Selig to the rescue in Tampa

I hope that when Bud Selig makes his expected perfunctory visit to the Tampa Bay area, he wears a cape. Or maybe a mask. Something to signify that he is the man with a plan to fix all that ails the Rays and the market.

Chances are Selig won’t do anything other than make that visit. He’ll decry the attendance woes at Tropicana Field. He’ll continue to say that the team needs a long-term solution. Yet when he attempts to proselytize St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster and other pols, he’ll do so with the knowledge that he has very little leverage in the matter.

Simply put, the Rays are stuck at the Trop through 2027. A plan to vacate the Trop by 2017 was floated a few years ago, with development proceeds used to pay off the remaining debt on the stadium. Obviously that plan went nowhere. Since then we’ve heard officials from neighboring Tampa and Hillsborough County express frustration that they can’t formally talk to Rays ownership without suffering a lawsuit from St. Pete. A developer’s plan to build in St. Pete across the Howard Frankland Bridge from Tampa has come and gone (for the time being, at least).

It’s a situation rich with irony. As MLB’s lawyers puff up to the point of arrogance against San Jose, The Lodge essentially powerless against St. Pete. The clear solution for them would be to cut a check to pay off the remaining ~$60 million in debt. $60 million doesn’t seem like that big a price to escape in the grand scheme of things, does it? Rays owner Stuart Sternberg refuses to name a specific amount he’s willing to pay. It sounds very similar to the impasse between the Giants and the A’s over territorial rights. Both sides have an unstated, unreasonable figure they prefer and have shown little interest in truly negotiating to get to a compromise amount.

Contrast that with our home situation, where the Giants have all the leverage over the A’s internally with MLB and MLB has leverage over San Jose. As we saw with MLB’s response to the antitrust lawsuit, they’re perfectly willing to shove the antitrust exemption in San Jose’s face when they feel they have power. What about in St. Pete, where they have little power? How about using ATE now, Bud?


I got an ironclad lease, Bud. How do ya like dem apples?

It used to be that Selig didn’t have to don his cape and fly out from city to city. Instead he used right-hand man Bob DuPuy as his henchman. DuPuy has been out for a few years, so unless Selig is comfortable with Rob Manfred as his toady, poor old Bud’s gonna have to do it himself. But what can he do? Unless he’s promising something to St. Pete to protect the city even more than the existing lease, whatever he sells will probably fall on deaf ears. Before the season started Sternberg offered $1.42 million per year via a lease amendment just to explore sites outside St. Pete. Perhaps Selig will have to sweeten the pot.

The impasse seemed to break last week, when Foster admitted that the team should be able to look outside city/county limits. It was thought that the $1.42 million/year deal could be the key. Foster maintains that the team will have to finish its lease at the Trop, while a framework for the Rays to look elsewhere could be agreed upon. That sounds good except for the whole 2027 part. That’s 14 more years!

Look on the bright side. 14 years is a long time to save money. Bud should suggest a Rays ballpark layaway plan. That’s part of the way we fund infrastructure in California. The BART-to-Silicon Valley extension is being partly funded by accrued sales tax increment. Only when the revenues hit certain targets will the full extension to downtown San Jose take place. Both Tampa and St. Petersburg have indicated they have limited funds to throw at what will surely be a $600-800 million (in today’s dollars) stadium when all is said and done. Even with some sort of out-of-the-box financing plan, there still will be a major public component, which is unsavory to say the least.

Then again, a layaway plan would be a lot more than what Selig has proposed to resolve the A’s-Giants’ T-rights kerfuffle. Don’t expect much substance from Selig. It’s been 53 months since Selig convened a panel to look into the A’s situation, with no resolution in sight. He has 17 months left as commissioner unless he chooses to get himself re-elected again. All of Selig’s recent activity regarding PEDs and replay suggest a man that wants to burnish his legacy before leaving. What about these tough, infighting oriented problems in Oakland and Tampa Bay? They’re probably left for Selig’s hand-picked successor. Hopefully that guy has more spine. And a cape, while he’s at it.

P.S. – For my Tampa Bay ballpark news counterpart, check out WTSP investigative reporter Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium blog. Exemplary work by a legit journalist, not some mere blogger (such as myself).

44 thoughts on “Selig to the rescue in Tampa

  1. Selig has shown he is not willing to put MLB’s money where his mouth is in regard to new ballparks. Places that refuse to build them – Oakland and Saint Petersburg – get a stern rebuking but no checks are cut to build the stadiums. And MLB’s expansion in the 1990s took away the remaining viable markets, for the time being. Selig’s proclamation about how the A’s “cannot and will not” continue in their current situation – made 4+ years ago – show what a pathetic joke Selig is. His words mean nothing.

