St. Pete officials argue confusingly about whether to offer Rays owner stadium money before he asks for it

The Tampa Bay Times has a long record of really terrible, boosterish reporting (plus conflicts of interest) on the push for a new Rays stadium, and this article doesn’t exactly help raise the bar. It’s ostensibly about how two St. Petersburg city officials have different thoughts on whether the city should tell Rays owner Stuart Sternberg how much they’re willing to put up toward a new stadium, or wait for Sternberg to figure out how much he wants to ask for:

City Council member Charlie Gerdes wants clarity, and believes it would be prudent for city, county and state officials to come up with the amount of public money that could be available to help fund a new St. Petersburg ballpark.

Gerdes hopes that will make it easier for the Rays to stay — or at least decide their future sooner.

“We need to go to them,” Gerdes said. “I think we all need to be able to look each other in the face and say ‘we did everything we could’’’ in the event the team decides to leave.

Others believe the Rays must make the first move.

“If they aren’t interested in ever pursuing a new stadium, there there’s no need to start convening all the other folks together and saying ‘what do we think we can realistically come up with,’” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

Now, I know that the Times is just reporting what Gerdes and Kriseman are saying, but reporter Josh Solomon really should be pointing out that neither of these arguments entirely makes sense. Especially Gerdes’s: Offering Sternberg a set stack of dollar bills isn’t going to “make it easier for the Rays to stay,” unless maybe you think you’re going to so massively overbid that it’s an offer he can’t refuse — which presumably isn’t what Gerdes is trying to say? Or not say out loud, at least?

Kriseman’s response, meanwhile, is just a little garbled — clearly Sternberg wants a new stadium — though he is right to point out that it is a little weird to start offering the Rays owner public cash for a plan that he hasn’t even expressed an interest in.

Really, the mistake here is in St. Petersburg officials considering the Rays stadium situation to be the public’s problem at all: The city gave Sternberg an opt-out to go build a stadium elsewhere in the region if he wanted, and he couldn’t find anyone to give him the amount of money that he wanted, so he didn’t do it. Which is all fine, but it doesn’t make it St. Petersburg’s crisis.

The subtext of all this — which, to be fair, Solomon does spell out — is that St. Petersburg would like to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, which it can’t do until the Rays move out, so it can’t start planning until it knows what Sternberg will do. Except, you know, that the Rays’ lease expires in 2027, and they’re almost certainly not getting a stadium built much before that, so if Kriseman really wants to start planning a new development there he can just send Sternberg a “you’re evicted in eight years” notice, and everybody can plan just fine. Except Sternberg, but that’s not St. Petersburg’s problem — unless you think keeping the Rays is more important than redeveloping the stadium site, which seems to be not the point of this article?

Maybe it’s just the editor in me, but reading this suggests an entirely different, better article that would have begun by analyzing the situation the city of St. Pete is in: salivating over the stadium land, but also not wanting to be accused of driving the Rays out of the region. (It kind of heads in that direction, but then veers off and never quite makes it back.) Which is indeed a dilemma! And then you could ask Gerdes and Kriseman and other local officials what they think the city’s priority should be, and how much it would be worth to St. Pete to clear the stadium off of that land, and whether it’s better to build sooner or wait until the Rays have left and are no longer entitled to a cut of redevelopment rights, and suddenly you have a story where readers actually learn something more than just “city officials yell past each other.” I know it’s 2019 and that’s not how most journalism works anymore, but I really don’t think I’m asking that much, am I?

Friday roundup: Long Island residents yell at cloud over Isles arena, Calgary forgets to include arena in arena district plan, plus a reader puzzle!

It’s Friday (again, already) and you know what that means:

