Yesterday, I came across a piece detailing the Tampa Bay Rays’ ongoing problems with city officials in securing a new stadium. The team has had many issues trying to stay in Tampa, and by all accounts it looks like it’s far from being resolved. Matters certainly aren’t helped by the fact that in terms of the on-field product, it’s starting to look pretty grim in the Big Guava. With Joe Maddon off to manage the Cubs, GM Andrew Friedman lured over to my Dodgers, and David Price and Ben Zobrist traded off the roster, the Rays could be headed for a last place finish this year…and maybe even the next few. Add all this up, and in my emphatic opinion, it’s time to move the Rays out of Florida ASAP.
Now, a part of me feels wrong wanting to see the team moved. For those who are knowledgeable about the team and game, and devote their love and time to the Rays in the purest way imaginable, losing a team is a heartbreak that no one should have to endure. I can certainly relate, as not only were my beloved Minnesota Twins threatened with outright contraction after only my first year as a fan, but I’m still reeling from how close my hometown Sacramento Kings came to being moved to Seattle. To say the least, I’m highly sensitive to how it feels when you might lose your favorite team for good.
The problem, however, is that when it comes to Tampa Bay Rays fans, they’re the fanbase in baseball that least deserves a team. Even with a stadium uglier than the Metrodome, they’ve been treated to everything a fan could ask for in the past few years: A trip to the World Series, a seemingly endless brigade of lovable players (David Price, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist), one of the elite managers in the game, and teams that annually compete with (and sometimes best) the Yankees and Red Sox on paper-thin budgets. And how have Tampa Bay fans thanked them? By putting up insultingly meager attendance figures every year that help keep the team in a perpetual state of financial instability. Attendance so low, that even Longoria himself publicly chastised Rays fans for it, and deservedly so.
A more important factor than the apathy of the fans, however, is the prospect of bringing back the Montreal Expos. Various rumors have hinted at the possibility of the Rays franchise being moved north of the border, with new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred saying it’s quite possible. To say I approve of this is grossly understating it. While I was never an Expos fan per se in my early years of loving baseball, I always loved the unique place they held in baseball history. While this would technically be a different franchise than the previous one, to see the curvy M adorn ballcaps once again would be a delight.
With the Expos a decade behind us, and given that they only had one playoff appearance (ruined by none other than the Dodgers), it’s easy to forget and overlook their place in baseball history at times. But when you take a look at their history, they’re a veritable compendium of baseball greats of the last quarter of the 20th century: Gary Carter, Andrew Dawson, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Vladimir Guerrero, Tim Wallach, Tim Raines, Dennis Martinez, Tony Perez, Al Oliver, Moises Alou, Rusty Staub, Jeff Reardon, John Wetteland, Larry Walker, and Orlando Cabrera. From the franchise’s inception in 1969 to their final season in 2004 before moving to Washington, they hosted a pretty sizable amount of stars from just about any specific era. Not to mention, if it wasn’t for the godforsaken 1994 strike, we’d not only likely still have the original Expos, but there might be a World Series banner or two flapping in the Quebec breeze.
Altogether, it makes perfect sense: Move the team away from a fanbase that overwhelmingly doesn’t bother to even support it, and bring it to a fanbase that had theirs taken away largely due to the bad break of the darkest hour in professional baseball history. And if you don’t think Montreal deserves to have their Expos back, then I leave this video as the last thing that can move your cruel, shriveled heart.