Two years after getting permission
to explore the viability of sharing a baseball team between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg presented the results of his work to the Major League Baseball Executive Committee on Wednesday, November 17.
Composed of eight owners, the executive committee is the supreme body within MLB. Directions, commercial agreements and major projects are filtered and debated. And when there is consensus, they are then presented to all the owners who affix the final seal of approval formally.
Two years ago, therefore, we were told that the members of the executive committee had been
delighted by the idea of building two stadiums in two cities to accommodate a single team. But last Wednesday, no decision was made after Stuart Sternberg’s presentation. The eight members of the committee did not vote on this issue and the owner of the Rays did not get an official green light to try to make the project a reality.
Last spring, a source familiar with the mores and customs of MLB decision-makers predicted that executive committee members would be polite to Mr. Sternberg, nothing more.
They will encourage him to develop his concept, but no one will lie down on the tracks to make it happen. For example, they will not let this topic become a distraction during negotiations for the next collective agreement. The other owners will not want to concede anything to get the right to play the Rays in two cities., we argued.
Coming out of this meeting last Wednesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred explained that the executive committee had not commented on the concept of sister cities because there was
other more pressing topics on today’s agenda. And that is perfectly understandable. After 27 years of industrial peace, the owners of the MLB are preparing to declare a lockout that promises to be long and painful.
Manfred also added that no decision had been made because the concept of a two-headed team
is complicated, which is a great understatement.
Upon leaving the meeting, Stuart Sternberg, who promotes this idea with Montreal billionaire Stephen Bronfman, however, said he was encouraged by the pace of the discussions. And he said he expected a formal response from the executive committee
in the next month.
As for Stephen Bronfman, he issued a rather cryptic statement.
While we still have a lot of work to do, we are proud of the relationship we have established with Stuart Sternberg and the Tampa Bay Rays as we move towards our ultimate goal., he said.
More than two years after presenting this idea in the public arena, both Mr. Sternberg and Mr. Bronfman are struggling to present concrete advances or achievements.
That said, the MLB collective agreement expires on December 2. And as mentioned above, players and owners will be plunged into a labor dispute that promises to be long and difficult. Some even predict the most difficult in history, after baseball’s eight other work stoppages. And the last one, we remember, caused the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.
As proof, the Players’ Association has just distributed to the agents a long document explaining, among other things, that the emergency fund coffers are full, that the conflict pay mechanisms are in place and that the players will continue to benefit from their private health insurance plan.
Knowing that players are only paid during the season and that their next pay is scheduled for April, that says a lot about the mindset of MLBPA leaders! The players, who have seen their share of the pie shrink for the past five years, are set to tackle major economic systems in their industry like the luxury tax on the richest teams, revenue sharing and the number of years needed to gain autonomy.
It is a real trench war that looms.
Through this, it will be interesting to see how Stuart Sternberg, with a project deemed eccentric by several players in the field, manages to place the concept of sister cities in this intense conversation. Because after having had his project approved by the executive committee of the MLB (if approval there is), it will then be necessary to find negotiators sufficiently convinced and convincing to obtain such a concession from the players.
In an interview with an Associated Press columnist during the last playoffs, Atlanta Braves first-baseman Freddie Freeman was incredulous of seeing an MLB team play in two cities. .
Having two homes when people have families and children attending school. I think it’s in demand a lot. There is no other way to present it. It would be huge as a request, he had said.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made a similar comment.
The seasons are tough enough. If the Rays think that’s what’s best for them, then good to them. But this is certainly not an ideal scenario, he added.
It is only normal that those who wear the uniform and who face the rigors of the schedule react in this way. Which suggests that the owners would have to win a landslide victory in the next negotiations for the sister cities project to be accepted by the players. However, the Players’ Association is one of the most powerful unions in the world.
While waiting for the onset and end of the baseball-rocking lockout, it will be interesting to see if Stuart Sternberg and Stephen Bronfman receive a more vigorous endorsement from the MLB executive committee over the next month or so.