Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg
TAMPA - Here we are, 19 days until Rays pitchers and catcher report, and what are we talking about today?
Welcome to the story that spins its wheels, full of nonsensical rhetoric, and meetings that produce nothing.
We are talking about a new Rays ballpark.
Just today, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg went in front of the Hillsborough County Commissioners in what we were to believe a sharing of the team's goals and timetable for a new stadium.
We got no specifics from Stu. What we got was an aging quote that bears no new news.
Sternberg told the HCC that "Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area."
I think for those of you, who like me, that have been around since St. Pete forced baseball's hand to land an expansion franchise, Sternberg didn't tell us anything we didn't know.
MLB has never been gaga over baseball in this area.
They didn't want to expand here in the first place, but relented with consistent pressure and a stadium built on the come.
Having George Steinbrenner in our corner was a considerable help.
Let's face it; this franchise has been a burden to the high-salaried teams for years.
Having to share revenue with the likes of the Rays is making them sick.
More so now than ever because the pie is getting increasingly expensive.
Okay. Let's all agree that baseball would like nothing better than to contract the Rays and give Stu another franchise, say Charlotte for example.
Don't laugh, from what we hear that may not be very far from the truth.
Forget Charlotte. Let's deal with the problem at hand.
I say lets stop the charade.
There is no way, in my mind, that St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster would take this territorial war to the hilt, risking MLB to just pack the Rays up and say bye-bye.
This goes beyond political suicide. It's just dumb.
Here's what I think. Since I'm not in any top-secret meetings in either county, take it for what it's worth.
Better yet, why don't both sides in this equation read what I have to say here.
I don't believe for a minute that Mayor Foster would blow the Rays up just to keep them in Pinellas County. Not for a minute.
I think he wants to ensure the city and the county receives adequate payment for the outstanding bonds due on Tropicana Field and then some.
What that figure is, who the heck knows. I can tell you it will be above the money owed on the Trop.
I would suggest that if Hillsborough is serious about bringing the Rays over, and the Rays are serious about moving to Hillsborough County, start negotiating with Mayor Bill.
If Foster balks at such a notion, he'd be on an island all alone, a one-man band without an instrument.
He'd have some explaining to do since every survey known to man indicates there is no site in Pinellas County that has been deemed adequate.
To be right up front with you, as I have been before on this issue; I'm not so sure a move to Hillsborough County will solve the revenue-stream problem of the Rays.
Since Sternberg is willing to keep his franchise around for the long haul, its worth serious thought and ACTION.
Let's quit playing games here and start playing this game of monopoly with real buildings, real discussion.
This is going to be a tremendous challenge.
We've just lost the PGA Champions Tour event, one that has been around for 25 years.
The regular PGA Tour event at Innisbrook is going on this year without a title sponsor.
If one is not found quickly, say goodbye to that tournament.
I'm not one to tell someone how to spend their money, but losing a tour event to Duluth, GA made me sick.
If this area loses baseball to Charlotte, or some other small market city, what do you think the national ramifications will be?
I'm saying now is the time to talk the talk and walk the walk.
Stop holding these worthless meetings and get down to brass tacks.