Sternberg Speaks Honestly on the Rays Tampa Bay Future
It was the Tampa Bay Rays stadium conversation and whiplash response most members of the Rays Republic knew was just peeking above the horizon. The Tampa Bay community as a whole had hoped such a cold water splash in our faces would have a more postmarked expiration date.
Somehow we all knew that the ever present sunshine attitude that surrounds our typical Florida Spring day would suddenly be darkened by an omnipotent comment cloud that would overshadow the usual optimistic banter whenever the Rays future stadium plans have been mentioned.
Just as suddenly the veil of silence has been removed from the Rays stadium debacle, and a few of the comments from Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg paint a more daunting image of an hourglass whose ribbons of sand are constantly spiraling to and end instead of a more optimistic conclusion.
Recently Sternberg told reporter Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times:
“It seems clearer to me by the day that we’re going to be the last man standing (Oakland A’s stadium talks are in a more advanced stage of discussions),” Sternberg said. “And everything I know, and talking to these guys, baseball is just not going to stand for it anymore. And they’ll find a place for me. They won’t find a place here though. So it’s up to us, to everybody, to figure out how to get it right. …
“We’ve come so far with this, with all the people who are interested and watching. I do believe we’ve grabbed into (them) a little bit, and to say it’s a good thing, it’s fun, it’s good for your kids, it’s a nice sport. … And that’s my real concern, that we won’t get to finish the job that I know we were right there to do.”
For the first time I can remember since Sternberg took over the Rays reigns, it seems like a hint of pessimism has crept into his tone when discussing the Rays future home. For the first time, Sternberg has bluntly envisioned both sides of the Tampa Bay region losing out if some sort of constructive movement is not made in the near future.
A good first step might be St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster allowing the Rays a little latitude to venture into other Tampa Bay locales without the threat of harsh legal actions or local repercussions by the Rays landlords possibly letting the process systematically eliminate some of these cost deficient locations from contention.
But that would be a huge leap of good faith by the City of St. Petersburg who has so much to lose not only in possibly losing their biggest tenant, but seeing a reversal in some of the recent positive financial surges in the city’s economically sensitive downtown core. Losing the team would turn downtown St. Petersburg basically into a ghost town again after 9 pm.
No matter how you try and twist, convolute or even manipulate Sternberg’s words, the message is loud and clear now. Major League Baseball with all its omnipotent power hover and circle above the whole stadium process like a lurking Florida vulture has the upper hand.
No longer is this only about St. Petersburg or even Tampa, it is about the future existence of our own Major League team in a town with rich MLB roots, but a transient populous that still has not fully embraced the Rays as “their team”. Even with the recent return of Spring baseball to Progress Energy Field (Al Lang) , the vibe concerning St. Petersburg is beginning to fade a bit more towards black than sunshine.
I am not the only one to notice Sternberg’s particular word usage or possible hidden messages in his statements. Rays Index, another Rays top blog spot also noticed this one particular sentence that might heed this Tampa Bay region to having a few “burning the midnight oil” political strategy sessions. In a perfect world, both sides of the Tampa Bay region would meet in the same clandestine room.
Hidden within the midst of Sternberg’s comments is the small phrasing, “they’ll find a place for me. They won’t find a place here though.”
Immediately you see the unveiled reminder that the upper echelon of Major League Baseball loves the energy and past work Sternberg has done in rebuilding the Rays franchise from the ground up again, and might have some hidden agenda for his future.
The losers here will not be Sternberg, but it could be this region forever cast as a land of Spring baseball only again if the Rays do get harvested like an orange and taken somewhere else.
Contraction with a MLB/MLBPA labor negotiation in the near future is not an viable option, but if this region keeps their minds and mouthes closed for too much longer, it might be too late to salvage the fruit on the vine.
I think the month of April will not only be the beginning of baseball again being played in St. Petersburg, but the beginning of the sands beginning an accelerated pace through the Rays hourglass. Sternberg has been more than vocally adamant that he is not the only person who might view this whole Rays stadium process as being stagnant for too long now.
Something has to be decided soon before the sands from the hourglass become quicksand that devour and destroy that forward progress of baseball in this region over that last 14 seasons.
The Tampa Bay community needs to make the first step soon, the first lunge into diluting this dark cloud and again bringing the warmth of the sunlight firmly back into view……or the cloud will overtake the region and when it finally begins to dissipate, the Rays may be gone…forever.