Manfred drops R-word regarding Rays, sports world fails to freak out

I’ve picked on MLB commissioner Rob Manfred before for being really bad at levying relocation threats in order to shake loose stadium subsidies, one of the two main jobs of a sports commissioner. (The other, of course, is levying lockout threats in order to shake loose union concessions.) But maybe, just maybe, Manfred is starting to get the hang of it. When asked about the Tampa Bay Rays‘ stadium situation:

Manfred, during a Q-and-A session at the George Washington University School of Business, did not set any deadlines or issue any ultimatums, but said that at some point if there is no progress the potential of relocation would have to be raised…

“Ultimately, there has to be an end game. If in fact, there’s not a site or there’s not a financial arrangement that’s viable and we become convinced of that, our rules allow for the possibility of relocation.
“At that point of desperation, it’s possible a team would be allowed to relocate.”

That’s a little passive-voice, but not too bad otherwise! The real test, though, is whether it led to a flurry of frantic headlines about how Manfred is threatening to move the Rays if they don’t get a new stadium, stat:

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-8-44-10-amWell, then. Maybe he should try speaking more from the diaphragm? I hear that helps.

24 comments on “Manfred drops R-word regarding Rays, sports world fails to freak out

  1. Maybe the press actually knows the iron-clad lease doesn’t expire well into the next decade.

    • The ‘Iron clad’ lease does not preclude the team from leaving the TB area, it only requires a steep penalty is paid. In the big picture of costs, it is not significant enough to stop relocation from happening.

  2. As discussed previously on this site, perhaps the reason Manfred is taking a little more concilliatory tone is down not to poor negotiating skills, but the realization that there aren’t very many “MLB ready” markets to move to.

    New York/NJ and Montreal are probably the best candidates available, and each has it’s difficulties (in NY two teams must be paid to share their market… perhaps three depending on how MLB draws the lines, and in Montreal there is no stadium, no funding plan at present and the game has failed to attract enough interest there in the past – albeit for a variety of reasons mostly unrelated to lack of fan interest).

    Where else is “crying out” for Major League Baseball, is a designated open market, and can support it?

    • Bronfman confirmed this week that his group is ready to negotiate with MLB, they delivered everything MLB asked for (stadium plan, funding, business plan, studies, …).

      Peel Basins stadium site is ready (in Goose Village, South of Peel Basins), a brand new Light Train (REM) station will be built next to the stadium (as part of the $5.9B REM project to be delivered between 2020 and ~2022, 3rd biggest automated light train system in the world), pictures and plans of the new stadium are ready and were presented to Manfred.

      (Google Translate will be your friend to read this article)

      Like Bronfman said this week, Montreal group did everything they can so far, it’s now up to Manfred to decide what to do next.

      Stay Tuned!

      • Thanks for the link (and the assumption that I cannot read/stumble through French, though I took that to be a helpful effort and not an insult, thank you). In a nutshell, then, “its gonna happen because Trump got elected in the US (recounts notwithstanding) and he’s gonna cut the corporate tax rate so Trudeau will have to as well because everything in the US has to happen in Canada too and then everything will be just groovy”

        You can call that pyramidding, or just call it the standard ham and eggs proposal (which is what I call it). There is no reason to believe that the Canadian government will adjust it’s fiscal or tax policy to match the United States. Indeed, the Canadian Gov’t has never done so except in matters of trade agreement wherein they are bound by treaty to adopt conforming rules.

        As you and I have discussed before, the fact that billionaires are involved (or just that the people involved can afford it) is not evidence that they will do so. Billionaires do not get to be billionaires by not earning returns on their investment. A new MLB team in Montreal will mean parking $1.5Bn in a business that is unlikely to appreciate and will at best break even on operations over the next 20 years while earning no net return on capital for it’s investors. Perhaps the group you speak about are so community minded they would do this, but I have my doubts.

        The Irvings have tons (or even tonnes) of money, yet there are no professional sports teams in Halifax are there? They could fund a CFL or NHL team out of what they consider to be petty cash (even if no fans showed up to watch). Yet they don’t.

        Billionaire sports owners (including the Bronfmans) have sold or moved sports teams routinely – not because they aren’t making money but because they aren’t making enough money based on the capital invested (or just on the present capital value of the club, even if they paid 2% of that for the franchise 40 years earlier…).