  • New York State’s Empire State Development agency held a series of three public hearings on the plan to build an Islanders arena on public land near Belmont Park racetrack (which the team would be getting at as much as a $300 million discount), and the response was decidedly unenthused: Speakers at the first hearing Tuesday “opposed to the project outnumbered those in favor of the plan by about 40 to one,” reports Long Island Business News, with State Sen. Todd Kaminsky joining residents in worrying that the arena will bring waves of new auto traffic to the town of Elmont, that there’s no real plan for train service to the arena, and that there’s no provision for community benefits to neighbors. Also a member of the Floral Park Police Department worried that the need for police staffing and more crowded roads would strain emergency services. Empire State Development, which is not a public agency but a quasi-public corporation run by the state, is expected to take all of this feedback and use it to draft an environmental impact statement for the project, which if history is any guide will just include some clauses saying “yeah, it’ll be bad for traffic” without suggesting any ways to fix it. I still want to see this plan from the Long Island Rail Road for how to extend full-time train service there, since it should involve exciting new ideas about the nature of physical reality.
  • Meanwhile in Phoenix, the final of five public hearings was held on that city’s $168 million Suns renovation plan, and “out of nine public comments, three involved questions, five voiced support and one was against the deal,” according to KJZZ, so clearly public ferment isn’t quite at such a high boil there. One thing I’d missed previously: The city claims that if it doesn’t do the renovations now with some contribution ($70 million) from Suns owner Robert Sarver, an arbitrator could interpret an “obsolescence clause” in the Suns’ lease to force the city to make the renovations on its own dime. I can’t find the Suns’ actual lease, but I think this just means that Sarver can get out of his lease early if an arbitrator determines the arena is obsolete [UPDATE: a helpful reader directed me to the appropriate lease document, and that is indeed exactly what it means], and he can already opt out of his lease in 2022, it’s pretty meaningless, albeit probably more of the “information” that helps convince people this is a good deal when they hear it. (Also important breaking news: A renovated Suns arena will save puppies! Quick, somebody take a new poll.)
  • Speaking of leases, the Los Angeles Angels are expected to sign a one-year extension on theirs with Anaheim, through 2020, while they negotiate a longer-term deal. It’s sort of tempting to wish that new Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu would have played hardball here — sign a long-term deal now or you can go play in the street when your lease runs out, like the Oakland Raiders — but I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt in his negotiating plans. Though if this gives Angels owner Arte Moreno time to drum up some alternate city plans (or even vague threats a la Tustin) just in time to threaten Anaheim with them before the lease extension runs out, I reserve the right to say “I told you so.”
  • The Calgary Planning Commission issued a comprehensive plan for a new entertainment district around the site of the Flames‘ Saddledome, but forgot to include either the Saddledome or a new arena in it. No, really, they forgot, according to city councillor Evan Woolley: “It should’ve been identified in this document. It absolutely should have. Hopefully those amendments and edits will be made as they bring this forward to council.” The 244-page document (it’s not as impressive as it sounds, most of them are just full-page photos of people riding bicycles and the like) also neglects to include any financial details, beyond saying the district would be “substantially” funded by siphoning off new property taxes, “substantially” being one of those favored weasel words that can mean anything from “everything” to “some.” Hopefully that’ll be clarified as this is brought forward to council, too, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.
  • Here is a Raleigh News & Observer article reporting that the Carolina Hurricanes arena has had a $4 billion “economic impact” on the region over 20 years, citing entirely the arena authority that is seeking $200 million to $300 million in public money for upgrades to the place. No attempt to contact any other economists on whether “economic impact” is a bullshit term (it is) or even what they thought of the author of the report, UNC-Charlotte economics professor John Connaughton, who once said he “questions the sincerity” of any economist who doesn’t find a positive impact from sports venues. Actually, even that quote would have been good to include in the N&O article, so readers could have a sense of the bona fides of the guy who came up with this $4 billion figure. But why take time for journalism when you can get just as many clicks for stenography?
  • The San Francisco Giants‘ stadium has another new name, which just happens to be the same as the old new name of the basketball arena the Warriors are leaving across the bay, and I’m officially giving up on trying to keep track of any of this. Hey, Paul Lukas, when are you issuing “I’m Still Calling It Pac Bell” t-shirts?
  • Indy Eleven, the USL team that really really wants somebody to build it a new stadium so it can (maybe) join MLS, still really really wants somebody to build it a new stadium, and hotels, office and retail space, an underground parking structure, and apartments, all paid for via “[Capital Improvement Board president Melina] Kennedy wasn’t available to discuss the proposed financial structure of the project.” It would definitely involve kicking back future property taxes from the development (i.e., tax increment financing), though, so maybe Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir is hoping that by generating more property taxes that his development team then wouldn’t pay but instead use to pay off his own stadium costs, that would look better, somehow? I mean, he did promise to keep asking, so at least he’s a man of his word.
  • “At some point in time, there’s going to have to be a stadium solution,” declared the president of a pro sports team that plays in a stadium that just turned 23 years old. “If we don’t start thinking about it, we’ll wake up one day and have a stadium that’s not meeting the needs of the fans or the community.” Want to try to guess which team? “All of them” is not an acceptable answer! (Click here for this week’s puzzle solution.)

