"We were optimistic that this was moving in a very positive direction," Selig said. "Unfortunately, we're stalled. It's serious enough that in the last 48 hours, I've given very strong consideration to assigning someone from MLB to get involved in this process and find out what's going on.
"They've been a model organization, extraordinarily capable. Under this ownership, they've done everything in their power to make their ballpark situation work. They have a very, very, very competitive club. Years have ticked by with no progress to resolve the situation. And frankly -- and this is coming directly from me -- baseball needs a resolution to this problem."
That sound you just heard, echoing across Our Great Land? That was the chattering teeth of St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who must be absolutely terrified by the thought of Commissioner Bud assigning someone to explore the possibility of floating a list of candidates for a Special Blue Ribbon Committee that might someday draw up recommendations in a non-binding memo.
The good news is that Foster's up for reëlection later this month. The bad news is that he's leading in the polls. The worst news is that it probably doesn't matter who's mayor, because no mayor wants to be held responsible for the city's most successful sports team leaving town. To this point, there's not been anything approaching a compelling reason for the city to release the Rays from what's essentially an ironclad lease that runs through 2027.
Essentially, the Rays have accompanied their pleas with nothing but a "Please?"
Which isn't going to get it done, obviously. If the Rays and -- now maybe with one of Commissioner Bud's flunkies involved -- Major League Baseball really want something to happen, they're going to have to indemnify St. Petersburg for the loss of the city's most successful sports team. A few months ago, owner Stuart Sternberg alluded to this possibility, but it's pretty clear that no progress has been made. And who knows what it would take?
Would $50 million be enough? I doubt it. What about $100 million? Hey, maybe. I suspect that St. Pete could use $100 million right now, and mayors do love spending money. And for Major League Baseball, $100 million is a rounding error.
Ah, but then there's the dreaded precedent. Can anyone remember the last time that Major League Baseball wrote a check to a local government? Because I sure can't. And I'll bet nobody wants to start now.
I think that's what it will take, though. It's probably that, or playing indoors before tiny crowds for another 14 seasons.
Unless the Blue Ribbon Committee figures out something else.
Hey, it worked in Oakland.