MIAMI — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is willing to wait — to a point — for the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics to get new ballparks.
Tampa Bay and Oakland are the only two major league teams currently seeking new stadiums. The Rays have a lease through 2027 at Tropicana Field, which opened in 1990 and has hosted the Rays since the team started play in 1998.
The A’s have been at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum since moving there from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The park opened in 1966.
“We right or wrongly have been extraordinarily committed to our existing markets and patient with those markets as a result,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. “I continue to believe that Tampa is a viable major league market. I also believe it may be better than the alternatives that we have out there, and I am hopeful that we get to a resolution. As I’ve said to you before, however, there does come a point in time where we have to accept the reality that the market for whatever set of reasons can’t get to the point that they have a major league quality facility, and I am not going to indefinitely leave a club in a market without a major league quality facility.”
The Rays have been considering sites on both the St. Petersburg and Tampa sides of the bay.
“It really depends on progress, right?” Manfred said. “At the point in time that it starts to grind to a halt and nothing’s happening — I don’t think we’re there, OK — but at that point in time where everybody’s kind of, you get this look of where are we going next, that’s when you’ve got to start thinking about what your alternatives are.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported last month the A’s are focusing on three locations. The paper said the team is strongly interested in a 13-acre site near downtown that currently is headquarters of the Peralta Community College District. The Chronicle also said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf favors Howard Terminal, north of Jack London Square, and the team is considering constructing a new ballpark at its current location, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
John Fisher was approved in November as the controlling owner of the Athletics.
“They’ve said they’re going to by the end of the year identify a site in Oakland that’s their preferred site,” Manfred said. “I think that given the change in the control situation in Oakland that it was prudent for Mr. Fisher to take a year and make a decision as to what site he thinks is the best. That decision is a uniquely local decision. I really don’t believe it is my job to have a preference for those sites. They know their market better.”
Manfred said at a Town Hall on Monday that MLB will delay any plans for expansion until after the A’s and Rays get new ballparks. He mentioned Montreal, Mexico City and Charlotte, North Carolina, as expansion candidates.