ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Montreal’s interest in baseball continues to capture Major League Baseball’s attention, but commissioner Rob Manfred made clear Sunday his priority remains settling the stadium issues in Tampa Bay and Oakland without relocation, with expansion unlikely until both are resolved.
Speaking at Tropicana Field ahead of Tampa Bay’s season-opener with the Toronto Blue Jays, Manfred made clear that he’d continue following the lead of Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, who has long been working on finding his team a new facility in the Bay area.
At the same time, Manfred added that "we feel it’s important for the commissioner’s office to identify and work with groups in markets that don’t currently have Major League Baseball."
"We do that for two reasons," Manfred continued. "If in fact some club gets to the point that they believe it’s impossible to get a major-league quality facility built in their market, we feel it’s our obligation to have alternatives to consider in the event that a relocation becomes necessary. The second reason we look at those potential new markets is that we run a growth business, I really do believe that and over time, and we’re talking about a long period of time, growth businesses expand. …
"Sequentially, I think it’s important for Tampa Bay and Oakland to get their facility situations resolved before we move into a real active consideration of expansion."
Moving to 32 teams would help with baseball’s scheduling format and satisfy new markets, added Manfred, although it’s clear nothing is imminent.
Baseball supporters in Montreal are doing the right thing by laying groundwork for a potential return down the road, and the 106,102 fans who took in a pair of exhibition games over the weekend between the Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox continue to demonstrate some of the in-market potential.
None of that guarantees anything, as Manfred said Major League Baseball doesn’t "rank possible expansion sites," and that in decisions related to relocation or expansion, "a lot of it depends on geography, if it was the relocation of an east-coast team, you’d probably be looking for an east-coast site."
"I will say this about Montreal, it’s hard to ignore the fact that for three years running, they’ve had two exhibition games and every single year they’ve been right around 100,000 fans," Manfred continued. "That’s a great thing. It shows interest in the community, the mayor of Montreal (Denis Coderre) has been aggressive about expressing his desire to bring Montreal back to baseball, and I think they understand that baseball isn’t going back to Montreal to play in the old Olympic Stadium – that’s not going to happen. So those are all positives with respect to Montreal."