  2. Bud Selig: “They been a model organization, extraordinarily capable. Under this ownership, they’ve done everything in their power to make their ballpark situation work. They have a very, very, very competitive club. Years have ticked by with no progress to resolve the situation. And frankly — and this is coming directly from me — baseball needs a resolution to this problem.”

    This is his comment on Tampa Bay. Sound like it could apply to any other team?
    What an impressive vacuum BS and the Lodge live in….

  3. Selig in March 2009: “Lew Wolff and the Oakland ownership group and management have worked very hard to obtain a facility that will allow them to compete into the 21st century,” Selig said. “To date, they, like the two ownership groups in Oakland before them, have been unsuccessful in those efforts. The time has come for a thorough analysis of why a stadium deal has not been reached.”

    …53 months later, Selig is no closer to a solution than he was then.

  4. RM,
    Respectfully, totally disagree with the notion that the Giants have “all the leverage” against the A’s within MLB. This would suggest that MLB favors the Giants over the A’s in this sad saga, and quotes from Wolff over the past 6 months completely suggest otherwise (majority of owners favoring move, “baseball” ruling out sites in East Bay, etc). Besides, the best Interest of baseball, not just the Giants…

  5. Something is holding up Wolff getting a green light for SJ, and I believe its beyond the Giants simply not wanting it to happen (see Baer softens stance thread from earlier this year). Someday we’ll have all the answers. As for the Rays ballpark ambitions, well….good luck TB!

  6. Why the need for a new Rays ballpark?? 1) Their location can’t generate sufficient attendance. 2) The ballpark isn’t attractive/an attraction to fans or big money clients. 3) They are living off of MLB welfare.

    The “problems” of building a new ballpark?? 1) Contractual issue (the Rays are in a rock solid contract with the existing ballpark that lasts 14 more years). 2) Financing (City of Tampa is either offering no money or an insufficient amount of money).

    For the A’s:
    why the A’s need a new ballpark?? The same reasons.
    The “problems” of building a new ballpark?? The need for BS to grow a pair and say the word “ok”.

  7. @Tony D – Has nothing to do with favoring one team or another. It’s a simple assessment of who holds the cards. The Giants have them, the A’s don’t.

  8. @Tony D.”Somthing is holding this up”, I cant think for the world, what it would be. It could be a nuber of things, some of the reasons given seem sound, but I just dont know. Sometimes I think MLB fills if they wait long enough, the passing of time will resolve it. I just dont think they care about San Jose, Oakland, us fans, and as long as MLB does well enough to give the A’s those checks, I dont think they care about the A’s as well.

  9. Let see if the owner doesn’t want to pay the 60 million he should cut payroll, and let MLB pay the stadium debt by pocketing revenue sharing for a couple of seasons. Once he has the extra 60 million he could easily field a decent team again with the farm system the Rays have.

  10. Another excellent piece. “Mere blogger”? I don’t think so. The cape and mask were nice light touches, too.

    But this: “As MLB’s lawyers puff up to the point of arrogance against San Jose”?

    The lawyers are litigating–they’re doing their job. Their aggressive approach has a lot of implications, but it’s not puffing or arrogance. Their motion is a fine, concise, aggressive piece of work. San Jose has good lawyers, too. I hope to see a great opposition brief.

  11. What’s that expression – “you can’t fight city hall?”? the gnats mgt. and Selig will soon find out how true that is.

  12. “Something is holding up Wolff getting a green light for SJ, and I believe its beyond the Giants simply not wanting it to happen”
    The main culprit to keeping the A’s from moving to San Jose is none other than Selig himself. I look back to what Selig had publicly stated a number of years ago concerning the A’s playing in the Bay Area. He had publicly stated that MLB’s approval of the A’s move to Oakland, back in 1968, was a big mistake. This statement by Selig implied that the Bay Area was only big enough to be a one team market, and that the Giants should have been the only team representing this market. To make up for what Selig views as a mistake, I think he wants to guarantee that the A’s are never put on at least equal footing with the Giants. By restricting the A’s to less desirable Bay Area locations for a new ballpark, Selig will act as the one to help guarantee the continued financial success of the Giants.

  13. Selig isn’t so formidable – the Tampa Bay owners whipped Selig and MLB in court twice and prevailed. SJ will likely do the same – if Selig doesn’t give in and cut a deal before the SJ vs MLB case reaches the SCOTUS.

