The other day we learned that an investment group that included Gary Sheffield had a proposal on the table for a new spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves in St. Petersburg. And that the Braves were, apparently, on board.
In the wake of that, many of you who are well-versed on the politics of baseball facilities in the Tampa area chimed in to note that this probably wouldn’t be a great thing for the Rays for several reasons. It would put yet another team in their territory and that, even if it’s a spring training thing, it would soak up some bit of baseball demand that the Rays would prefer not to have soaked up. It would also limit the options and maybe the money available for a new Rays ballpark. Really, no upside for them at all.
Well, the Rays apparently got the ear of someone at Major League Baseball about it, because this most unusual statement from the league just hit the wire:
“Earlier this week, Major League Baseball and the Tampa Bay Rays learned of the St. Petersburg Sports Park proposal for the first time. Major League Baseball appreciates the support that it has received for the construction of Spring Training facilities throughout the State of Florida. The most pressing need, however, is the construction of a Major League-quality facility for the Rays.
“Major League Baseball is committed to working with the Rays to secure a new ballpark in cooperation with the Tampa Bay region. This can only happen with the support of local political and business leaders.”
This is clearly a shot across the bow of anyone in the Tampa Bay area who isn’t in the business of getting a new stadium for the Rays. And, assuming no stadium is forthcoming, some groundwork laying for the time when the Rays are moved to Montreal or someplace else and anyone complains. A “hey, we TOLD you we needed your help, but you were more interested in spring training baloney!” kind of thing.
Not that MLB isn’t actually mad here. They probably are. Because if they do start building more spring training places in the Bay Area, it gives the league a weaker hand to play one city off of another.
But let us look at the bright side here: Gary Sheffield is still able to piss everyone off, years after he retired. He’s one of the all-time greats, frankly.