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Las Vegas suburb approaches Diamondbacks about relocating

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The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported yesterday that the government of nearby Henderson, Nevada made overtures to the Arizona Diamondbacks about relocating the team. And the Diamondbacks listened, at least to some extent.

Henderson put together a proposal that included a retractable-roof stadium and surrounding development near what will soon be the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders’ practice facility. Henderson reached out to the Diamondbacks about it about a year ago, the Diamondbacks signed a non-disclosure agreement and had at least some level of discussions with the city until February. The Review-Journal now describes the talks as “stalled.” It appears that Henderson has moved on and is seeking to court some other sports franchise. The Diamondbacks, for their part, released the following statement in response to the article:

“A number of cities have expressed interest, but we have not pursued any because we have not received permission from MLB and our desire is, first and foremost, to stay in Arizona.”

That’s a curiously-worded statement. One could parse what “we have not pursued” means given that, according to the article, the Diamondbacks did sign a non-disclosure agreement with Henderson — and with multiple real estate companies in the Las Vegas area — and Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall exchanged emails with the city manager of Henderson over a period of months. It’s even suggested that they met in Atlanta last October and toured the Braves’ facility which, as we have detailed many times, is considered the model for clubs who want to pair a new ballpark with real estate development opportunities.

Taken together it sounds like more than an unsolicited offer that was not pursued. There was at least some amount of interest and interaction there, at least until early this year.

The Diamondbacks have been an at times acrimonious dance with Maricopa County, Arizona over the state of Chase Field. There was a lawsuit filed a couple of years ago in which the team claimed the county had not properly maintained the park and was not responsive to the team’s desire to make renovations and improvements. That resulted in a May 2018 agreement which gave the team greater control of the ballpark — and more of the revenues from the ballpark — through the end of its lease 2027 while also giving the team the right to bolt the place earlier than that. The team has been intermittently reported to be investigating other stadium sites in the Phoenix metro area.

And now we learn that they are at least taking meetings from places outside the Phoenix metro area. It sounds like that will not result in them becoming the Las Vegas Diamondbacks, at least not any time soon. If you’re a Dbacks fan, however, and you’re considering getting a tattoo to honor your favorite baseball team, I’d just consider getting one with the “D” or snake logo and not the “A” logo for the time being.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”