New Rays Stadium: 10 News Investigators discover pro-Tampa economist actually paid by MLB

7:57 PM, Jan 28, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Three days before the Tampa Bay Rays told Hillsborough County Commissioners that Major League Baseball had "lost faith" in the region, leading sports economist Andrew Zimbalist toured the region, sharing his thoughts on the situation.

His takes were printed in a Q and A article on the front page of the Tampa Bay Times' B-section last Monday.  And just as the Rays would do on Thursday, Zimbalist told the Times that Major League Baseball may contract the team if a new stadium wasn't built in Tampa Bay.

Many sports experts speculate contraction could never happen because of existing player and television contracts, but Zimbalist is a respected economist and professor.

But what the Times article omitted was that Zimbalist is currently on the payroll of Major League Baseball.

TIMELINE: Rays Stadium Saga

Zimbalist confirmed in an email he has worked for the league several times over the years (including now). He said he has also worked for the player's association, various teams, and numerous municipalities, but never directly for the Rays.

He has been a long-time critic of Tropicana Field, but also said in the Times article, "I don't think (St. Pete mayor Bill Foster) should stand in the way of a proper solution." 

Zimbalist and Foster met face-to-face the same day Times writer Stephen Nohlgren conducted the interview.

The Tampa Bay Times tells 10 News that Zimbalist confirmed his consultant relationship with MLB on Monday, but "declined to discuss whether he is on a retainer or works on a project-by-project basis."

After the 10 News inquiry, he told the Times that he recently worked on economic modeling to change baseball's revenue sharing system, but has no current projects with the league.

"Zimbalist has written numerous books on baseball economics and has consulted on various sides of contentious baseball issues over the years," Times Communications Director Jounice Nealy-Brown said in a statement.  "He helped the U.S. Justice Department draft a bill to partially lift baseball's anti-trust exemption. He has represented the players' union in contract negotiations with baseball, consulted for the city of Minneapolis in fighting baseball's threat to eliminate the Minnesota Twins and helped Tampa's Frank Morsani, a would-be owner, sue Major League Baseball.

"The Times did not know of any ongoing relationship between Zimbalist and Major League Baseball when it published an interview with him on Jan. 21. If we had, we would have disclosed that to our readers. Zimbalist said nobody within baseball asked him to make the comments published in that article."

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Read his Sports Business Blog at Shadow of the Stadium.

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