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Earlier today, Evan Drellich penned a great article on Stu Sternberg’s flawed Sister City plan that is a must read.

Here is my response with eternal gratitude for having courage to finally stop blaming Rays fans and put the spotlight on the true Villain in this story: Sternberg.

Evan, thank you so much for finally bringing some national attention to how Sternberg is playing the Tampa Bay market and its fans for fools and to a very large degree, the other MLB owners as well. The “Sister City” plan is complete folly and a mis-direction play.

It’s a new spin on the age-old baseball tradition of threatening municipalities to build them taxpayer funded stadiums, or we will move somewhere else. But give our local villain, “Stu-ella de Vil” some credit for creativity and greed here! Why block one city out of a billion dollars when you can get two cities, two TV contracts (maybe three with a French speaking partner in Montreal!) He’s going for the greed grand slam! But as you so aptly pointed out, the plan is littered with obstacles from MLBPA consent, Blue Jays consent, owner’s approval, getting two cities to build you stadiums for half a season and getting two fan bases to be loyal, even though the team is not! Just a ridiculous idea.

But Sternberg has miscalculated this time with his latest PR blunder. By announcing they are going to tout his silly plan during the playoffs ON THE DAY HIS TEAM COULD CLINCH THE AL EAST IN FRONT OF THE FIRST SELL OUT CROWD! He’s pissed off even the most loyal fans! Not to mention, stealing the spotlight from his own players, coaches, and front office! An amazing accomplishment usurped by the greedy little tone-deaf owner. I’ve been covering this stadium saga for multiple media outlets here in Tampa Bay for over a decade.

There is so much I can say here but it comes down to this. Sternberg is the issue, plain and simple. He has played three St. Pete Mayors, the Hillsborough County Commission, The Rays 100 (A group of high level financial, political and community leaders) all against each other to get a fully funded taxpayer stadium. This Montreal mess is just the latest tactic to run out the clock on the 2027 lease deadline and gain more leverage to move to another city. Attendance issues are multifaceted beginning with the worst demographic/geographic location in sports with only 670K people within a 30-minute drive of the Trop (less than half the next lowest MLB stadium!) A horrible, obsolete, uninspiring mausoleum of a stadium and a penny-pinching owner that continues to flip off the entire fanbase at every turn!

I’ve heard from thousands of folks, who used to be loyal fans, who flat refuse to go to any games because of HIM! He’s poisoned the business/political community by refusing to negotiate in good faith and is even holding the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site hostage with unreasonable demands. Keeping residents from affordable housing, new retail and convention center business that could benefit hundreds of thousands of St. Pete residents with great jobs and opportunities.

If not for local media inexplicably going to bat for him on a daily basis, he would have been run out of town like the last failed owner, Vince Naimoli, who was removed by the commissioner for less egregious crimes! Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned that his own limited partners are suing him for grossly violating the partnership agreement accusing him of stealing $500 Million in Rays future TV revenue and shifting it to another company he solely owns! All the while crying poor, getting $60-70 Million in revenue sharing from the clueless MLB owners and blaming the fans for his low payroll! What a scam!

According to your article, it seems the other MLB owners are catching on! That’s huge news! It gives Commissioner Manfred the power and opportunity to ride in on his White Stallion, remove Sternberg, fix the stadium and attendance issues, and set up MLB for expansion in other markets. MLB owners can then rake in $2 Billion expansion fees in Nashville, Vegas, Montreal, and Charlotte while still keeping an MLB team in the 11th largest media market with the 18th largest market 75 minutes away in Orlando! Hell, let Stu have Montreal! His wife did say it’s a much more beautiful and sophisticated city than St. Pete! Au Revior!

Here’s the good news. It’s a quick fix! If MLB wants to finally fix this market Stu-ella to sell his shares to his limited partners or Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, the Publix heirs, Seminole Tribe/Hard Rock Casino folks (put a sports book in the stadium it will pay for itself!), DeBartolo Family or some other local owners who will gladly pay for half the Ybor Stadium and finally put the Rays in a position to thrive.

This is a baseball crazy region! It’s in our DNA from the first baseball games played by the Cuban/Italian immigrants in Ybor City, to the little leagues and high schools that produce a Bay full of MLB talent. The Rays TV ratings are among the highest per capita in baseball. It’s the top prime time show on cable almost every night they play. 

Champa Bay is thriving. The only scourge on our sports scene is the carpet bagging New Yorker who has never embraced this community or the people in it even though they have enabled him to turn a $200 million investment into a $1.5 Billion asset. But It’s still not enough. Time for MLB to do the right thing, for everyone, except maybe the villain in this story. Stu-ella Devil, oops did I spell that wrong?