        These days, the hot term is “ROE” – return on equity. Who cares if you bought the Giants or Steelers for $2500 a century ago? They are worth north of $1bn now, so you should be earning at least $100m a year, even in a bad year. If not, hey, crank up the move threats… it’s the taxpayer’s problem if my asset is not earning what it should…

        • Agree with ROE. And this is exactly what Bronfman (Claridge) and al. have in mind. Develop a neighborhood (Griffintown and Goose Village) with real estate where the stadium/team is only a piece of the puzzle.

          You summarized the strategy of Bronfman/Garber/Rossy. It’s all about ROE.

          And that’s exactly what I wrote a year ago and what Martin Leclerc wrote today in L’actualité magazine (January 2017 edition)!

          Remember, Goggle Translate is your friend. Just copy the link and you can read the content in english!

        • My comment about Google Translate if for anyone that can’t read french but would like to read the content in english. It’s not perfect but will do the job.

  3. In an alternate universe, the SF Giants moved to Tampa in 1992. After almost 25 years of mediocrity they want to move but there is no place to go. Oakland owns the rights to the entire Bay Area, including San Jose, and has repeatedly been in contention ever since, facilitating their move to their state-of-the-art ballpark on the shores of the East Bay in 2000.

    I wish I lived in this universe.

  4. So the fact that he doesn’t blow smoke in order to hold cities hostage is bad thing? That’s kind of inconsistent with everything else on this site.

  5. I’ve been saying Las Vegas will be the next big city for relocation or expansion for a while. It has warm weather, no state taxes, is a really fun place to visit and is growing at a really fast rate. The Raiders have gotten a great deal for relocation and the NHL has expanded there. The city and state is spending or looking to spend money on tourism infrastructure and expansion, the Rays/Athletics and MLB should work with the infrastructure committee and governor to look for some deals. The population of southern Nevada could double or triple in a few decades if it becomes more of a major league city not just based on gambling. Get in early and maybe get some stadium money too!

    • Since the 1980’s, MLB has let other sports leagues test out markets first before relocating/expanding. They’ll want to see how the NHL, and possibly Raiders do before even considering LV.

      The last time MLB was the first of the big 4 in a market was Toronto in 1977. Even there, they had a CFL team which had great attendance despite poor performance on the field.

    • I still think there’s a much better argument to be made for Portland, not just demographically and economically, but logistically as well.

      • There’s an argument, but not a very good one. Portland came up as a suitor for the Expos in 2003 and even got legislation for some state funding, but it didn’t go anywhere. The new state budget is full of cuts, hard to see any funding now There’s no place to put a stadium downtown, Memorial Coliseum got declared a landmark so they can’t tear it down, the next available site is to tear down the public school HQ. The baseball stadium that would have temporarily hosted a team was recently renovated into a soccer-only stadium.

  6. I suspect that the Rays will find a place to move to in the next Several years. If you see tax cuts, infrastructure spending and tax breaks for building it will make things easier for the Rays ( as well as other teams and Schools (watch what Penn State and ASU have planned)).

  7. Let them relocate. If they have no loyalty, they shouldn’t get much in return. And hell no should they get any tax breaks. MLB wants to live in this closed-division monopoly world, they should take on any risks around stadium construction shortfalls.

  8. I think the discussion of cities avoids what MLB really probably wants.

    1. Wealthy clientele with substantial disposable income
    2. Broad, longstanding corporate base
    3. Strong regional television network ready to pay $$ for showing games (even if it is owned by the team itself)
    4. The ability to sustain–annually–average attendance of 30k plus/game with strong sales for “premium” seating.
    5. Season ticket base of at least 23-24k

    Baseball wants to lock in long-term income through multiyear season ticket plans, sponsorships, and TV deals. They don’t want to have to depend on expensive, short term marketing plans to convince you to not go to the movies but rather the ballpark (and eat too). And they don’t want a lot of ticket availability that might encourage you to not bother buying ahead.

    Montreal might be able to offer that, but baseball already has a lot of markets that come nowhere near this threshold. Markets that might be big but poor or rich but indifferent are not going to be attractive to MLB. Montreal still has to overcome a lot of skepticism (at least partially unjustified) before it gets close to having a team.