Have I mentioned lately how much I love MLB commissioner Rob Manfred? While he, like his predecessors, understands that the reason he’s being paid the big bucks is to serve as the lackey to MLB owners’ desires for more filthy lucre, he somehow lacks either the rhetorical savvy or the cutthroat mentality to pull off any kinds of threats, so he ends up mumbling ineffectually about “viable alternatives” again and again while everyone else stands around wondering, Is he threatening something? What happens if we don’t meet his demands? Is that a B?
All of which leads us up to yesterday’s latest Manfredism, regarding the Tampa Bay Rays‘ stadium push:
“I think we have some work to do in terms of getting a financing plan together that will get that stadium built. But I remain confident if anybody can get it done in Tampa Bay, it’s Stu [Sternberg]. Nobody is working harder at it.”
“Some work to do” — gee, ya think? Just because there’s at minimum a $300 million funding gap, and right now the plans to fill it mostly involve leaning on local business leaders to throw more money in the Rays’ tip jar?
The Tampa Bay Times goes on to report that Sternberg has until the end of the year to inform St. Petersburg whether he will be opting out of his Tropicana Field lease early. That’s not entirely true — he can always try to negotiate an extension to his opt-out period, though it might take paying St. Pete some more money in exchange — but clearly it would be optimal for the Rays to have a new stadium deal in place by then.
That is almost certainly not going to happen, though, which is why we have Manfred expressing generic “confidence” without actually saying anything at all, as he does best. It looks like it’s going to come down to Sternberg (or, more likely, his friends at the Tampa Bay Times) to start making some threats as the end of the year approaches, though who he’d even threaten isn’t clear right now, since Hillsborough County is tapped out for available tax money and local business leaders are unlikely to come up with $300 million even if he does threaten to move the team to Montreal.
Honestly, staying put at the Trop and developing the land around it is looking better and better as a pure business move, though Sternberg would have to eat some serious crow to do so. Maybe he can get Manfred to do it for him; that seems like a task the commissioner could probably handle.