  14. 3 things most fans will think of when they write the history of butthead.

    -cancelling the world series which world wars couldn’t do.

    -steroids as mlb basically turn their eyes away from the issue.

    -that idiot look he had during the 2002 all star game tie

    that’s your legacy bud-lite.

  15. @ML So much of what is said, seems to center around the idea that the other owners dont want to pay wellfare checks to the A’s, and the thinking being that the other owners will grant the A’s San Jose, so they no longer have to pay them. I am sure MLB wants the A’s to make more money, for themselves and for the rest of MLB. I dont know how the revanue sharing program is set up, but if say the Yanks pay 100 mill into the pot and that is a set amount, because of their payroll, if there are 7 teams that receive money from the pot, does it really matter to NY if its 6 (A’s off that list in SJ), or 7. I ask this question, because if NY pays 100 mill weather its 3,6, or 7 teams, the motive for them to support the A’s move, seems a little watered down, correct me if I am wrong, but if this is true there always be teams that need help. Even if all of the MLB teams made twice the money they do now, along with the LA’s and NY’s of the world, I would think the lower money teams would just rase the wellfare bar.There will always be teams that make more money then others, as long as you have NY on one end, and KC, or Tampa on the other end, it would be wonderful if MLB got to the point where every team is making ten times more money, but the bottom money teams will always fill, that the larger market teams should pay them somthing.

  16. @llpec,
    The Bay Area circa 2013 is a lot different than the Bay Area of 1968 (I wasn’t even born yet!). Our wealthy, nearly 8 million resident metroplex is definitely a two team market and it WILL remain that way. This idea that somehow Selig is looking out for the Giants and trying to satisfy them only over the A’s is ludicrous! Again, the best interest of ALL of baseball, not just the wealthy, spoiled Giants..

  17. What Selig needs to do is put together an ownership group willing to purchase the Giants and sign off on the A’s going to San Jose. This ownership group will continue to make piles of money like the current ownership group, but without the goal of keeping the A’s down on the mat or, better yet, driving them out of the Bay Area.

  18. @Tony D., I completely agree that if the A’s are placed in the right ballpark location, the Bay Area is a big enough market to be able to fully support both the Giants and the A’s. My previous comment was based on my perceptions of what I believe to be Selig’s erroneous view of the greater Bay Area market. The state of California currently has four MLB teams, and there is absolutely no reason why California’s third largest city(San Jose) cannot have a team, especially one that’s already playing in its greater market.

  19. Sorry! Actually California currently has five MLB teams.

  20. Selig’s recent opinion (2012) is that the bay area is a two team fanbase. The guy does appears to be making a huge effort to protect the giants though (the giants organization did attempt a move to Tampa already, and their band-wagon fanbase may soon start shrinking if they continue their bad last place play) Maybe Selig believes the giant’s fanbase is unstable – and the giants organization needs his protection.

  21. @llpec,
    Point well taken.
    Kind of theorizing off of my earlier comment on what the hell is holding up MLB re a green light for SJ, I have a far fetched idea that may or may not be true, so read for your enjoyment 😉
    Is it possible that Wolff doesn’t want to give the A’s to San Jose with Chuck Reed in office? I base this thought on a Merc article today re ex-mayor Tom McEnery and his desire to build, along with developer Chop Keenan, 1,000 homes in San Jose (“Ex-mayor pulls a 180 on housing”). Mayor Reed, citing preservation of industrial lands, is against McEnery’s housing proposal. So in essence, Mayor Reed is stopping McEnery from making tons of money on SJ housing. As some of you are aware, McEnery is also Wolff’s good friend and right hand man in SJ. McEnery was recently spotted with Wolff behind home plate for an A’s game, and both go way back in terms of developing downtown SJ. Does Wolff really want to make Reed “the mayor who brought baseball to San Jose” when he’s “cock blocking” his pal from making serious money in SJ? Just a thought.
    Could be why we now have an opening date of 2018 for Cisco Field in SJ. Could be why Selig “dissed” Reed by not wanting to meet with him. Could be why the ATE lawsuit is getting no real attention from Wolff, because whether it gets dismissed or not doesn’t really matter in terms of the ultimate goal.
    In short, Wolff could be grooming Sam Liccardo as “the mayor who brought baseball to San Jose.” Again, just a thought; enjoy..

