SAN DIEGO – Scott Boras says the Tampa Bay Rays would be better off in Montreal.
Baseball’s best-known player agent made his annual appearance at the Winter Meetings Wednesday, answering questions on a wide variety of subjects for a massive scrum of reporters. When the Rays came up, Boras suggested they’d be better off in Canada.
“I do wonder that,” he said. “I’ve always thought Montreal was a tremendous major league city and I think it’s a town that if you put a ballpark there and particularly with the communications broadcasting rights and such that are there, that it would be a tremendous success and a very valued point for baseball.”
The Rays averaged an MLB-worst 17,857 per home game in 2014, but they remain optimistic about funding and building a new stadium. Owner Stuart Sternberg recently obtained approval to begin exploring new stadium sites, a development that could lead to a replacement for Tropicana Field.
“I’m not taking this team out of the area,” Sternberg told reporters Tuesday. “But that’s me, and the chances of me owning this team in 2023 if we don’t have a new stadium are probably nil. Somebody else will take it and move it. It’s not a threat, it’s just the reality.”
Boras says that reality exists because local business deals and media rights aren’t lucrative enough to support a Rays team that opposes iconic, big-market franchises including the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
The Montreal Expos played in the National League from 1969-2004, but they struggled throughout the latter part of their existence due to the struggling Canadian dollar, the shortcomings of Olympic Stadium and flagging support from local businesses, to name a few reasons.
Since the Expos left Montreal for Washington, MLB has strengthened revenue sharing across the sport, and TV revenues have skyrocketed. Boras says these changes would help make the difference between failure and success.
“You’d have the ability to sell National League baseball to Canada,” he said. “You’d have 45 million people, I believe [in Canada] and you’ve got something that they don’t currently have.”
While a new stadium in Montreal would require tremendous amounts of support at the league and municipal levels, Boras says there's already enough fan support in Montreal.
“I think that we have a generation of families that grew up with Major League Baseball that are now wage earners," he said. "I think it has a chance to be far more successful than some of the other cities that we have baseball in now.”
The Blue Jays played a two-game spring training series against the New York Mets before the 2014 season and Toronto has plans to play the Cincinnati Reds before the 2015 campaign. While the games were tremendous successes that impressed MLB decision makers, a pair of exhibitions couldn’t possibly establish whether baseball would thrive over the course of 81 home games.
Every agent around wants teams to spend, so cynics might suggest Boras is merely using Montreal to put pressure on the Rays and increase the value of his players' contracts. But he could use any city to accomplish that.
By going out of his way to point to Montreal, Boras is creating a little extra buzz for a city that’s slowly working its way back onto MLB’s radar.