. Pete cannot recreate the Great Philadelphia history, they can however recreate the things that make the city and its fans so great to the point of rebuilding this franchise.
    Start with not showering. Live on a steady diet of horse and velveeta. Piss in public. Disrespect the elderly. Throw up on any children you see. Throw batteries at anyone you don’t like. Recreate SEPTA. Make shitty pizza. Turn 75% of population into bums. Backup the city sewage. Zero free parking. Distribute heroine. And last but not least, boo Santa.
    Follow this and you will have sell out crowds for years to come.

    • cowboysoldiertx - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      Tell us how your eally feel!

      • halladaysbicep - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:29 AM

        I just did. Its the greatest city on earth. The only thing I left out was the incest. We will keep the title of “City of Brotherly Love”

    • gammagammahey - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:24 AM

      To be fair, that shitty pizza only exists as an excuse for “pizzerias” to be allowed to sell beer.

  4. bigxrob - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    Someone needs to change this guys diaper.

  5. cowboysoldiertx - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    The team will have to move eventually. The lease is ugly and will cost much to break but the area can not support the Rays. San Antonio prob could, or Vegas.

    • yankeesfanlen - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:29 AM

      Yeah, either of those would make for a great Yanks-Red Sox rivalry!

  6. Brian Donohue - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    Even “vaporize” falls a little flat. How about: “we are the ML-Borg, resistance is futile. Prepare to be assimilated.”

  7. bucsraysboltsfan - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    Tampa is a good baseball town, we just need a new park, period.

    Thumbs down me, I dare you. I’m right and everyone who has actually been to the Trop knows it.

  8. sjs1959 - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    They don’t need contraction; they just need to move across the Bay.

  9. nolanwiffle - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    Thre are a billion business reasons not to contract the Rays, but very few baseball reasons.

    • bobdira - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:24 PM

      How about this one. Rubbing it in the noses of the dysfunctional sox and fighting the Yanks with 1/5 the payroll.

  10. schlom - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    Translation: Build me a new stadium or you’ll be sorry!

  11. Jonny 5 - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    They should have never built “the Trap” to begin with.

    • Old Gator - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:37 PM

      Not true. With the air force base just a few miles across the bay, it makes an excellent target for practice bombing runs. Some day, it still might. One can hope.

      • indaburg - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:50 PM

        Please Old Gator, tell us how the Marlins’ secret for getting a brand new stadium in a state that is among the most economically depressed in the entire country? How can we corrupt and bribe the powers that be into building us a new stadium too? I hate that the Trop is such an eyesore for you.

      • Old Gator - Oct 12, 2011 at 3:22 PM

        Your empathy warms my heart on these cold Macondo fall nights. It’s easy: make a whole bunch of our politicians originally from a large unnamed island about a hundred miles south of here an offer they can’t refuse to come be your very own public servants. Get Sternberg and Bud Light to begin exerting pressure upon, while simultaneously offering candy to, them. Make soft money donations to their campaign funds in large denominations. Search for obtuse rationales to convince the public that it’s not really their tax money you’re about to spend. Be sure to lie through your teeth about the dire economic straits in which your franchise finds itself. And above all, keep reminding people that the place you’re in now is so ugly and depressing that no one wants to come there – and that it behooves real Christians to do the charitable thing and help them escape from it, being careful to draw analogies between Tampa Bay and the Red Sea. Never fails.

      • indaburg - Oct 12, 2011 at 10:39 PM

        So that’s how you do it. :) I don’t think the Cuban influence is strong enough in Tampa Bay for it to work.

  12. kiwicricket - Oct 12, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    Sternberg has probably been out to lunch with a few other owners, and has been feeling slightly inferior this past week or so. Hearing his chum’s talking about printing money would do that.

    A savvy businessman posturing.

  13. paperlions - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    So…he’s still bitching because all of the problems/challenges that existed when he bought the team and that he was fully aware of when he bought the team….still exist. Being filthy rich must be hard.

  14. JB (the original) - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    “Vaporize” works magnificantly, considering the Trop’s dome looks like the focusing dish of the Death Star’s ‘planet buster’ superweapon.

    • Old Gator - Oct 12, 2011 at 12:38 PM

      That almost makes it sound attractive. It looks more like an enormous plantar’s wart.

  15. MadDog Rickles - Oct 13, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    MLB should vaporize the Yankees!

  16. leftywildcat - Oct 13, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    You can’t contract a team and be left with an odd number of teams!

    Move the franchise to New Haven, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Charlotte, New Orleans, San Antonio, Las Vegas or Portland.

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