  22. Tony- you really think MLB gives a rat ass about SJ politics. LW and mayor Reed have a great working relationship and mayor Reed has done everything LW has asked him to do- bottom line is that bs lacks leadership and balls to make a decision that would go against the gints wishes- in the meantime he is happy with letting Oakland play their delay games pretending they could really develop a ballpark- the A’s don’t even exist on his radar screen- all he has to do is cite the growth of baseball into a 7B biz and he is good with his legacy. Ultimately the A’s should end upon SJ – but as LW said- may not be in his lifetime.

  23. @Tony D – interesting (though fictional) story. Larry Baer is silent only because Selig gave him and – and everyone else involved – a gag order not to discuss the A’s/SJ. The giants are the bad guys – their false S4SJ group is attempting multiple lawsuits against the A’s and SJ. KNBR continues spinning the b.s. about how important the last-place giants are. Both Reed and McHenry are obviously big-time proponents of the A’s to San Jose.

  24. “(the giants organization did attempt a move to Tampa already,”

    If I recall, the Giants were also once very close to being moved to Toronto sometime around the mid 1970’s, and shortly before Toronto was ultimately awarded the Blue Jays American League expansion franchise. Like the Tampa Bay situation, the Giants were saved for San Francisco at the very last minute. Even way back then, it seemed that despite the A’s then presence as a San Francisco Bay Area MLB franchise, the San Francisco centric powers within MLB and/or the National League did not want for the Giants to move from the Bay Area. This, despite the fact that the Giants at that time were still playing in substandard conditions at Candlestick Park. So as I look back many years, the ties between the City of San Francisco and the MLB Lodge were unusually strong, even before Selig. Maybe MLB thought the City of San Francisco was just too beautiful a city to give up, so it was worth fighting for. Obviously, MLB doesn’t look at either Oakland or San Jose with that same reverence.

  25. If the gnats continue their poor play, and their attendance declines, they may bolt out of town again eventually. They are making a huge effort to become the dominant team locally and are failing miserably in 2013. They appear to have a difficult time retaining key players or signing FAs – and need to badly overpay to keep players on the team (even Soriano of the last-place Cubs has declined trades to the Giants several times)Selig is an old coot and may be getting senile – if MLB is too stupid to correct the A’s stadium situation. The Federal court system will likely do it for them.

  26. @ Tony D. Cant blame you for reading the tea leaves, its all we have, but MLB does not care about San Jose, Oakland, or the local pols, in each city. I dont think they care about the A’s or their situation. Why, because they dont have to MLB is makeing more money, then ever befor they will talk sh_t all day long, about the A’s can no longer play in this ballpark in Oakland, bla-bla-bla, as long as the rest of the teams make enough mony to pay the wellfare checks, it does not matter. I dont think Wolff even cares as long he gets to cash out the end.

  27. @Tony D:

    Another scenario is that Wolff and SJ city officials may have already mapped out that SJ may need to take legal action (as they are doing with the SJ vs MLB lawsuit) to finally go ahead with the move and the giants/MLB will make a big effort to stall the move.

  28. @duffer You maybe correct, it sounds as good as anything ells. Well as long as we are reading the tea leavs, it also could be that MLB really wants HT (I know this idea is not popular), and SJ (knowing this), goes for the hell mary. oh dont throw those stons too hard ouch (-:

  29. True, also a high-tech mogul such as LE (or a similiar type) could swoop in, make Wolff a huge offer, purchase the A’s, and build a new A’s park somewhere in the east bay (Oakland/Dublin/Fremont)

  30. Once again, I see this fantasy scenario about LE (presumably Larry Ellison) saving the day for Oakland with his money. The next time Larry expresses any public interest at all in buying the A’s and privately funding a stadium will be the very first time. He’s not one to go into losing ventures – he wants to make money.

  31. The east bay would offer a much larger fanbase than the typical proposed usual future sites for MLB teams (Portland, Vegas, etc) It already has a long time A’s fanbase, and the new A’s tv rights deal is lucrative, also better than a Portland, Vegas, Sac tv deal could achieve. Besides, pro sports teams keep rising in value. The A’s appear to be a solid investment. (Larry Ellison is just an example, any wealthy potential owner could do it)

  32. Duffer: Then why have no tycoons come forward willing to buy the A’s and get the stadium done privately in Oakland? Because it is a money-loser, just as Wolff and the rest of MLB already know. (Don Knauss has never offered to buy the A’s, as far as I can tell.) The A’s are in the least-lucrative part of the otherwise-lucrative Bay Area, and have to compete with the Giants 12 miles away.

  33. @pjk I dont think anyone is coming up with any fantasy scenarios today, anything could happen and none of us know, at this point all we can do is guess. BTW as an Oakland first, San Jose second person, the next time I come up the idea of Larry Ellison saving the day for Oakland, with his money will be the first.