That crazy idea to put a minor-league soccer stadium next to the Mets park is probably just a crazy idea

Back when news broke last month of a possible USL franchise called Queensboro F.C. building (or having built for it, or god knows what) a 25,000-seat minor league soccer stadium next door to the New York Mets‘ ballpark, on a plot of land originally cleared for affordable housing, I promised a more in-depth report. And now my report is up, at Gothamist, and it is way more loopy than even I could have expected:

Queens borough president Melinda Katz — one of the two task force co-chairs — has begun stepping up talk of what could be the least likely endgame of all for Willets Point: a professional soccer stadium that would take up as much as 17 acres of the redevelopment site, to be built with uncertain funds, for a minor-league soccer team called Queensboro F.C. that does not, strictly speaking, exist…

“The city spent approximately $200 million in acquiring these properties. I don’t think they did that to build a soccer stadium,” says Hiram Monserrate, the disgraced former state senator turned district leader who is affiliated with the new coalition Nos Quedamos Queens. (Nos Quedamos Queens, in turn, is unaffiliated with the older Bronx group Nos Quedamos, best known for its successful advocacy for the Melrose Commons project, by all accounts the most effective project in city history at constructing affordable housing without displacing existing residents.) “I’m a soccer fan. But you can’t build a sports coliseum at the expense of meeting the needs of the people, and the people need housing.”

If you can’t get into a story that pits a former city councilperson–turned–borough president–turned district attorney candidate (and also baby mama to Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa) against a city councilperson–turned–state senator–turned–jailbird for misuse of campaign funds–turned–community activist, all over whether to devote public land that was cleared of small businesses at great city expense (said businesses immediately going bankrupt at their new location) to a stadium for a soccer team that doesn’t exist yet or even have an identified owner, then, well, I don’t know why you’re reading this site.

The upshot, for those of you who are in a hurry, seems to be that Katz and her allies are grandstanding on this soccer idea for unknown reasons, but nobody else seems super-psyched about it, so it probably won’t happen. But it could happen, maybe, if the Mets owners want it to happen, which they probably don’t care that much about, but they might. Hopefully I will get a chance to revisit this story, because it exactly the kind of batshit that is incredibly fun to write about, not to mention a great cautionary tale of the dangers of farming out public policy to quasi-public agencies and secret task forces and the like.

Rays to Tampa Bay: If you don’t wanna buy tickets, maybe we just won’t offer you as many seats

Tampa Bay Rays management has announced its first plan for the immediate future following the collapse of its new-stadium plan, and it involves that favorite refuge of the attendance-challenged: tarpaulins.

Seating capacity at Tropicana Field will be reduced to about 25,000 to 26,000 under a renovation plan aimed at improving fans’ experience.

The team on Friday announced plans to create a more “intimate” atmosphere, including the creation of the Left Field Ledge in the lower level featuring premium seating for small groups, and the elimination of the upper-deck 300 level.

The capacity at the Trop previously was 31,042.

The notion that closing off sections that nobody wants to sit in anyway creates more “intimacy” is, of course, kind of disingenuous: If done right it can make the dearth of fans a bit less obvious, but it’s not like it moves the remaining seats any closer to the action. (Notwithstanding that the Tampa Bay Times, no doubt parroting the Rays’ press release, says this move will “bring fans closer to the action.”) Mostly, what it does is create at least a little bit of ticket scarcity, encouraging fans to buy tickets to big series in advance, rather than thinking, enh, I’ll wait and see who’s pitching and what else I have going on then, there’ll always be seats available — which isn’t better for fans in any way (they have to take on the risk that the Rays will be out of contention when the games they’ve bought come around), but clearly can be better for team coffers. Plus, for any really popular games you can raise prices, and that helps make up for the extra 6,000 seats you can no longer offer for sale.

To see what happens when a team closes its top deck, we can look to the example of the Oakland A’s, who tarped off the top level of the Oakland Coliseum from 2006 through 2016. Here’s what their attendance did:

That’s … not so good. What about their operating revenue?

That’s less bad, but still falls more into the category of “didn’t hurt” than “dramatically helped.”

