Sunday morning’s Tampa Bay Times featured another editorial attacking Mayor Bill Foster’s handling of the Stadium Saga; specifically, his memo criticizing MLB Commissioner Bud Selig for interfering with negotiations between the city and the Rays:
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster wants to blame baseball commissioner Bud Selig for his own failures. Selig is hardly a sympathetic character, but he’s not the reason stadium negotiations between the city and the Tampa Bay Rays are stalled. The reason is Foster’s lack of leadership and poor negotiating skills, and the stalemate is more evidence that St. Petersburg needs a new mayor.
The Times suggests any recent progress is a result of Foster’s political opportunism (well, every issue in an election year is political). And any lack of progress is a result of Foster’s lack of leadership.
But do the Times‘ editorial-writers have any idea what’s happening in the closed-door negotiations between St. Pete and the Rays?
Do they really not care that the league and team are reportedly refusing to consider any compensation for breaking St. Pete’s contract early? Do they really not care the Rays have yet to even indicate support for the presumed starting point for negotiations – the proposed “Pay-to-Stray” amendment put forward by councilman Charlie Gerdes?
The editorial may not think Selig is a sympathetic character, but it seems to have a lot of sympathy for him:
What prompted Foster’s abrupt outburst last week that indicated talks have broken down? It should not have been Selig’s recent complaints about the pace of the negotiations. The baseball commissioner naturally is interested in the economics of baseball revenue sharing and doesn’t want the less profitable franchises to keep being propped up by the others.
At least the Times recognizes the Rays are profitable and MLB’s M.O. is to increase its $8 billion/yr revenue numbers. And a new stadiumwould merely reduce how much money teams like the Red Sox and Yankees ship to Tampa Bay.
It also would be no surprise if the private talks broke down because Foster overplayed his hand. This mayor does not have a good reputation for negotiating in good faith and finding reasonable middle ground, whether it’s with the Rays over the stadium, or Pinellas County over the EMS system, or the city of Tampa over bills for the Republican National Convention.
(Mayoral challenger Rick) Kriseman pledges to negotiate with the Rays on allowing the team to look at stadium sites in Tampa. His suggestion that the Rays lower ticket prices in return is intriguing. But there are bigger issues to consider: How much would the Rays pay toward demolishing Tropicana Field? How would they help the city prepare the site for redevelopment? How much would they pay the city to leave for a new stadium in Tampa before the Trop lease expired?
So practically in the same breath the editorial board criticizes Foster for being stubborn in negotiations, it calls upon the Rays to answer questions they’ve not shown any willingness to publicly address yet. Questions from elected leaders and media alike get frequent “no comment” responses from the Rays.
But once again, the Times casts Foster as its foil. And once again, the Rays get a free pass from the paper.
Cross-posted from the award-winning Shadow of the Stadium blog.