There’s a non-stop onslaught of press interviews that takes place throughout the duration of the MLB All-Star Game. Whether it’s the collected masses descending on Manny Machado demanding he speculate where he’ll be traded, or the generally banal series of questions about how it feels to make the All-Star team, it seems someone always has a microphone in their face.
On Tuesday, ahead of the big game itself, one of the men who found himself at the center of the media’s attention was baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. While most of his points seemed to be directly intended to counter things said my MLBPA president Tony Clark — who was interviewed right before — some of what he said stood on its own. And a surprising amount of what he said revolved around the Rays.
Let’s recap what Manfred had to say about the Tampa Bay franchise.
About that pesky grievance filing
Ahead of the 2018 regular season, the MLB Player’s Association filed a grievance against four teams: the Rays, the A’s, the Pirates, and the Marlins. In their grievance they claimed the four teams were not complying with the rules of revenue sharing. At the time, Manfred said that “salaries are going in line with revenues.” Today he was a bit more barbed in his response, when he told press:
“In this case, we’re all big boys, but I think really for publicity reasons, they filed a grievance and we are now going back and forth with the union in what I would call the investigatory phase that usually precedes a grievance. … I mean, literally they want to sit down and talk to clubs about why they made what decisions they made. I don’t know why they would file a grievance saying they’ve made inappropriate decisions without first learning why they made those decisions, but, you know, their prerogative.”
If you want to get to the heart of Manfred’s very polite phrasing, he basically just said the MLBPA filed a groundless grievance claim with no evidence to back it up, just for publicity.
About the new Rays stadium
Manfred, who has also been open about his willingness to expand the MLB into new cities, was downright enthusiastic about the plans presented by the Rays recently for their new Tampa-based stadium.
During his press conference he spoke positively of Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg. “I am a fan of Mr. Sternberg’s creative ability and persuasive ability in terms of getting something done, I really am. I think he’s going to get this done.’’ He was also effusive in his belief that the Tampa Bay area can continue to support a major league franchise. “To me, Tampa-St Pete is a major-league market. And I think Stu believes that, and that’s equally important. And that’s why we’ve spent so much time and effort there.’’
At the end of the day though, nothing is a done deal, and Manfred seemed very aware of it. “The industry is not neutral on this. The industry subsidizes, through revenue sharing, both franchises in Florida, and need to get them as strong as we possibly can as quick as we can.” So in spite of his projected excitement, it’s clear that if the new Ybor stadium can’t lock down financial backing, the MLB may still be open to moving elsewhere. Manfred did more than imply a sense of urgency in this matter. “We’re at a point in time where we need to figure out how those economics are going to come together. And the point’s now. The point’s now.’’
Considering how many topics were covered in Tuesday’s press conference (including Tony Clark’s implications that some sort of back-handed robbery was happening to free agents) it’s impressive that Manfred took as much time as he did to focus on the Rays. While his comments were positive overall, the message at the end of the day is clear: Tampa Bay needs to get the stadium job done, or their baseball dreams may be over.