In short, closing off sections is a stopgap measure that isn’t all that significant to anyone, but at least shows an eagerness to do something, even if that something is only to acknowledge that it’s hard to get people to go to your games even when you’re winning. That’s not exactly the best thing to advertise in order to attract new fans, but then, now that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has spent well over a decade telling Tampa Bay residents that their home ballpark is an inaccessible dump, it’s a little late to change course now.

Friday roundup: SF doesn’t want Raiders, Spurs hate Tottenham, Rays outfielder says team has “no fan base” and should maybe move

It was a bit of a slow holiday week, but the news that there was made up for it by being extra-entertaining:

  • The Oakland Raiders played maybe their last game in Oakland, at least until the next time they move back to Oakland. (Hey, it’s happened before.) Still nobody has a clue where the team will play next year, but San Francisco officials are already gearing up to block any Raiders games at the Giants‘ AT&T Park, saying they don’t want to be “scabs” in the city of Oakland’s lawsuit against the Raiders for skipping town that prompted this game of stadium chicken in the first place. This is looking like a better and better option.
  • The New Jersey state legislature is preparing to help out the horse racing industry by providing $100 million over the next five years to goose winnings, which seems like exactly the opposite of how gambling is supposed to work.
  • Tottenham Hotspur still can’t get its new stadium open — the earliest possible date is now in February — but that’s not stopping team officials from griping that the surrounding neighborhood is too dirty to go alongside its fancy new stadium thanks to “litter and fly-tipping.” According to one borough memo, “When the question of all the extra cleaning needed was raised and who would fund it it was made very clear that it would not be paid for by Spurs.” The estimated cost of added street cleaning would be £8,000 per match; the team’s most recent annual profit was £58 million.
  • I love interactive fiction and have even written some myself, so I’m inclined to like this Arizona Republic article presenting the Suns arena showdown as a Choose Your Own Adventure book. But sadly its plot relies on some misconceptions — allowing the Suns owners to break their lease in 2022 doesn’t necessarily mean the team will leave, and if they do leave the city’s estimates of $130-180 million in renovations to keep it “competitive” for concerts may be overblown — so I won’t be voting for it for a XYZZY Award.
  • Some details have been released about plans for a Portland baseball stadium, but none of them involve how the stadium would be paid for or how much rent it would pay to its public landlords or even where a team would be obtained, so feel free to skip reading the full documents unless you’re really interested.
  • Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Tommy Pham was asked what he thought about playing in his new home city after being traded last year from St. Louis, and replied, “It sucks going from playing in front of a great fan base to a team with really no fan base at all.” Pham added, “Do I think something has to happen, whether it be a new ballpark, maybe a new city? I think so.” I am going out on a limb to guess that attendance will probably not be great next year on Tommy Pham Bobblehead Night.
  • The Milwaukee Bucks arena has been open for “several months” now, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which apparently can’t count to four, and the most important takeaways are that: 1) kids like candy, 2) grownups like cheese-covered sausages, 3) everybody likes taking selfies, 4) Bucks president Peter Feigin also likes candy, and 5) nobody actually wants to sit in that ridiculous Panorama Club. No reports back yet on the status of the magic basketball.

D.C. councilmember facing pay-for-play charges, could be too in jail to help with Washington NFL stadium

Washington, D.C., has put close to a billion dollars in public money into sports stadiums and arenas in recent years — for the Nationals, D.C. United, and a Wizards practice facility that doubles as a Mystics home court — and at the center of pretty much all of the spending campaigns is city councilmember Jack Evans. And Evans, according to a Washington Post report, is now in super-hot water, which I will hand it over to Deadspin to explain because they do it so much pithier:

The paper alleged Evans received an estimated $100,000 in stock from a private company just before introducing “emergency” legislation that would have directly benefited the gift horse firm. The story said the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability began looking into Evans’s play-for-pay behaviors earlier this year. The ethics board suspended that investigation and released no findings, which according to the Post typically happens “in deference to law enforcement investigations.”

Uh oh.

Serious uh-oh. The private company in question is billboard company Digi Outdoor Media, and it gifted Evans with the $100,000 in stock in October 2016, one month before Evans introduced emergency legislation to legalize large digital advertising signs that the company wanted to install. Digi had earlier worked with Evans on legislation legalizing large fabric ads on the sides of buildings, and had given the councilmember $50,000 in checks earlier in 2016, in what Evans said was a retainer for future consulting work. (Evans says he ended up returning both the checks and the stock.)

