MLB commissioner Manfred says potential of Tampa Bay market makes Rays stadium wait worthwhile
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday the potential of the Tampa Bay market makes it worth waiting - to a certain, undefined point - for the Rays to work out a new stadium deal and remains optimistic of an agreement.
"I continue to believe Tampa (Bay) is a viable major-league market, and I also believe it may be better than the alternatives than we have out there,'' Manfred said. "And I am hopeful we get to a resolution.''
Manfred said they eventually could get a to a certain point where they would have to consider alternatives but - with active talks underway on both sides of the bay and a lease at Tropicana Field through 2027 - he does not consider that the case yet, and has no set deadline.
"There does come a point in time where we have to accept the reality that a market, for whatever set of reasons, can't get to the point that they have a major-league quality facility, and I am not going to indefinitely leave a club in a market without a major-league quality facility,'' Manfred said.
But when is that point?
"It really depends on progress, right?'' Manfred said. "If there is a point in time where it starts to grind to a halt and nothing is happening. I don't think we're there. But at that point in time where everybody is panicking, you get this look of "Where we going next?" That's when you have to start thinking about what your alternatives are. It's hard for me to be more definitive than that.''
Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan wouldn't disclose if the Rays have decided on a site.
"Unfortunately, we are not quite in a position to publicly announce Hillsborough County's preferred location for a new Rays ballpark," Hagan said. "However, I anticipate making an announcement in the relatively near future."
The primary alternative markets, which Manfred mentioned Monday in talking about expansion, are considered to be Montreal, Charlotte and Mexico City (or elsewhere in Mexico). Others that could be possibilites for expansion (or relocation) include Las Vegas, Portland, Nashville, San Antonio, Vancouver and the New York metro area.
Manfred has said several times, and again this week, he considers the agreement to allow the Rays to look at sites in Tampa as well as St. Petersburg a positive step.
He said there is no deadline for resolution, and while he defers to Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg on the issue, the timetable is more a matter of the market responding than giving Sternberg a certain amount of time.
Manfred has a similar view of the situation in Oakland, and has said repeatedly that resolution of those two stadium situations has to happen before MLB can proceed with other issues, including expansion.
"We rightly or wrongly have been extraordinarily committed to our existing markets and patient with those markets as a result,'' he said.
The players union is also looking for resolution in both markets.
While limited to being "a consultant of sorts" in the actual stadium discussions, union chief Tony Clark said they have obvious vested interests to "making sure that all 30 teams are in the best position possible to maximize the areas and the potential that they have while acknowledging that there are some challenges in some areas.''
Clark said the issues have come up during collective bargaining negotiations, and in other forums.
"The sooner resolutions can be found and opportunities can be provided the better off the industry is going to be, assuming whatever is decided is for the betterment of the entire group.''
Manfred and Clark spoke to members of the Baseball Writers Association of America in advance of tonight's All-Star Game in Miami.