Talks between the city of St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg over allowing the Rays to break their Tropicana Field lease and look elsewhere for a stadium are not going well, according to St. Petersburg officials, and Mayor Bill Foster, and it’s all MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s fault:
“It has become apparent to me that Major League Baseball has no intention of assisting the city and Rays in reaching a mutually beneficial solution,” Foster wrote in a memo to the council. “Nor does Major League Baseball seem interested in a cooperative effort to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay Region for the long term.”
Foster going after MLB (complete memo here) is a bit unexpected, though he clearly couldn’t have been happy that Selig for threatening to “assign someone to get involved with the process” if things didn’t move along more quickly. And according to St. Pete councilmembers, Selig has been even more active than that, ordering Sternberg to refuse to pay the city any compensation at all to the city for breaking their lease, which otherwise binds them to the Trop through 2027:
That hardline stance was the Rays’ response to a city offer allowing the team to move to a new stadium if it agrees to pay an undisclosed amount for every year remaining on its lease and to pay for demolition costs of the Trop and any outstanding debt on the stadium, said City Council Member Bill Dudley.
City Council members on Thursday blamed Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for the impasse, saying he is behind the Rays’ negotiating position.
“We offered them a price,” Dudley said. “Selig has told them don’t give us anything.”
Is it really true that Sternberg has been ordered by MLB not to make any offers to buy his way out of the lease? Is this just posturing by St. Pete to pin the blame on Selig so that they can leave room for Sternberg to up his ante? By Sternberg to make Selig into the bad cop so he can try to get away without paying to break the lease? By Foster, who’s running for re-election, to provide himself with a much-hated straw man who he can publicly stand up to?
Probably “yes” to most if not all of the above, though really, who the hell knows? At least Foster didn’t note that Selig could pay off the Rays stadium funding gap with his own personal salary — we had Shadow of the Stadium’s Noah Pransky to point that one out.