Here we go again: Now it’s Forbes magazine’s Michael Ozanian, of all people, who’s spreading rumors about the Tampa Bay Rays being targeted for contraction if they don’t get a new stadium:
Groundswell building in Major League Baseball to dump the Tampa Bay Rays. From what I am hearing, I doubt there will be any baseball at Tropicana Field after 2014 even though the team’s lease runs to 2027.
What makes this bizarre is that Ozanian is the main guy behind Forbes’ baseball team valuation numbers, so he of all people should know that the Rays are far too valuable an asset to just be tossed in the fireplace. As I wrote today over at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required for this one):
The Rays and A’s combined are worth $638 million, up $27 million from the year before, and who in their right mind liquidates an asset that keeps gaining in value without even trying? Stuart Sternberg may be trying to scare St. Petersburg into letting the team open stadium talks with Tampa by dropping contraction threats—at least I think that’s what his latest oblique statement about “my patience is greater than Major League Baseball’s” was meant to threaten—but the numbers still don’t pan out.
Noah Pransky of Shadow of the Stadium adds that Ozanian’s conclusions were based largely on the Rays’ subpar TV contract — except ratings are way up, and the contract is set to be renegotiation in 2016. Which means that unless Desmond Jennings and Wade Davis turn into total bombs — or cable has been supplanted by wrist-implanted iPads by then &mdash the Rays should be seeing a large cash windfall at that time.
Finally, note that Ozanian provides no sources, which means it’s presumably somebody within MLB who’s leaking this information (or disinformation, as the case may be). I think we can call it as official: Bud Selig and his henchmen are getting an early start on collective bargaining threat season. And if it helps shake down the Tampa Bay area for stadium cash, all the better.