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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred endorses Rays and Montreal, Sister City plan

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“I am 100 percent convinced and, more importantly, the other owners have been convinced.” - Rob Manfred

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Rob Menfred, left, with Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has endorsed the Rays plan to share their home games with Montreal beginning in 2028, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

This news comes from the annual MLB owners meeting, per Marc Topkin:

“I am 100 percent convinced and, more importantly, the other owners have been convinced by Stu, that this is best way to keep Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay,’’ Manfred said.

Manfred also reminded Topkin of MLB’s, “great commitment to the Tampa Bay market,’’ and discouraged talk of other solutions to the Rays Stadium Saga, saying, “Right now the focus is on the two-city alternative.’’

Previously, Manfred had described the Sister City concept as something MLB might have to “live with” — just seven months ago:

“It’s kind of in the free lunch category. There is no such thing as a free lunch. We have an issue in Tampa, it needs to get resolved somehow. If it means we give up a potential expansion site to solidify where we are, so be it.’’

It’s not clear whether it is the negotiating climate in Tampa Bay or the validity of the idea that has changed or swayed minds, but either way the Rays seem to have won over their peers and MLB’s leader to their cause.

Of course the owners are not the only folks who need to get on board. The MLB Players Association — with which the owners will need to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the near future — might have some concerns about the Sister City concept, but that does not seem of be a serious concern for the Commissioner.

Manfred acknowledged “there will be issues” with the union, “but I don’t think they’re insurmountable issues.’’

Acknowledging that there will indeed be issues is an important step forward, and something MLB may not be keen to meet head on in the public. Players and their families requiring two homes will be of a key concern for the media moving forward — of course, that will also be a concern for the team’s hundreds of employees as well, many of whom will be required to work those summer months across an international border annually.

Either way, if you’re looking for the Rays to make progress toward any deal, the statements from the Commissioner are a welcomed change from simply calling the overall Stadium Saga “challenging.”