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Joe Henderson

Henderson: MLB 'intervention' is really Thumbscrew 101

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Published:   |   Updated: August 19, 2013 at 12:23 AM

To help the Tampa Bay Rays get a new stadium, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says he might send someone to “intervene” (whatever that means) here in bickering bay.

I know what most Rays fans believe it means: A leg-breaker sent here by Selig with stadium blueprints and orders to get busy building, or else.

Here's the point where we ask: Or else, what?

Ryan Roberts is brought back to the team and installed as the permanent clean-up hitter? Pat Burrell is appointed to the Hillsborough County Commission? The Rays cut David Price and re-sign Dewon Brazelton?

They turn that 20-foot python that was in the Rays clubhouse Thursday loose in the home of St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, with orders to put the squeeze on?

Let's get serious.

Baseball values stability. It has had exactly one team move to a new market since 1972, and that happened after Montreal basically kicked the Expos out of town.

In the same time period, 13 National Basketball Association teams moved, along with eight National Hockey League teams and six from the National Football League.

I wouldn't consider this a toothless threat, though.

The last time Selig sent someone here to “intervene” was when former owner Vince Naimoli couldn't get along with his partners. That's how the Rays wound up with current owner Stu Sternberg.

As always with pro sports, follow the money.

The Rays get at least $35 million a year in subsidies from baseball's richest teams. Those clubs are tired of paying so much to get their butts kicked by this exceptionally well-run organization.

With a new stadium, preferably in downtown Tampa, the Rays theoretically wouldn't need handouts on that scale any longer.

Fine, I get that.

But instead of dispatching a hit man here from the commissioner's office, how about sending someone with a plan to help us mortals solve this problem without raising taxes or going bankrupt? That's what I hope Selig intends to do.

The early signs are not encouraging, though.

Just a few months ago, Sternberg told reporters that MLB no longer believes Tampa Bay is viable as a market. That's no way to start a dialogue, but I wouldn't read a darn thing into it.

We heard basically the same thing about Seattle and other cities when those places needed new stadiums and St. Petersburg just happened to have an empty one. If we don't know the game by now, we never will.

This is Thumbscrew 101. Leagues do this because stadiums almost never get built without the kind of posturing we now see.

And you know what? Tropicana Field, as I have repeatedly said, needs to be replaced. I also believe there are enough baseball fans in this area to make it work, just like it has in all those other cities where teams struggled but now mostly thrive.

So, “intervene” all you want, Bud. I actually think that could be a good idea.

Just leave the python out of this. Oh, and Pat Burrell. You can keep him, too.

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