St. Pete council says Selig has ordered Rays not to pay to break stadium lease

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.

12 comments on “St. Pete council says Selig has ordered Rays not to pay to break stadium lease

  1. The amazing thing about all of this to me is that I am going to be voting for a guy that thinks the earth is only six thousand years old.×6568455

    Regardless of his nonsensical ideas about science, Foster does seem to understand MLB’s agenda when it comes to new playpens. Trading Saint Pete’s ten thousand fans for Tampa’s ten thousand fans isn’t going to change anything when it comes to revenue sharing. You can take that to the bank $tuBud, along with the added value the franchise will acquire when said new playpen is built.

  2. Selig does have an incentive to worry about precedents. If the Rays comply with the lease and pay to get out of it, other cities might make similar requests.

  3. I’m sure Selig dreams about living in a world with NFL-style, one-way “contracts” – expanded so that teams can walk away from stadium contracts, too.

  4. Russ, he must be studying under Representative Paul Broun, MD and member of the House Science Committee (sad, but true).

    How could the MLB take a hit the size of Selig’s salary for this project and still hire the next commissioner ? If the commissioner isn’t making at least $18M a year, the MLB will not stay competitive and their ratings will fall behind other professional sports leagues. Oh wait….

  5. I don’t believe for a second that Selig would “forbid” Sternberg from paying a leasebreak under any circumstances. Used car dealers may not like them in certain circumstances, but they certainly understand contracts…

  6. I believe it. But someone else will pay.

    He is saying the team shouldn’t pay, essentially that the amount of negotiated penalty will be built into whatever package they can get from Tampa.

  7. Tim: About 20 of them are, to one degree or another, minor league cities when compared with the franchises that are hosted by the true major markets.

    Pro sports’ failure to address their own market imbalances should not, IMO, be rectified through massive tax dollar operating subsidies (of one form or another).

    It is not Cincinnati’s problem that it’s a smaller market than New York, for example. It’s the NFL’s and MLB’s. Sports leagues would not exist without most of the smaller markets they cry about. If Tampa and Kansas City and Oakland aren’t “real” major league markets, surely it’s MLB’s problem to resolve? I very much doubt MLB wants to contract back to 16 teams to eliminate all these “undersized” markets (btw, they had a few dogs that wouldn’t hunt when they were at 16 teams too). But hey, if that’s what they need to do to support their business, I’d say it’s better than $15bn in tax dollars going to new stadia to prop up the weaker sisters…

    Those who have created the problem should be responsible for the solution.

  8. “Those who have created the problem should be responsible for the solution.”

    They won’t admit it because they use it to try to get subsidies, but there really isn’t any problem that needs solving – at least in the Big Three: NFL, MLB, NBA. Their existing forms of revenue sharing are working just fine to create competitive balance. Everybody’s got an equal shot at on-field success in the NFL, thanks to their extreme level of sharing and caps. The NBA has plenty of balance (Miami isn’t the biggest market in the country) and continues to tweak their system to make it more so. And I have four words for anybody crying about the lack of balance in MLB: Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay.

    Some owners may be happier about it than others, but any public comments showing unhappiness are more about posturing than any potential revolt. Any talk about contraction is ridiculous.

  9. As a fan, contraction is a wonderful idea: 50 MLBers gone that really belong in the minor leagues & the game would become a better product. But it will never happen. They could soften the blow by expanding rosters to 26 to 27 guys but that would cancel out the benefits of contraction & there would be 2 less fan bases around to buy merchandise, ticket, etc. Not to mention the hundreds of millions lost in TV contracts.
    MLB should just stop being so greedy & let Tampa finish out their lease. If they don’t sellout their playoff games, then so be it.

  10. ” And I have four words for anybody crying about the lack of balance in MLB: Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay. ”

    Boy, I bet Bud Selig is wincing at the possibility of all those small markets into his playoffs. Tho I’m sure he, TBS & FOX are ecstatic that their precious Boston is back into the playoffs as well as the Dodgers, Tigers & possibly the Rangers.
    I always viewed the 2nd Wild Card as more of a safety net for their big spending large market teams like the Yankees, Phillies,Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Rangers, etc.

  11. MP34: That’s exactly what it is… it may be sold to fans of the Royals, Jays, Brewers and Padres as “another chance” for your plucky (ok, not the Jays fans then…) team to mix it up with the big boys”, but it is far more likely to be won by one of the “majors”.

    Not always, of course. But adding two playoff spots increases the chances of major spending teams in the post season.