ORLANDO — Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday threw no verbal jabs at the Tampa Bay area for its lack of turnout at Tampa Bay Rays games, perhaps because St. Petersburg has elected a new mayor.
Instead, Selig measured his words carefully at this week’s owners meetings in Orlando and said Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is patiently waiting out the stadium debate.
That’s a much different tone than he’s taken at other owners meetings, including this summer when he said he might assign someone from baseball’s head office to intervene in the stadium impasse, to “find out exactly what the hell is going on.” On Thursday, he said he hasn’t appointed such a person yet and has no immediate plans to do so.
Selig’s strongest statement Thursday was said as he was praising the Rays owner’s patience.
“The most impatient person here is me,” Selig said.
Approached in a hallway of the conference center, the JW Marriott Grande Lakes hotel, Sternberg acknowledged speaking with the baseball commissioner about the stadium situation but declined to give specifics. He said he expects to sit down soon with St. Petersburg Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman but said no dates had been set.
Baseball’s owners and general managers gathered in Orlando this week to chat about league matters and are expected to gather in Orlando again next month for another round of meetings.
The media weren’t allowed to sit in on Thursday morning’s meeting, but Selig gave some general comments during a news conference afterward. Some city officials in St. Petersburg have said the Rays declined to pay the city any compensation for the right to break their contract at Tropicana Field, a bargaining position they believe was mandated by Selig himself.
When asked if he told the Rays to offer no contract buyout price, Selig said there have been no such discussions. He also declined to answer whether a buyout is appropriate and, if so, how much is appropriate.
“Let’s see how it unfolds,” Selig said of stadium discussions.
While Sternberg wouldn’t talk about his chat with Selig, the fact that St. Petersburg has a new mayor seemed to loom large. In the past, outgoing Mayor Bill Foster had taken a hard-line stance that the Rays honor their contract to play at Tropicana Field through 2027, although this year he has softened his stance some.
Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney overheard Sternberg’s chat with Selig and said the two men spoke about Kriseman’s victory in the mayoral race, among other things.
Earlier this week, one of baseball’s most prominent agents, Scott Boras, said the Rays should leave the Tampa Bay area to find a market that will better support the team. Sternberg, though, distanced himself from Boras’ opinion and told a Tribune reporter that he still believes in the Bay area’s viability as a baseball market.
The issue of relocation came up again during Thursday’s press conference with Selig, when a reporter mentioned that Montreal was mounting a campaign to bring Major League Baseball back to that Canadian city. The reporter didn’t specifically mention the Rays as a relocation candidate.
Selig praised Montreal’s efforts, but didn’t give any clues that baseball is considering any team’s relocation.
“We have no clubs moving, and we certainly don’t have any expansion plans,” he said.