If Evans goes down in flames, notes Deadspin’s Dave McKenna, it will be nothing but bad for Washington NFL team owner Daniel Snyder’s attempts to get a new stadium on the RFK site:

In keeping with his no-billionaire-left-behind reputation, Evans was viewed as the leader among D.C. politicians in putting together a package to beat whatever Maryland and Virginia lawmakers were going to give the bumbling but moneyed Skins owner. One source with ties to the D.C. council tells me Evans’s package calls for the city to turn over the choice real estate to Snyder for free, and to take care of new road and parking lot costs, and Snyder would dip into NFL coffers and maybe even his own bank accounts to finance the actual stadium construction. I was at an election night function last month and saw Evans holding court and boasting about how the plan to turn over the federally owned, city-controlled parcel of land to the most despised man in the Nation’s Capital (yes, even in the Trump era) was all but signed, sealed and delivered.

“It’s a done deal,” Evans said, according to one of the folks in the court. So done, in fact, that Evans also said the city was already planning that the stadium building project would be “announced in March” of 2019.

Maybe not, now.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t note McKenna’s excellent disclosure at the end of his article that “Jack Evans once called me to berate me for writing that Nationals Park was being built with public funds; the dumbass argument Evans made repeatedly during his phone tirade was that all the money used to build the stadium, a tab that eventually hit about $1 billion, would come from new taxes implemented specifically for that project, and therefore those tax revenues can’t be called ‘public money.’ Huh?” Hey, I’ve heard that argument before! If it turns out that Evans had a hand in killing my Washington Post op-ed way back in 2012, then full disclosure here that I had reason for animosity towards him, though honestly I think any D.C. resident or person concerned about not lavishing public dollars on wealthy sports team owners has plenty enough reason already to be excited to see him hoist on his own $100,000 petard.

Friday roundup: More Raiders temporary home rumors, more MLB expansion rumors, and pro cricket (?!?) in Texas

Was this week longer than usual, or did it just feel that way? The number of browser tabs I have open indicates the former — personally, I blame the moon.

  • Or maybe the Oakland Raiders will play in Arizona next year? When you have a lame-duck team whose new stadium in its new city isn’t ready yet, no idea is dumber than any other, really.
  • The University of Texas is reportedly building a new $300 million basketball arena at no cost to the state or the university, though if you read the fine print it’s actually getting Oak View Group (the same people behind Seattle’s arena rebuild) to build the arena in exchange for letting OVG keep a large chunk of future arena revenues. So really this is no different from UT building the arena themselves and using future revenues to pay off the construction costs, except I guess that OVG takes on the risk of cost overruns. Anyway, this is a good reminder that it’s not just about the costs, it’s about the revenues, stupid.
  • Las Vegas wants an MLB expansion team. It shouldn’t hold its breath.
  • There are lots of ideas for what to do with D.C.’s RFK Stadium site, and not all of them involve a stadium for Washington’s NFL team.
  • Queens community groups are protesting possible plans to build a soccer stadium for a would-be USL team called Queensboro F.C. on the Willets Point site cleared of businesses for redevelopment (including affordable housing) several years ago. This is a super-weird story that I’m still trying to get to the bottom of, so stay tuned for a more in-depth update soon.
  • Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk now says he’d consider letting someone else own his team’s proposed downtown arena if they’d pay to build it, contradicting what he said two years ago. Here’s a fun list of other times Melnyk contradicted himself!
  • Lots of public meetings coming up in Phoenix on the much-derided $230 million Suns arena renovation plan. The city has also posted the actual arena proposal, which among other things notes that the Suns’ rent is projected to go up from $1.5 million to $4 million a year in a renovated arena, which would help offset some of the public’s $168 million in costs, though it doesn’t say whether the rent (which is based on revenues) would go up in an unrenovated arena as well, so really this wouldn’t offset it all that much.
  • Speaking of the Suns, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said this week that “it’d be a failure on my part if a team ended up moving out of a market.” Now that’s how you play the army protection racket non-threat threat game! Rob Manfred, take notes. (Actually, please don’t.)
  • And speaking of Manfred, MLB is reportedly considering letting teams take control of their streaming broadcast rights instead of running them all centrally through MLB.tv, which would be a huge deal in that it would allow teams in large markets to monopolize streaming revenue like they currently do TV revenue, forestalling an NFL-like future where TV money is a more level playing field. They could offset this through increased revenue-sharing, sure, but … you know what, let’s table this discussion until there’s more than an unsourced New York Post item to go on.
  • Allen, Texas, is talking about building a pro cricket stadium via a “public-private partnership,” leaving me with two big questions: 1) how much is the public kicking in, and 2) maybe would it be a good idea to wait until a pro cricket league actually exists before building a stadium for it to play in?
  • The Athletic has a strangely formatted article about how finished MLS stadiums seldom look like their renderings that’s a fun read if you’re an Athletic subscriber, which you probably aren’t. (I got the $1-for-90-days trial deal, so I can keep tantalizing you with paywalled stuff for another few weeks yet.)

