The Tampa Bay Rays have clinched their second straight AL East division title. This October the team will seek to return to the World Series, after a disappointing defeat to the Dodgers in the Fall Classic last year. But the Rays will also be running a controversial marketing campaign during the postseason with a completely different goal in mind: a new home.
The Rays are the anti-Yankees: unpretentious, with little franchise history, a manageable payroll, and a home ballpark that no one really likes. The players don’t like Tropicana Field. The front office doesn’t like it. Most of the fans hate it. This season the Rays rank 13th out of 15 teams in the American League in attendance. In the last full season (2019 before the pandemic), Tampa Bay finished last in attendance, despite winning 96 games and advancing to the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Rays of Montreal?
Tampa’s lukewarm support from their fanbase in Florida and their unpopular domed ballpark have prompted the franchise to look elsewhere for a place to play. In 2020, the team petitioned the league to allow them to play part of their home schedule in Montreal, where that city last hosted an MLB team in 2004.
This October, as the Rays play in the League Division Series with their sights set on the LCS and Fall Classic, the team will have signage inside Tropicana Field. According to the team, they will have ads that are visible to TV coverage that promote the idea of the Rays playing at least part of their home games in the future in Canada, in a city that longs to welcome MLB back.
The Rays’ front office wants to boost attendance and marketing opportunities by sharing a home between Montreal and Tampa Bay. There would sort of be a northern home and southern home for the franchise. But MLB has previously rebuffed the Rays, because the league covets the notion of placing a future expansion franchise in Montreal. An expansion franchise comes with an expansion fee, but relocating an existing team doesn’t give the league that big payoff.
Rays Win More Than High-Spending Yankees and Red Sox
The Rays have the best record in the American League, and their second straight division title is an impressive accomplishment considering they share the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox, two teams that each spend far, far more on their baseball players. In 2021, according to Spotrac, the Yankees payroll is roughly $203 million, and the Red Sox payroll is about $182 million. What is the Rays’ payroll? How about $70 million (26th among the 30 MLB teams).
American League Pennant Odds
|Tampa Bay Rays
|Chicago White Sox
|Boston Red Sox
|New York Yankees