ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If you like in the Tampa-area, you know the saga concerning the Tampa Bay Rays and their future at Tropicana Field.
If you need a refresher, here you go: TIMELINE: Tampa Bay Rays' stadium saga
David Samson has worked in baseball for 18 years, most recently as the President of Baseball for the Miami Marlins before management changed hands in 2017, and provides a professional opinion into the Rays stadium drama.
It does not hurt having a relationship with Rays owner Stu Sternberg, either.
"I say this with love because I have such great respect for them, such jealousy of the way they run their baseball organization, (but ownership) is not willing to be hated," Samson, who now runs a podcast called Nothing Personal on CBS Sports, said. "They're not willing to be unpopular. They're not willing to do the things that I was willing to do to get a deal done."
Samson played a pivotal, and yes controversial, role in getting a new ballpark in Miami.
There are rumblings about a two-city solution with Montreal. The Rays host games for the first half of the year and then the team flies north for the second half when the weather is better.
Samson is very clear with his opinion on that.
"Zero chance, zero," said Samson. "I don't care what Stu Sternberg says, and I've known him forever. Don't care. I don't care what Stephen Bronfman says. I've known him for years, too. There is zero chance that you will get two stadiums built, two TV deals, two sets of salespeople, then players to have two sets of homes, one in Tampa and one in Montreal. It's a nonstarter."
For Samson, there is a bigger picture here.
"It's all based on leverage. It's all based on trying to have options out there so you can get the better deal, either in Tampa or what Stu really wants is to move that team out of Tampa...or to sell it at a huge profit and be done."
The common defense Rays fans have is, "we might not go to the games, but our ratings are some of the best in the league." While that is true, it doesn't play a role in negotiations like this.
It is not about ratings, it is about subscriptions. The subscriptions are how regional sports networks, like Bally Sports Sun, make money.
Here is an analogy. I invite 10 people to my party and everyone shows up. My friend Steven invites 50 people to his party and 25 people show up. While I can boast every person on my list attended, Steven's 50 percent attendance rate is still larger than mine. I am ratings and Steven is subscriptions.
"I've always tried to tell people, thank you for telling me that no one's watching Marlins games. Thank you for telling me that everybody's watching Marlins games. Thank you for sending out the press release that yesterday's game was the highest-rated game...Who cares? No one cares," Samson said.
On one hand, Samson is not optimistic about the Rays staying in town past 2027.
"As Judi Dench said in Shakespeare in Love, I believe it ends with tears and a journey."
On the other hand, he admits there is still time to work something out. The former Marlins executive believes Sternberg and company need to get something done by the end of 2022 before it's white-knuckle time.
He has a piece of advice for everyone anxious about the possible move.
"You can go out and get 20,000 people to go to every game yourself and it will not impact whether a stadium gets built or whether the team moves or relocates as a result. So if I were you, I would enjoy this moment."
The full podcast, plus his opinions on Major League Baseball expanding to 32 teams is below:
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