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Matt Silverman: Would be “better and easier” to move the Rays to another city

“... we’re going through a lot of the pain and suffering”

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MLB: FEB 19 Rays Spring Training Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

Rays Radio’s Neil Solondz has been in San Diego this week at the Winter Meetings, recording podcasts along the way. His most recent featured Rays President Matt Silverman, who shed light on what his conversations are like at the Winter Meetings, where the focus invariably comes back to the proposed split-city plan with Montreal.

Here is how Silverman attempted to clarify the team’s position yesterday afternoon:

Here at the meetings, and when Brian [Auld] and I are at the owner’s meetings, we get questions from other team officials, executives, from former players, and they say, “Why are you trying so hard to save baseball in Tampa Bay, why don’t you just do the easy thing and move it to Nashville, or Portland, or Vegas, or some place that’s really excited and ready to take on a team?”

You know, maybe from a financial perspective — an ownership perspective — that would be better and easier, but for us it’s about making sure that baseball works and thrives in Tampa Bay, and that’s why we’re going through a lot of the pain and suffering that goes along with trying to get this plan to a reality.

Because we believe in it, and we believe that — when we come out the other side, whether that’s in 2028 or potentially a couple years sooner — this is gonna be incredible for the franchise, for baseball fans in Tampa Bay, and we’re gonna be a part of something that is unique and sort of paves the way for the future of sports.

You can listen to the full podcast here, with Silverman’s comments above captured at the 18:30 timestamp:

Three things stand out about the Montreal Proposal from Silverman’s statements:

  1. “better and easier” — Silverman appears to be admitting that the Montreal proposal is neither the best decision for the Tampa Bay Rays, nor is it the path of least resistance. That does not mean the proposal is not more lucrative for the franchise than the status quo, but it is possibly not the most lucrative either.
  2. “pain and suffering” — Because there is, indeed, quite a lot of resistance to this plan, from local politicians to the fanbase. The Rays front office claims in small group settings they are able to convince people of the sense of the proposal, but en masse and on an individual basis the Proposal has yet to take hold, which makes no one’s job easier.
  3. “an ownership perspective” — Unfortunately, the front office continues to offer the Montreal proposal from the perspective of ownership first. Silverman does make note of fans benefiting toward the end of his comments, but it seems to be an afterthought.

If the Rays front office would like to change the narrative around the Montreal proposal — which Silverman “believes in” and members of the front office continue to sincerely pursue — the conversation needs to shift to the fans and the players themselves, and away from the financial benefits for the franchise.

As the talking points continue to center on how ownership can profit without robbing Tampa Bay of some major league baseball on its shores, the public at large will continue to feel alienated by the proposal.

When Silverman is saying the team would be “better” financially or “easier” personally to give up and move to another town, it does not come off as a concession, it comes off as a threat. If the Rays want the public to believe them, that needs to change.