You’d be forgiven if you hadn’t thought much about Daisuke Matsuzaka lately, as the ex-Red Sox and Mets pitcher has not played in the majors since 2014. He made his return to Japan when he signed a contract with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks prior to the 2015 season, but that didn’t work out too well, with Dice-K making only one NPB appearance and a handful of minor league appearances over a three year period due to injuries.
Matsuzaka signed with the Chunichi Dragons before the 2018 season. Given that he was 37 at the time and had hardly pitched a lick in three seasons, not much was likely expected of the former All-Star apart from his services as a gate attraction. Yet, despite the odds, Matsuzaka put together a pretty spiffy season for the Dragons, going 6-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 11 starts. He made the NPB All-Star Game and, just this morning, was named the league’s Comeback Player of the Year.
Not too bad for an old guy.
LAS VEGAS — Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg appeared at the Winter Meetings a few minutes ago and said that the project which was intended to result in a new ballpark for the team in Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa has fallen apart. No new ballpark will be built and the three-year window granted to the team by the City of St. Petersburg to negotiate for a new ballpark will come to a close without any deal. The Tampa Bay Rays appear to be stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027.
Sternberg’s statement came mere hours after it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred sent a sternly-worded letter to Hillsborough County officials, blasting the framework for the deal for the new stadium in Ybor City, saying it lacked specifics and criticized “the actual level commitment” from the public side. It’s not unreasonable to read that as the Commissioner’s dissatisfaction with how much public money the County was pledging to complete the project. Sternberg said just now that “we were not close to a workable framework.”
In his comments this morning Sternberg noted that the Rays had worked “for ten years” to get a new stadium and that they’d continue to try to work to that end, but the team’s options are extremely limited. The Rays are party to what has been described as an iron-clad lease for Tropicana Field, lasting through 2027. Until three years ago the Rays were prohibited from even talking to anyone about building a new ballpark outside of St. Petersburg. In December 2015 St. Pete granted the team a window to negotiate with Hillsborough County which Sternberg called “very generous.” It is now closing, however, and Sternberg said that there are no plans to ask St. Petersburg officials for a new one.
Which means that the Rays are likely stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027. While Sternberg talked of being creative and searching for any and all available options, he likewise said that “we need to figure out where the 2028 season will be played.”