Stuart Sternberg claims that MLB “no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area”

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Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is trying to get a new ballpark, but he’s got almost no leverage to do so. He’s locked in an iron-clad lease with St. Petersburg, keeping the Rays in Tropicana Field. The city is willing to at least entertain the idea of another ballpark someplace else in St. Pete, but Sternberg is prohibited from exploring moving the team across the bridge to Tampa.

So what can he do? Offer vague and ominous threats, mostly. He went before the Hillsborough County Commission, and said this about the current prospects of the Rays:

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said Thursday that he wants to keep his team in the region, but “Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area.”

The nature of the league’s lack of faith in the region was lest unspecific, but he hinted that contraction of the Rays, while not necessarily a priority of the league, is “an option.” This is nothing new for Sternberg, of course, as he has said in the past that he thinks the league will “vaporize” the Rays.

In reality, no, it’s not an option at all. Indeed, as we’ve noted several times here, it’s basically fantasyland stuff, inasmuch as contracting a team would cost Major League Baseball and its owners something on the order of a billion dollars, plus lawsuits and the risk of government meddling in the league’s business. They’d do it if the game was in some existential crisis, but it’s not. One owner has a bad lease and is scraping by.  That’s a small problem, all things considered, not one which will ever inspire the league to wade into the muck of contraction.

I feel from Sternberg because, yes, his and the Rays’ situation is awful for them.  But it’s one that is simply going to require some creativity and maybe some guts (and the defense of a lawsuit from St. Petersburg), not the nuclear option of contraction.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.