Today, according to Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times, Stu Sternberg will formally meet with Mayor Rick Kriseman for the first time since the Rays announced a desire to explore a split residency between St. Petersburg and Montreal.
In this meeting, it is assumed that Sternberg and Rays President (good cop) Brian Auld will formally ask for permission to explore the two-stadium solution, a proposal Kriseman has been hearing about from the Rays informally for some time. We do not know whether Kriseman is inclined to grant this request. He has previously said that any permission to talk to Montreal would come at a cost.
Importantly, Mayor Kriseman and his hard line are backed up by an interesting passage in the Tropicana Field use agreement:
Section 11.01 Exclusive Dealings. While this Agreement is in effect, neither the CITY, nor any of its agents or employees will enter int, initiate or conduct any agreement or negotiations (directly or indirectly), with any person or entity (other than the CLUB) concerning the management of the DOME by any third party or the use of the DOME by any other MLB franchise. Likewise, during such period, neither the CLUB nor any of its respective parties, principals, directors, officers, employees, owners, or agents will enter into, initiate or conduct any agreement or negotiations (directly or indirectly) for the use of any facility other than the DOME for the Home Games of the Franchise except to the extent permitted by Section 2.04. The parties recognize that any violation of this provision will result in irreparable harm and damages that are not readily calculable. Accordingly, as a non-exclusive remedy, in addition to any damages that may be deemed to be appropriate, the CITY and the CLUB acknowledge that each party shall be entitled to injunctive relief in the event of a violation of this Section by any other party.
I’m not here to talk lawyer; I’m not a lawyer. Rather, my attention was drawn to one line in the Tampa Bay Times story about today’s meeting:
The two-hour meeting is set for the old St. Petersburg police headquarters building, which is serving as a temporary City Hall while the real one undergoes renovations.
Wait, that sounds reasonable, let’s remove some context.
The two-hour meeting is set for the old St. Petersburg police headquarters building.
There we go. That’s what caught my eye . . .
The following is a fiction. It is definitely not factual. We leave it to you to decide whether or not it’s true.
It’s been a hard few weeks, for you in particular. You take your job seriously, as team president, and believe that when business and community act together in a true partnership, great things can happen. So it hurts you, Brian Auld, when the community doesn’t seem to think of you as a partner.
I mean, you’re a very proud organization. You’re proud of your high minimum wage and your family leave policy. You’re proud of the playgrounds. Your proud of the posters. The Trop is really not that bad anymore. And the staff! The staff is friendly. Why are they friendly? Because you pay them! Because they love the organization you’ve built.
You made a suite for foster kids, and you help them find good homes with forever families. Don’t you need a good home, too? A forever family?
You chuckle at that thought. Not the same. Bad marketing slogan. Let’s forget that one. You’re doing fine in St. Pete, and you know it. Yes, the attendance is low, but the ratings are pretty good, consistently No. 1 on cable.
And you, as team president, really do try to do the right things, for the right reasons.
As you pass the picture of Akinori Iwamura leaping off second base, you smile. First trip to the World Series. Only trip to the World Series. You wonder, if you had won, would you be here right now? On the way to Stu’s office, in a stadium you’re trying to leave?
You don’t know why Stu called.
Firsts aren’t always good. You still wonder about going cashless—did the rollout go badly because you were first, or were you just not ready? You know that innovation isn’t a value. At least you tell yourself that you know. I mean, how many unbanked fans are you really excluding? Can a policy be symbolically discriminatory if it has no real effect?
Anyway, it’s going fine now. You’re sure Stu wants to talk about something else, but how many vendors are still taking cash in the stands? Is that number going down? Have you innovated enough?
You shake yourself out of it as you reach Stu’s door. You put most of the money going cashless saved back into the team, and into the community—you’re the good guys! At least you think you did. And nobody who accused you of discrimination wrote a follow up story, so it must not have been such a big deal. You’re ready to talk about it if that’s what this is about.
A quick knock, and you open the door. “What’s up, boss?”
Sternberg’s back is to you as he stands, hands clasped behind him, looking out the large bay window. His office is clean and bright, the Florida sun playing over the white-stained desk and three curvy 1920s futurist chairs.
They’re new chairs, actually. You think that’s funny. The principal owner of the Rays, a team that prides itself on relentless newness, bought chairs for his office made by a contemporary designer to evoke the future that past designers thought would be now.
You like that about Stu. He’s the wistful sort, always reflecting on the future that wasn’t chosen. You sometimes think he’d be happiest going back to try out the other choices. Like if the Dodgers had stayed in Brooklyn. Or if the Rays had pulled the trigger for Cliff Lee.
“They want to meet with us,” Sternberg says.
“That’s fantastic!” you reply. “I really do believe we can all come to an agreement here.”
You know exactly who "they" are. You’ve been in contact with the mayor’s office for weeks, laying the groundwork for this meeting, and there’s a lot at stake. For one, the organization might have already broken the use agreement, even if you and your boss didn’t mean to do so in a bad way. You just wanted to get the ball rolling, and Bronfman loves to talk. You couldn’t make him stop. So now it’s time to make it right.
Yes, Article XI was there to keep the Rays from ever pressuring the city into paying for a new stadium, and yes, that’s sort of what you’re doing, but everything can be smoothed over with a bit of money, and your requests aren’t unreasonable. I mean, after all, Kriseman wants you off that land anyway. It’s a goldmine in redevelopment possibilities.
Now you really just need Stu to play his part. Be conciliatory. He’s not a bad guy, just sometimes a loose talker. As long as he doesn’t say outright that he’s already set the terms of a sale to Bronfman, with stadium funding as a part of it all, things should be fine.
“At the old police station,” Sternberg says.
“They want to meet us at the old police station.”
“But we always meet at city hall. That’s where one goes to meet the Mayor.”
“Yeah, I don’t know. This is all they said.” Sternberg beckons you around to look at his computer screen.
No one from Baseball Ops? Does he mean Silverman? Just dabbling with trading David Price doesn’t mean you’re always baseball operations. You and Silverman share the title of President gladly. It keeps the band together. You’re not ready to break up the Beatles. Were you ever the Beatles? Why does he only want to talk with me? It seems rude.
Choose your own adventure: Do you go to the meeting?
- Yes, you go. The location is weird, but you’re the good guys here—the innovative good guys who keep everybody’s minds open—and you have nothing to fear from the Mayor.
- The venue means they’re sending you a message, and you receive it loud and clear. The use agreement is ironclad, and you’re trapped in the DOME.
- It’s a challenge. The Mayor thinks he has you, but there’s a way out of every trap.