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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Henderson: Montreal moves Rays debate

Ladies, gentlemen and baseball fans, there may finally be a bogeyman who can help scare this area into building a new stadium for your Tampa Bay Rays.

Say bonjour to Montreal, which has, Michael Sasso of The Tampa Tribune reported Wednesday, a sketchy, unfunded plan to build a ballpark suitable for the Rays or any other Major League Baseball team looking for a new home.

Mind you, I don't think we have anything to be scared about. If the Rays move anywhere, it will be across the bay to downtown Tampa. There has been precious little urgency about getting it done, though, because the Rays have no alternative to the catwalk-covered catastrophe known as Tropicana Field.

They probably still don't, but it might help if local politicians believe they do. If you've ever been to Montreal, you know what a dynamic, lovely place it is.


It's not like we're not talking about Charlotte, Portland or Las Vegas, no sir. Montreal has the cachť to be taken seriously as a suitor for the Rays.

And for gosh sakes, it has a feasibility study that says it can support big-league baseball! There is also a Facebook page with a none-too-subtle title: Move the Tampa Bay Rays to Montreal.

What else does a city need?

Even super agent Scott Boras said the Rays need to move. Last week in Orlando, he mentioned Montreal or New Jersey as possible landing spots, although it's beyond me why anyone cares what Scott Boras has to say about the Rays' stadium plight.

He has no power in this situation. He has no say in this situation. He should open a can of shut-up on this issue, drink deeply, and get back to fleecing unwary general managers into paying outrageous contracts for his free agents.


Back on point, a lot of us remember how St. Petersburg became the foil for any baseball team needing to extort a new stadium. The White Sox, Mariners and Giants had notable flirtations with St. Pete and its then-empty stadium.

At least Montreal isn't stupid enough to build a stadium without a team, although the plans it revealed recently showed a certain disconnect with reality. For one thing, the budget for a new stadium is just $500 million; that's probably $200 million short, at least, of what a modern stadium will cost.

Besides that, baseball simply doesn't like teams to move. Only one team has moved in the last 41 years. That team, my friends, was the Montreal Expos. They became the Washington Nationals in 2005.

This is all about pressure, though, so, I would expect a few well-timed leaks from mystery sources saying the Rays might be headed to the cold, frozen north unless they get a new stadium. That might finally get things going here.

And when the new place eventually opens somewhere in Tampa, we can finally close this chapter of the team's history and maybe offer a merci to our Canadian friends for helping to make it happen. We should appreciate them for stepping up.

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