The Rays want out of St. Petersburg

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Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg said yesterday what everyone has known for a long time: the Rays simply aren’t viable in St. Petersburg.  Certainly not in Tropicana Field and probably not even if those cool stadium plans the Rays came up with a couple of years ago — but which the city rejected — ever came to fruition.

Which they now never will, because Sternberg says that, to be viable, the Rays likely have to be across the bridge in Tampa. Hard to say if even that would make the Rays viable. Tampa is turning into a Yankees town, I hear.

I think the most interesting aspect of this — which is kind of buried in the story — is that Sternberg is basically asking the whole region to woo him as if he were the owner of a team in another city looking to move into the area:

“If we weren’t here, how would people treat us?” Sternberg said
wistfully. “I think that’s how I’d like to see this community react. If
we weren’t here, I think it would take a regional effort to get us
here.”

But you are there, Stuart, and you have a lease to an ugly old dome that no one forced you to sign (or, rather, assume when you bought the team), so you can’t expect to sit back and wait for everyone to cater to your leverage-free butt as if you were gifting them something.

Not that I don’t sympathize — the Rays are in a lousy spot — but in case Sternberg hasn’t noticed, the unemployment rate in the Tampa-St. Pete area is close to 12% and property values are in the dumper. To expect the area to pony up a minimum of a quarter of a billion dollars to build you a ballpark in this environment is not realistic.

Personally I think this is step one — the pledge of local loyalty — to Sternberg moving the team out of the Tampa Bay area entirely. If and when the region doesn’t woo him like he wants to be wooed, he’ll move on, saying that he gave them all a chance.

Where to move? I dunno, but Sternberg himself says there are “at least five” better cities in the U.S. that don’t currently have baseball teams and, I’m assuming anyway, could have baseball teams without running afoul of baseball’s established territories. Let’s see, Vegas (which I don’t think is viable for reasons I’ve said before) . . . Portland (which won’t even bother to keep its AAA team) . . . Charlotte . . . OK, I give up, Stuart, which five do you mean?

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.

Masahiro Tanaka throws off mound for first time since October elbow surgery

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According to the Associated Press — via Chad Jennings of The Journal News — Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October.

The throwing session took place in New York, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild later told the media in Tampa that all of the reports he heard were good.

Tanaka might be behind some of the Yankees’ other pitchers when spring training officially begins, but he should be ready for the start of the 2016 regular season.

The 27-year-old native of Japan posted a 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season for New York. He owns a 3.16 ERA (123 ERA+) in 290 1/3 innings since becoming a major leaguer in 2014.

Tanaka is still pitching with a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow that could eventually require Tommy John reconstructive surgery. His surgery last October was of the arthroscopic variety and simply removed bone spurs.

Bud Selig to teach a class at Arizona State law school

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Before Bud Selig ultimately retired, he had a couple of false start retirement announcements only to have the owners beg him to sign on for one more term. In one of those false starts he talked about how the University of Wisconsin had set up an office for him in the history department and that he’d be doing some research and teaching a class now and again. And he has, in fact, taught some one-off seminars at Wisconsin’s law school and the like.

Now something a little more permanent along those lines is in the works for The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History. The Arizona Republic reports that Selig will join the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State University’s law school where he will teach and advise as well as start up a speakers series in which he will bring in high-powered guests. No word on how many speakers will talk about big, important historical sports law cases like, say collusion in baseball, which was orchestrated by an ownership class in the mid-to-late 80s, of which Bud Selig was far and away the most influential member. That could get sort of awkward, I suppose.

Either way, it’s a good way to keep busy. I mean, that’s what it has to be as he’s not hurting for cash, what with the obscene $6 million severance package the owners gave him to, I dunno, not give interviews about bad stuff that happened back in the day like Fay Vincent does all the time. Stuff like collusion. Maybe he gets the $6 million for some other purpose. Who can say, really? It’s never made any sort of sense otherwise.

Anyway, good luck in Tempe, Bud. Maybe I’ll stop by your office at ASU when I’m there next month — I always stay in Tempe — and we can chew the fat or climb that butte with the big A on it or something. First round at Four Peaks afterward is on me.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.