On a slow Thursday afternoon, Jeff Passan of ESPN.com casually shook the baseball world with one tweet:
BREAKING: The Tampa Bay Rays have received MLB’s permission to explore becoming two-city team: the Tampa Bay area and Montreal, sources tell ESPN. The plan: Play early-season home games in the Tampa Bay area and finish the season in Montreal. News at ESPN: https://t.co/X6uSt4KLfC
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 20, 2019
But what does it really mean?
The Rays have received permission from Major League Baseball to explore a plan where they play home games in both Tampa Bay and Montreal. In reality, who else but The Rays would be this innovative after they have written a better sequel to money ball than everyone ever could? They have already made small ball great and invented the opener, so it makes sense.
The Rays needs a new stadium, badly. It’s a black eye on the sport to have the cat walks at The Trop still in existence, but funding has never came. The Rays would now play early season games in Tampa and the second half of the season in Montreal where both cities would somehow get new stadiums, which seems to double the price tag on the original problem, but that’s just my opinion.
It does make sense though, in theory, because using the first half of the season in Tampa makes them not need a domed stadium to avoid the heat. (Take notes for the future Las Vegas team coming)
The Rays attendance of 14,546 is the second lowest in the majors right now and Montreal has long begged for an MLB team since the Expo’s left prior to the 2005 season. Without a question, the 96,350 fans who went to see a spring training game between the Blue Jays and Mets had something to do with it in 2014 from MLB’s perspective.
The problems and obstacles will certainly come up, including what do you call a two-city team? The Montreal Rays of Tampa Bay? The Tampa Bay Rays of Montreal? do they spend half the season being called The Tampa Rays and the other half The Montreal Expos with two different uniforms? It’s a PR and logistical nightmare to do so, but if anyone can figure it out it will be the always innovative Tampa Bay Rays (for now).
In theory they would have to stay in the American league as well, even though Montreal played in the National League prior to leaving and The Nationals took their National League place.
From a betting perspective it will also be very interesting to see how a team performs in many ways. What if they struggle at one park but are great in the other? will the ball carry different in the Florida dome Vs. Montreal? It will also be interesting for a team to play in two different settings and field styles as well as ball park dimensions. I don’t foresee them building two identical stadiums, but at this point anything is possible.