Column: Rays’ sister town plan is a really, really stupid idea


There have been a lot of wacky ideas over the years. New Coke. Hair in a box. “The godfather part …

There have been a lot of wacky ideas over the years.

New Coke. Hair in a box. “The Godfather, Part III.” Automatic adjustment. The Ford Pinto.

Well, it’s time to add another one to the Hall of Shame:

The Tampa Bay Rays’ absurd plan to play half of their home games in one city, the other half in another city some 1,500 miles away.

In two different countries, by the way.

Strangely, a franchise that does just about everything right on the pitch – the low-budget team reached the World Series last season and return to the playoffs with the American League’s best record – continues to mess things up far from the top. diamond.

Plagued by dismal attendance despite their success, the Rays have been trying for years to replace Tropicana Field, a dome-shaped stadium monstrosity in the sleepy St. Petersburg neighborhood, far from much of their home town. potential fan base.

Having been thwarted at every turn, the Rays hatched a plan you’d swear to be a joke if they didn’t keep saying it with a straight face.

Taking a page from the former Kansas City-Omaha Kings – look for it, kids – the Rays push to play spring training and roughly the first half of the season in Tampa, then head north in Montreal to play the rest of their home games.

Oh, Canada, what are they thinking?

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman looked incredulously when asked about Tampa Bay’s so-called “Sister City” proposal.

“To have two houses, people with families, people with kids in school, I think that’s a lot to ask,” Freeman said. “There is no other way to put it. It would be a lot. “

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expressed a similar sentiment.

“The season is tough enough like that,” he said. “If that’s what the Rays think is best for them, then that’s fine, but it’s definitely not something that isn’t ideal.

Let’s see if we can figure out what the Rays hope to do when their Tropicana Field lease expires in 2027, if not sooner.

Obviously, this boondoggle is based on the Rays somehow persuading the two cities to build new outdoor stadiums, which they assume are more economically viable, as neither locality has shown much interest. to subsidize a domed or retractable roof installation that would be optimal for a full season in both locations.

The Rays would host spring training on the Gulf Coast and the first part of the season in Tampa. Then, as the sweltering Florida heat really sets in and Montreal has finally thawed out of winter, the Rays would move north to play the remainder of the regular season, hopefully completing their home schedule before the thermometer dips again.

Of course, if the Rays made it through to the playoffs, they would either have to play away in Montreal in October – not ideal, to say the least – or come back to Tampa – better times, but a shocking change ahead of the playoffs.

San Francisco pitcher Kevin Gausman has pointed out more practical concerns, which would surely anger the powerful players’ association.

“You also think of taxes,” he said. “Are you playing in Florida, where there is no state income tax, and all of a sudden you’re playing in Montreal?” I don’t know what the taxes are there, but it’s probably pretty high.

And how to call such a team?

The Rays nickname doesn’t work in Montreal, which is eager to bring back the beloved Expos nickname from its former Big League team, who moved to Washington in 2005. Perhaps they could borrow a page from the NFL. at its beginnings.

Struggling to stay afloat during World War II, the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers merged for the 1943 season, played home games in both cities, and became known as the “Steagles.”

Anyone ready for the Exrays?

The Steagles, of course, were only a temporary fix for dealing with extraordinary circumstances, much like more recent adaptations to two cities.

– The Expos, in an interesting twist, played 22 home games in Puerto Rico in each of their last two seasons in Montreal in an effort to improve the results of an MLB-owned franchise that eventually became the Nationals.

– In 2005, the New Orleans Saints of the NFL split their home games between San Antonio and Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Big Easy.

– This season, the Toronto Blue Jays of baseball have actually played in three different stadiums due to COVID-19 restrictions, starting at their spring training center in Dunedin, Fla., Before moving north to Buffalo for about two dozen home games and finally back in Toronto in late July.

“Extremely difficult,” Roberts marveled. “I give (the Toronto manager) a lot of credit to Charlie Montoya and the Blue Jays for what they’ve had to go through this year.

There have been attempts to play in multiple home towns, but nothing on the scale offered by Tampa Bay.

In the old American Basketball Association, for example, several teams tried a regionalised approach within a single state. The Carolina Cougars have played home games in Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. The Floridians have played in Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach.

Most notable were the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, who considered the two cities their home during their first three seasons in the NBA. Granted, they are much closer to each other than Tampa Bay and Montreal – about 185 miles apart – which made it more possible to play 26 games at home in Kansas City and 15 at Omaha.

Even then, the unique arrangement did not last. The Kings gave up their name’s Omaha after three seasons, eventually moved all home games to Kansas City, and ended up moving to Sacramento in 1985.

Obviously, two-city teams don’t work in the long run. But the Rays continue to insist it’s the only way baseball can survive in the Tampa Bay area, even if it’s only for half a season a year.

The Rays were going to put up a sign at Tropicana Field touting Sister City’s plan during the playoffs, to change course when they were rightly called out for angering the few fans they had and causing a distraction useless to their players.

“I made a big mistake, a real mistake,” Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said this week in an interview with the team’s radio network. “I absolutely should have known better. And really, I’m sorry for that. I’m here to tell you and tell the fans that the sign is not going to go up.

Now he must take an even bigger step.

Call the sister city map what it is.

Really, really stupid idea.


AP sports writers Beth Harris in Los Angeles and Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this column.


Paul Newberry is a national sports columnist for the Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry (at) or at and check out his work at


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