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Report: Rays to explore becoming two-city team, with games in Montreal

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This is rather insane and off-the-wall: Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that the Tampa Bay Rays have received Major League Baseball’s permission to explore becoming two-city team: the Tampa Bay area and Montreal. The plan would be to play early-season home games in the Tampa Bay area and finish the season in Montreal.

Passan’s full report is here. In it he notes that the plan is “in its nascent stages,” but that the Rays “have embraced the two-city solution as the most feasible to saving baseball in the Tampa Bay area after years of failed attempts to build a new stadium in the region.” Which makes it odd that, according to his report, the plan depends on the team getting not one, but two new stadiums: an open-air stadium in Tampa for early season games in the nice spring Florida weather and an open-air stadium in Montreal for the mid-late-season games in the nice Quebec summer weather.

Passan’s sources say it’s too early in the process to answer questions such as what the team’s name would be. Or, I imagine, questions like “Really?” or “C’mon, are you serious?”

And those are good questions, because I can’t picture how this would really work.

At the outset, I cannot shake the feeling that this is a ruse. That they’re gonna float this in order to spur interest in Montreal for building a new stadium. That that process will get going well enough and, when it does, it will be a much easier sell to tack on some more money to the existing project for a roof, thereby making it possible for the Rays to make it a permanent move. The two-city plan, meanwhile, is kept in play in order to keep fans in the Tampa area from turning their back on the team.

But like I said, that’s just a feeling. Setting my conspiracy theory aside, I have some other questions.

Who gets playoff games? If a game is rained out in Tampa in April and cannot be replayed until August, is Florida simply out of luck? How do you foster business partnerships? How do you staff a front office — marketing, promotions, business ops, etc. —  in two cities? What happens when, as will inevitably happen, one city sours on the arrangement and games there become a chore or an exercise in bad optics? There will be a favorite. There is always a favorite. Open marriages don’t work, folks, even if the Rays think it might work for them.

Like Passan says, though, this is in its nascent stages. For now the Rays won’t have to decide if they wanna have holidays at mom’s house or dad’s house for a few years.

 

Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.