Cubs co-owner once got so steamed at mayor for refusing subsidy demands that he suggested selling or moving team

This doesn’t quite rise to the level of news per se, but it’s getting lots of attention and it’s a Deadspin scoop and they’re nice and pay me money to write for them, so what the heck: Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts once got so mad at an interview where Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel bragged about refusing the team’s stadium subsidy demands that he suggested moving the Cubs out of town.

Having received a final proposal for the Ricketts investment in the Cubs, Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune [in 2013]:

When I first started this discussion, the Cubs wanted $200 million in taxpayer dollars. I said no. Then they said we’d like $150 million, and I said no. Then they asked whether they could have $100 million in taxpayer subsidies, and I said no. Then they asked about $55 million in taxpayer subsidies. I said no. The good news is, after 15 months they heard the word ‘No.’”

Todd Ricketts, a prominent Republican fundraiser and the current finance chariman of the Republican National committee, forwarded the story to his father and siblings, writing:

I think we should contemplate moving, or at least recognize that we are maybe not the right organization to own the Cubs.

That’s pretty weak tea, but it is amusing to see that the hissy fits thrown by rich dudes come off just as petty in private emails as in public statements. But then, Todd Ricketts is a guy whose dad, according to another part of the email cache that Deadspin’s sister site Splinter has uncovered, once sent his entire family a list of bullet points about how great rich people are, so it only makes sense that he’d respond to being told “no” on his subsidy demands by threatening to take his ball and go home. He didn’t do it — the Cubs are the third most valuable team in baseball precisely because they play in Chicago, so presumably either his siblings talked him down or he came to his senses — but as a first reaction, that’s so very Ricketts.

Former Marlins exec gives fans the finger (literally, not figuratively) as he brags of profits from stadium ripoff

Former Miami Marlins president David Samson was never the smoothest in the PR department, what with the way he upstaged the opening of his own team’s stadium by calling Miami residents and legislators “stupid” for giving his ex-stepdad Jeff Loria public money to build it. But this really takes the cake:

Samson showed up in a shiny rich-guy sport coat and dress shirt. He walked onstage to a hail of booing from the sort of drunk bros who would hang out at a Dan Le Batard event…

So how did Samson respond to angry fans? He flipped them off and bragged that he and Loria’s cartoonishly evil antics helped the owner sell the team for $1.2 billion…

“Thank you so much; thank you very much,” a drunk-sounding Samson stammered into a microphone as Le Batard lumbered behind him. “Here’s why I love when you guys boo me. Right. I want you to keep booing me. Because guess what? One-point-two billion. Fuck you!”

Yes, a former sports executive actually bragged about how he didn’t care if people hated him, because he and his boss/stepdad walked away with piles of moneybags thanks to public largesse, and literally said “Fuck you!” while literally giving the audience the finger. If this seems way too on the nose to possibly be true, here is video evidence:

I guess this is just the way things are going to go from now on. I look forward to Henry Kissinger’s upcoming memoir, Yeah, I Helped Send Three Million People to Their Deaths, What Are You Gonna Do About It, Assholes?

Cue everybody freaking out that the Rays are going to move to Montreal

As covered here on Thursday, the collapse of the Tampa Bay Rays‘ stadium plans in Tampa does not make it more likely that the team will move out of Florida entirely; in fact, team owner Stuart Sternberg had to give up his option to look elsewhere in the bay area for a home, which was set to expire at the end of the month, and now is back under the constraints of the lease that binds him to St. Petersburg through 2027. Sure, he could try to break the lease and move out of state entirely, but 1) he would face a certain court battle, and 2) if he really wanted to do that, he could have done it just as easily years ago.

