I admit it. When it was announced that Joe Maddon had opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays weeks after general manager Andrew Friedman also left, I let my thoughts wander.
I wondered if the Rays – who weren’t drawing when they were winning – could sustain a rebuilding period without its two most recognizable architects. And, I wondered what that would mean if the team had to look elsewhere.
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And then, later that day, the New York Post reported that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg talked to Wall Street executives about moving a team to Montreal. It allowed my thoughts to wander a little more.
Sternberg, as you may know, has been a believer in Montreal for years and has talked openly about the city, although being sure to mention it won’t be the Rays moving here.
This was the first time that the team was linked to the city besides those speculative stories linking city that wants baseball back and team that is failing.
Those stories, as any Montreal baseball fan knows, happen often and usually without any real threat. As I wrote before, a team using a city to twist the arm of local governments is as normal as peanut butter and jelly.
However, there are several really interesting developments since then as well. When I had started this piece, I was thinking about local ownership and one name came out more than any other: Bell.
Bell and Rogers are competing on the sports media landscape in a tremendous battle. Rogers wins the hockey bid, TSN immediately re-signs all of their most recognizable staff. They are also co-owners of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the group that is responsible for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto FC.
Oh, and Rogers owns the Toronto Blue Jays. I always thought it would make sense for the two Canadian Telecoms to compete if there were thoughts of bringing a team back to Montreal.
Well, as it turns out, La Presse has not only said that interested investors have met with Major League Baseball and Tampa Bay Rays representatives, but they have also named the investors group that may be interested in bringing baseball back.
Among those? Bell, Stephen Bronfman, Mitch Garber (CEO of Caesars Acquisition) and Larry Rossy (CEO of Dollarama). The names make sense. The timing makes sense.
It does not mean that it is imminent. There will need to be a new stadium in the works before a team even starts the paperwork to come to Montreal. Olympic Stadium can only work as a short-term solution with a new stadium confirmed and in progress.
With the current state of affairs in Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments, there will likely not be a lot of public funding. That means that the Montreal group will likely have to bring some money to the table.
And that’s where cynics will say that there is a big difference between being interested in owning a team and actually investing.
The other caveat is that Sternberg has no interest in selling. Which means that the Montreal group may only be minority shareholders which means less of a commitment but the team would still have a local flair to it.
There are still lots of hurdles to go through. However, one major one was cleared with the news of the Montreal group. It’s another reason I can let my thoughts wander just a bit more.