Rays Nix Sign Advertising Plan to Split Team Between Tampa Bay, Montreal

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IISeptember 29, 2021

A singer, right, performs the national anthem below red, white and blue lights at Tropicana Field before a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
AP Photo/Steve Nesius

Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced on the team's pregame radio show Tuesday (h/t Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times) that the team has scrapped plans to advertise the franchise's desire to split future seasons between Tampa and Montreal.

"I'm really here to speak directly to our fans today," Sternberg said. "And to apologize, quite frankly. I've always said that baseball is meant to be fun and engaging and exciting. Brings a community together.

"I made a big mistake, a real mistake, in trying to promote our sister-city plan with a sign right now in our home ballpark. I absolutely should have known better. And really, I'm sorry for that. I'm here to tell ... the fans that the sign is not going to go up."

Rays president Matt Silverman said on last Saturday's This Week in Rays Baseball radio show (h/t Topkin) that the team was going to advertise its plan on the outfield wall during the playoffs.

"We're going to add a sign in the right-field foul territory with a very simple Tampa Bay Montreal graphic," Silverman said.

"Especially with the eyes of baseball on us this October, we want that visible symbol of our plan and our excitement for it. It will mark the effort subtly and keep the focus on winning."

The American League East champions are scheduled to begin their division series on Oct. 7 against a to-be-determined opponent.

The Rays' Tropicana Field lease is set to expire in 2027.

Sternberg told Topkin last December that the proposed move is the "only option in my mind":

"We are getting toward 2028 and you can't snap your fingers and just have the stadium show up. It's getting trickier and trickier by the year to get something done. This year certainly set things back, but fortunately we've got a strong group of people who work for us and we've got a very motivated group of people in Montreal who want us. And I think we have a plan that makes incredible sense. At least it does to me. And we're going to try to see it through."

But Sternberg admitted that the timing of the advertising in relation to the team's impending postseason run was an issue:

"There's been a lot. There's been a lot written about it nationally, locally, in blogs and on sites. I know we have passionate fans who love this team. And I'm forever grateful for that. And that passion shows itself in many ways.
"The last thing I want to do is discourage any of that passion. The mistake I made here is directing that passion away from the field. Our fans deserve to be focused on Wander Franco, Randy Arozarena, Brandon Lowe. This has been an absolutely wonderful season. And it's not over yet, obviously. There'll be time to discuss and debate the future of Rays baseball. Right now it's time to enjoy Rays baseball."

Tampa Bay is in Houston for a three-game series against the Astros, and the Rays only need one win to clinch home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. The Rays also need to win just three of their next six games to earn 100 regular-season victories for the first time in franchise history.

They look like the team to beat in the AL as they search for their second consecutive World Series appearance.

Naturally, any advertising regarding the potential of the team spending future seasons in Montreal drew the ire of fans, but that idea has now been axed as the Rays look forward to potentially winning their first World Series title since the team's MLB debut in 1998.