So, the Rays aren’t moving to Montreal anytime soon. However, the message constantly hammered home by sports team owners is if you don’t build it, we will leave, and despite that being completely untrue most of the time, a lot of people believe it. And a lot of those lot of people are sportswriters, so we get:

  • The Tampa Bay Times’ John Romano, who in the past has been amenable to Sternberg’s claims that he needs public money for a new stadium so he can make more money, says that it only makes sense for Sternberg to refuse to put more money into a Tampa stadium, because this is about dollars and cents. Which, sure, but then so would be the decision on moving the Rays elsewhere, and though Romano writes, “There are cities desperate to be called a Major League town, and they will spend an eye-popping amount of money to make it happen. Portland. Montreal,” those cities have actually shown zero interest in spending eye-popping sums on stadiums, which is one reason why the Expos left Montreal, and why they went to Washington instead of to Portland. So really this comes down to “If nobody wants to build him a stadium, what will Sternberg do?” — but as the answer there can only be “Keep waiting and hope some sucker opens their wallet,” and Romano is trying to make Sternberg out to be a sympathetic businessman and not a three-card monte dealer, that won’t do, so instead we get “a stadium in Tampa is still within reach.” Which is … a good thing? Remotely true? Does it matter anymore, in the world of sports columnism?
  • Then there’s Romano’s fellow Times columnist Martin Fennelly, who goes full wailing and gnashing of teeth to declare “Season’s Greetings from Montreal! Wish you were here!” and “I have not arrived slowly at wrapping my head around no more baseball” and “I want to be wrong. My summers have always been baseball summers, and I don’t want that to end.” (No, Fennelly is not really only 20 years old, but he grew up in New York, then moved to Tampa Bay in 1991 when … there was no baseball team, but maybe he’s just blocked out the entire 1990s because all the lack of local baseball was just so depressing.) And: “I’m not about to tell people how to spend their money, especially on stadium construction, though cities do it all the time. But no complaining if the Rays leave, okay?” If you people insist on not spending taxpayer money on stadiums like normal cities do, it’ll only be your fault if the Rays leave, so don’t come crying to me! I am very glad I am not Martin Fennelly’s teenage kid.
  • Finally, we have CBC News, which reports that the chances of baseball returning to Montreal are “pretty good,” according to the guy who is trying to get baseball to return to Montreal, and who therefore certainly has no reason to overplay how successful he’s being or anything. Seagram’s heir and private equity fund manager Stephen Bronfman says he knows there are “naysayers,” but he is a “glass half full kind of guy,” and is “super excited,” and consultants Convention, Sports, and Leisure did a study that shows Montreal is totally ready to be an MLB market again, and those guys are total professionals, right? Number of naysayers, or even independent analysts, interviewed by the CBC reporter: zero.

Look, Tampa Bay is, it has now been well established, a middling MLB market, but that’s still better than most non-MLB markets, since they are non-MLB markets precisely because they can’t even manage to be middling. All things being equal, would Stuart Sternberg make as much money running a team in Montreal as in Tampa Bay? Maybe! Would he make more? Probably not, all things being equal. Could all things not be equal, like if Montreal throws the kind of money at Sternberg that Tampa Bay is so far refusing to? Conceivably, but that didn’t go so well the last time, and the current Montreal mayor sounds at least somewhat skittish about promising piles of cash — saying “We need to evaluate what kind of participation, how we will collaborate, but so far, so good” and “if it comes to asking Montrealers for money, for example to build a stadium, yes, I will ask Montrealers” — so probably won’t to the degree that this is likely to turn into an international bidding war.

It is absolutely important to remember at all times that sports leagues have a monopoly on franchises, and can use that as leverage — but it’s also important to remember that there are only so many cities with the population (and TV eyeballs) to enable a pro sports team to make fistfuls of money, and cities can use that as leverage, too. Romano is right about one thing: This is a business negotiation, and team owners are just trying to maximize their profits (plus maybe their egos), and will use any advantage they can to do so; but there’s nothing stopping elected officials from doing the same. Right now, the Rays and Tampa/St. Pete are still in the staring-each-other-down phase of negotiations, so there are likely at least a few more summers of baseball left before anybody starts storming off and slamming doors.

All of which is to say: Everybody take a deep breath, okay? I know it’s bad for clicks, but it’s good for making sensible policy decisions, and journalism is still about trying to inform people so they can make the world a better place — or at least that’s what the internet tells me.