  34. I think the hangup is the g’s want to be paid yearly FOREVER. I am sure the frisco team have asked for the sums the A’s presently getting from MLB.

  35. Here’s a compromise: The Giants are certain there are ballpark opportunities for the A’s the East Bay (despite MLB looking for 4.5 years and finding none). So let the Giants pay for the place. It’s a win-win. The Giasnts keep their precious South Bay “territory,” the A’s get a new ballpark in the East Bay from the party that is most interested in keeping them there.

  36. @pjk:

    the real solution is for LW and Fisher to sue and challenge the agreement that Mr Haas gave them. Of course, LW/Fisher will never do that. so the next solution is LW/Fisher sell 51% of the team to an owner in SJ then we will have Tampa situation again. BS and MLB will have to cave when the new majority owner moves the A’s to SJ.

  37. @pjk another real solution is for LW/JF to sell to a group, that would build in Oakland, problem over. Oh I just discounted SJ, I am sorry… You are correct there has not been any person, or group that have come out in a public way saying they will pay for the A’s and build in 0akland, but that does not mean there is not one, even if its not Larry Ellison. Point is we really dont know anyhing.

    • @pjk & Lakeshore/Neil – Wolff & Fisher can’t sell to whomever they like. Any franchise sale has to be done with MLB’s approval. If MLB gets an inkling that the sale is being done as a sort of end around they don’t have to approve it.

      Besides, T-rights go with the team. They aren’t up for renegotiation just because the franchise changes hands.

  38. @pjk
    I’m on board about the A’s/SJ, Oakland – or some place else in the east bay is not a bad option though. One would believe a new potential MLB owner would have the A’s on their radar and Oakland/east bay would be preferred over San Antonio, Portland, blah, blah, blah.

    Also the climate for owning an MLB franchise has switched recently. MLB Clubs are receiving lucrative tv rights deals now (the A’s included)and franchise values are soaring. For example, the Dodger’s owners group purchased the team for $2.2 bil. – which could have bought the Jacksonville Jaquars (or some other lower-valued NFL team)also a new, state of the art NFL stadium – they opted the Dodgers instead. The A’s now offer a new possible owner more potential than they did in ’96. There must be potential buyers that would keep the team in Oakland – that’s why Wolff likely isn’t when he says the A’s aren’t for sale.

  39. @ML Sorry- I know the other MLB owners have to approve a sale, I also know the A’s are not currently for sale, I was only being sarcastic.

  40. re: There must be potential buyers that would keep the team in Oakland – that’s why Wolff likely isn’t when he says the A’s aren’t for sale

    …I believe Wolff was recruited by his friend Selig years ago to get a new ballpark done in the A’s current territory. Wolff’s assessment after trying for several years: It’s not doable. He then invited MLB to come out and see for itself. After 4+ years of investigating, MLB has not found anything to refute Wolff’s assessment. Selig lives in an Olde World, where MLB can ram through new ballparks in all the cities, believing cities will cave just to keep their teams. That belief aint holding up in Oakland…

  41. I truly believe Selig will let Oakland and Tampa Bay situations go on long after he leaves.

    He cannot help both teams so why try? After the A’s debacle he is simply posturing with the Rays for political reasons.

    He helped get every team in MLB a renovation or new stadium during his tenure except for these two teams. He could have helped the A’s into San Jose but refuses to do so to the extent of a lawsuit that MLB will surely lose.

    As for the Rays, they have a lease that is ironclad. The owners have even put “lipstick on the pig” in order to create a better fan experience at their current location.

    The issue in St. Pete like Oakland is they play in dumps where a majority of the population has to fight through traffic just to get to games. San Jose to Oakland is horrendous in the evening as is Tampa to St. Pete.

    The only difference is the Giants are 12 miles away while the Rays have no other competition in their market and still do not get fans even when they win.

    The Giants have created two thorns at his side he cannot get rid of….the Rays stuck in St. Pete and the A’s in Oakland.

    The irony…

  42. MLB is just not working out in Florida. The Marlins, even with a brand new stadium, are failing. Both the Rays and Marlns apparently are viewed as nothing more than opportunities for transplanted Yankee$ and Red $ox fans to see their beloved teams a few times a year without having to fly back to New York or Boston.

  43. pjk, the only reason the Marlins are failing is their owned by Loria. He’s easily the worst owner in professional sports. That’s not to say they’d be wildly successful, but it’s impossible to say it wouldn’t work so long as he runs that team.

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