NEW YORK — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics need to reach new stadium deals quickly and left open the possibility of considering a relocation if deals aren’t reached.
“There is urgency when it comes to Tampa,” Manfred said Thursday at a news conference following a meeting of owners. “There has to be a resolution in the Tampa Bay area for the Rays.”
Tampa Bay’s lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season. team to split its season between Florida and Montreal.
“Obviously the end of this lease is a tough deadline, but you have to take into account that stadiums take a bit of time to build, don’t you?” said Manfred. “So we’re getting to the point where, wherever in the region that has an interest in having 162 baseball games, they have to get on with it, get along with the club – I know the Rays are eager to do something about it. — and see if a deal can be struck.”
When asked if he was considering moving, Manfred replied, “Right now I’m focused on Tampa,” emphasizing “right now” and later adding that he was referring to the region, not to the specific side of the bay. “I think a great man once said that all good things must come to an end at some point. And right now, we’re focused on Tampa.”
The Athletics have played at the Coliseum since 1968 and their lease expires after the 2024 season. The A’s have proposed a new ballpark at the Howard Terminal and are working with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to secure the necessary approvals.
“There’s really significant activity in Oakland. The political process has moved forward tremendously,” Manfred said. “I met with Mayor Schaaf last week. She’s done a really good job moving the process forward in Oakland. But as you all know, political processes in California are their own kind of animal. There’s some work to do on the Oakland side. I think the A’s have cautiously continued to pursue the Las Vegas alternative. We like Las Vegas as a market. Again, it’s in the same category as Tampa. We we need a solution in these two markets and the time has come for this solution.
Oakland has averaged a major league low of 8,283 fans this season and the Rays are 25th with 13,740, also ahead of Miami, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
On other topics:
• The new competition committee will evaluate a kick-off clock and limits on defensive changes, and Manfred hopes for a recommendation before spring training,
• MLB has approved the sale of a minority stake in the Cleveland Guardians to David Blitzer, co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Blitzer will have the right to increase its stake to majority ownership in several years.
• MLB hopes to increase digital gaming offerings at a time when cable viewership is declining.
“We are concerned about our reach,” Manfred said. “We think we have fans who want to watch baseball, who don’t think they have an adequate opportunity to do so.”
Apple is showing Friday night games this season and Peacock is showing Sunday morning games starting at 11:30 a.m. and noon EDT.
“We view the Apple and Peacock companies as part of the effort to respond to a rapidly changing media environment,” Manfred said. “Having a relationship with Peacock and more broadly with NBC – important to us in the long term. And Apple is an innovator, and we need to be innovative in our efforts to bring games to fans on platforms they frequently use and visit. “
• On the proposed international project. The employment contract set July 25 as the deadline for reaching an agreement with the players’ association.
“Our concern and I think it has been well documented over time are situations where clubs commit to players before they are technically of signing age,” Manfred said. “There are individuals involved in these negotiations who are taking a very large chunk of the compensation that really should be going to the player, in the first place.”
Manfred said MLB sent millions to fight corruption in the Dominican Republic.
“It’s easy to say it’s the people who cut the check who are engaging in bribery, but someone takes the check, right?” he said.
• On the new minor league housing policy.
“It’s been difficult because of the shortage of housing, the availability of the type of housing you want,” he said. “We will improve over time.”
• On whether moving last year’s Georgia All-Star Game to voting rights will lead to decisions to locate events based on other political issues such as gun control and reproductive rights.
“Individual clubs,” he said, “are going to make decisions about where they want to be in their market on particular issues. But I think the overriding idea is to be as welcoming to the as many people as possible.”
• On Michele Meyer-Shipp’s resignation as director of human resources and culture last September after about a year with MLB. His responsibilities were divided between Billy Bean, senior vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion; April Brown, vice president for social responsibility; Regan Waters White, senior vice president of human resources; and Mike Hill, senior vice president of field operations.
• Former President George W. Bush – the former owner of the Texas Rangers – was Wednesday’s guest speaker.