Column/‘Tampa Bay of Montreal’ won’t work

Latest reports surrounding Major League Baseball indicate that the Tampa Bay Rays will split time between Florida and Montreal, Quebec, Canada in the future.

If this becomes a reality, what a joke. It has to be.

A professional team, regardless of the sport, will split its home games between two cities? How’s that going to work?

So many questions arise. First, what do you call it? The Tampa Bay/Montreal (insert team nickname here)? Maybe the Tampa Bay (insert team nickname here) of Montreal, or vice versa?

Speaking of insert team nickname here, what would be the team’s name? Some rumors are suggesting combining the two and calling them the Xrays. This is the only part that sounds kind of cool. A combination of the Expos and Rays, this makes sense, but it shouldn’t.

It sounds like the first half of the season would be played in Tampa Bay, while the second would see home contests in Montreal. What does that do for season-ticket holders? Half-seasons only? Make sure you buy two houses to keep up with the Xrays. Also, if that’s the case, then the playoffs would occur in Canada, and Florida would be left out of extra cash.

There are just too many questions to answer. Another one is where would they play in Montreal? They can’t expect crowds in the old Olympic Stadium. If people think Tropicana Field is horrible, just look a little further up north. It’s not going to make sense to build two new stadiums for 81 games only.

Seriously, why can’t MLB find a new permanent home for the Rays? Obvioulsy, them in Tampa Bay is not working, I get it. Splitting time is not the solution.

There have to be plenty of cities that would love to have an MLB franchise. According to stadiumtalk.com, Montreal is one of those cities. I’ll get back to that later on why it doesn’t and why it left in the first place.

The other cities sound like it would work. Before writing this column, Nashville, Tenn., was the first that came to mind. The city already has the Predators in the NHL and the Titans in the NFL.

Charlotte, N.C., has the Hornets in the NBA and the Panthers in the NFL. Plus, it would always be warm and sunny. Many tourists visit North Carolina for yearly vacations, so the city would draw a lot of extra revenue and have another tourist attraction to sell.

Portland, Ore., I can see it working, too, but not as well as the first two listed. Granted, those that live in Portland love their Trail Blazers in the NBA. The place always looks packed and full of energy.

Sacremento, Calif., is another option, but do we really need another franchise in California? Aren’t the Angels, Athletics, Padres and Dodgers enough?

Las Vegas makes a lot of sense. With the success of the Golden Knights in the NHL, the Oakland Raiders will draw even more revenue. So, an MLB team in Vegas also would be a smash hit.

Another option suggests Havana in Cuba. Eh, seems like a lot of work and travel for visiting players. At least Toronto, Canada, is within proximity.

There are other cities listed on the website, including Salt Lake City, San Antonio and a host of others. The ones listed seem like the better destinations.

Now, there’s no question that those who reside in Montreal would absolutely love to have a team there once again. However, if they’re that passionate, then they should have shown up more and not let the Expos become the Washington Nationals.

Attendance for the Miami Marlins has been terrible in recent years, but the Expos were just as bad, if not worse. According to attendance numbers posted on espn.com, Montreal’s figures were embarrassing.

Before relocating for the 2005 season in the nation’s capital, the Expos drew the worst attendance from 2001-04 (the attendance figures only go back to as far as 2001). Each year, they had less than one million fans attend the games in total and averaged less than 15,000 per game. Beginning in 2001, the average attendance per game per year were: 7,647; 9,048; 12,662 and 9,356. What exactly sparked in 2003 is anybody’s guess. But, less than 10,000 in ther final season, and fans wonder why the team moved?

Granted, those teams were horrible and losing money faster than the Pittsburgh Pirates or Cleveland Indians. Yet, if you love your franchise that much, it shouldn’t matter that much. Yes, it’s tough to attend games when you don’t think your team can win. The point is, if you want your team to stay, show it.

Rays fans don’t have this excuse. During the franchise’s run to the 2008 World Series, Tampa Bay was 26th in the league in total attendance (averaging 22,259 per contest). I’m assuming the number dramatically increased towards the end of the season when the Rays were in contention.

Numbers slowly began increasing the next two seasons, but then 2011 came. That year, Tampa Bay was 29th (only Oakland was worse). The following six seasons, it was the worst and moved back to 29th place last year (Miami came in last place). Oh, and the Rays were competitive for most of those seasons.

New stadiums can draw bigger crowds, no doubt. Just take the Indians after Progressive Field opened in 1994. There’s a reason the fans sold out games 455 consecutive times. And, the Indians were in the playoffs every year. If they weren’t, the attendance would be worse, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be by a whole lot, but who knows for sure.

I don’t believe Tampa Bay and Montreal would get new facilities. Sounds like the Xrays would play half seasons in the two worst ballparks in MLB. Move them to a new, permanent home with a new stadium and new fan base. That’s the only way the Rays’ franchise will be saved from humiliation.

What’s guaranteed is baseball in Tampa Bay is officially dead.


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