Muscle Sport Magazine

Tampa Bay Rays Bringing Success To Montreal?

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Regardless of the outcome of the American League Division Series versus the Houston Astros, the Tampa Bay Rays have enjoyed an amazing season with not only a playoff run, but a 90-plus win campaign accomplished with the lowest payroll in baseball – which is less than half the league average, as well. ‘Moneyball’ may be one thing, but the Rays have rewrote the book (and the movie, we suppose) by ousting the Oakland Athletics (who are 25th out of the 30 teams in payroll – nearly one-third more than the Rays) in the AL Wild Card game.

It gets even more impressive when factoring in that veteran ace Charlie Morton pockets $15 million of the $64,178,722 total.

But no matter how far this team goes, it is a major possibility that they eventually will be a two-city club, splitting their home games between Tampa Bay and Montreal due to the situation with their home field Tropicana Stadium and their failure to draw ‘crowds’ that are less than what many low-level and independent minor league ballparks do.

Even hardcore baseball fans would be hard-pressed to name even a handful of Rays players. A no-name group, for sure, but one that played with intensity and a penchant for late inning heroics from the likes of cast-offs like Travis d’Arnaud, who was with the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers this season before being acquired by Tampa Bay. The oft-injured catcher may still be in the process of shaking off the ‘bust’ label, but is a starter and hit .251 with 16 home runs and 69 RBI in 103 games.

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Then there’s Austin Meadows, the Rays number one pick (ninth overall) in 2013 and playing in his first full big league season. The outfielder batted .291 and had some impressive production with 33 long balls, 89 RBI, 29 doubles and seven triples.

The aforementioned Morton is a veteran with postseason experience and his signing as a top-level free agent was a surprise, considering that the Rays are not exactly known for having an open checkbook. But the right-hander was inked to a three-year, $45 million contract and delivered a 16-6, 3.05 ERA with 240 strike outs ace-like campaign.

MLB has granted the Rays permission to explore a viable alternative to a ghastly outdated Trop in Montreal, although there is a sea of red tape even if Rays owner Stuart Sternberg finds a potential home away from home up north. The plan – at least on paper – is for both cities to build new  – albeit smaller – open-air stadiums and the Rays would play from April to June in Florida then go north of the border from July on.

But therein lies the main issue; Tampa has already turned down a proposed new stadium and if another ballpark is built in the Sunshine State, then why split the season?

Then there’s another roadblock with the Rays lease at the ancient white-roofed disaster of a dome and it is said to be ‘iron clad’ through 2027. Ownership has not exactly made many wise decisions and if not for the creativity of general manager Erik Neander, they would be in an even worse situation then they currently are.

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