A mostly committed fan of Major League Baseball should be able to move around the country and pick up the differences between teams. The fan might find that teams like Tampa Bay Rays appear to have a great team this season while the Oakland Athletics are simply not very good, putting the teams at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Baseball is a strange game, though, and there are incredibly important factors to the game such as a team's stadium, the one component that actually makes the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics very similar despite the dichotomy in their results on the field.
The Rays play inside the dead Tropicana Field, while the Athletics have been subjected to playing inside the dejected Oakland Coliseum. Far from playing in the glitziest of the 30 MLB parks, both the Rays and Athletics are now facing franchise altering consequences as a result of the poor quality, outdated stadiums in which they reside in. Both are now a threat to move away from their respective cities, changing the lives of many and the Major League Baseball landscape.
Perhaps the Athletics have an easier route to get out of Oakland as the team is far worse than Tampa Bay as it currently constructed. It's hard to find a bright spot in the Oakland order and based off the team's payroll decisions and lack of roster moves, the Athletics have thrown in the towel on winning in California.
The team even made a statement on the matter.
"For more than 20 years, the A's have focused on securing a new home for the Club, and have invested unprecedented time and resources for the past six years to build a ballpark in Oakland. Even with support from fans, leaders at the city, county and state level, and throughout the broader community, the process to build a new ballpark in Oakland has made little forward progress for some time. We have made a strong and sincere effort to stay here. We recognize that this is very hard to hear," the statement read. "We are disappointed that we have been unable to achieve our shared vision of a waterfront ballpark. As we shift our focus to Vegas, we will continue to share details about next steps."
Now, a move away from Oakland seems all but certified for the Athletics. A new ballpark will begin construction soon as the Athletics have already struck a deal with landowners in Nevada to acquire property in Las Vegas, on which the stadium will be built.
"The reality is that despite six years of very hard and sincere work for a visionary stadium in Oakland, the progress necessary for it to succeed is just no occurring," team president Dave Kaval said in an interview. "We just are not able to see a path where we would be able to open a stadium in Oakland any sooner than seven or eight years from now. That is just too long and it doesn't work on anyone's timeline."
Since the A's will continue to lose at such a historic rate, they will have an amazing shot to convince the league that relocation is necessary and driven by their attendance issues.
Many fans seriously disagree with the Athletics approach, however. Some have even planned to "reverse boycott" of the team which is supposed to take place on June 13. The fans are hoping to pack the ballpark to show ownership that the fan support in the city is better than ownership believes.
Winning Isn't Everything, and Tampa is Exhibit A
The worst part of the Athletics scenario is that while the team is relatively dedicated to losing, winning is hardly a guarantee to actually sticking around in a city, something the cross-country Tampa Bay Rays have shown during their time in the western side of Florida.
Rumors have stockpiled about the Rays making a potential move out of the city with the state of Tropicana Field. The building is a somewhat dark and outdated looking ballpark, with no natural light making its way into the stadium.
The Rays and Tropicana Field aren't done any favors by the location of the stadium. The team plays in St. Petersburg, which is across from the Old Tampa Bay and requires fans to bridge over to the area in order to get to the game. This commute can keep a lot of potential fans away. The Buccaneers play at Raymond James Stadium and have sold plenty of tickets when they have a good team like the Rays have had. Their stadium, however, is in Tampa, in the heart of where the team is said to be in its title.
With a team that has been solid, Tampa has had several of its stadium ideas shot down. Since the effort has been going on for so long, even major figures in MLB and the local government have spoken out about the need for the new stadium.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said league officials "have a sense of urgency" to find a new ballpark for the Rays in Feb. 2022. With the season just underway, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch both spoke about the situation and the team and city's need to get new projects moving.
"I don't want this to be something that comes down to sort of a last-minute crunch time. We need to take advantage of as many days as we have to thoughtfully propose a location, a design and a price," Castor said.
Welch has been just as involved. The 58-year-old mayor has worked with the Rays on redevelopment of Tropicana Field at its "Historic Gas Plant District," an additional stadium option for the team.
"We are in negotiations right now, but I have full faith that the new stadium will be on that site," Welch said. "I have no reason not to think that."
The Outlook For Both Franchises
While these new propositions give hope for the future, nothing has been set in stone yet, and Tampa Bay is set to play at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season. If Tampa is to build a new stadium, construction could take several years before the opening of the new building. Globe Life Field, the home of the Texas Rangers, is the newest ballpark in the MLB. Constructors broke ground in September of 2017 and opened for major league play on July 24, 2020. In spite of a relatively fast construction period for a colossal project, the ballpark still took years to put together.
In the near future, things will be getting worse for the bottom-feeding Oakland Athletics. The team is currently on pace to be one of the worst teams of all-time, something that does a great job of capping up the depressing story that this year has been for the A's. Though Oakland is likely to lose its third franchise in the last few years, the importance of a stadium impacts more than those at the bottom of the league. On the other side of the country, the Rays are winning but still facing the same potential fate.
They say baseball is a game of inches, a nine-inning contest decided by slim margins. Clearly, however, there are other aspects that surround the professional game. Major League Baseball is a business, and that unique aspect of the highest level of play which brings together the best and worst teams in the league for reasons other than the results on the field.
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