Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg took questions for nearly 20 minutes before Saturday's game, joking that with Fox airing today's game and ESPN the next two, plus ESPN radio in the house, "This is the center of the baseball universe this week."
Here are some excerpts of his comments:
On the Rays low attendance (13th in the AL, 28th in MLB):
To be as frank as I can about it, I’m really not focused on the attendance. I'm tired of thinking about it, talking about it and I know you’re tired of asking me the question and most importantly everybody is tired of hearing about it. It's really all about what' s going to be is going to be and what it is is what it is. We're going to try to do as well as we can on the field and enjoy what's happening day to day. The numbers are coming through what they are and I don't anticipate talking about it or focusing n it at all this season or any time in the near future after that.
On an MLB-highest decline (37 percent) in TV ratings:
We had the biggest jump last year. It’s not good. not good stuff. It doesn’t affect what’s going to happen on the field today or the rest of this season but as a guy who takes a look at numbers and data points it’s
On if they could be "buyers" at the trade deadline:
There's resources in money and resources in players. A lot of that depends on what player you’re willing to give up and how much money you’re willing to spend. Sometimes you can spend less and give up more players. So we’re always willing to expend resources, but it’s a question of what we get back and where that puts us. It's certainly difficult doing that in our division more so than some of the other divisions and competing with the teams that we can compete with and have to beat.
On how big this current 7-game stretch is to their hopes and plans:
Certainly more so than another 7 games, but ... We don’t have a lot of room for error right now. If we were three up, you’d have a little bit more room for error, but if you want to stay in the hunt, tonight’s game is important and next Friday’s and the week after that is important.
On the Yankees and Red Sox having a larger margin overall:
That’s what it is about. Our margin for error is thinner. Whether it's losing a player and replacing him, or signing a player and having them not perform. We’ve seen it here. We’ve made enough mistakes where we’ve had performance not be there. And it's important to keep our guys healthy. That could determine it sometimes. The Yankees have a couple players out and I think it's fair to say if they remain completely healthy, and we remain completely healthy, they’re a better ballclub. But we have to remain healthy and we have to hope we get some breaks in that end of it with underperformance on their end with the Red Sox or Yankees.
On reports that the incoming new owner in Houston wants to hire exec VP Andrew Friedman:
It's hard. There's ownership in Houston that hasn’t been approved. Most importantly there's a fellow with a job in Houston (GM Ed Wade) who is trying to do that job. And I just think it’s very irresponsible to be talking about it. I don’t think anybody in any walk of life would like to have their position speculated upon. I have employees who work here throughout the organization ... and I wouldn't ant to see speculation about my guys being replaced or my guys replacing somebody else. So I really pay no mind to it whatsoever.
On the seemingly unique relationship between Sternberg, team president Matt Silverman and Friedman:
I can't say it's unique, it's the only way I've done it and the only way I know how to do it. I don’t know if it is unique or not. We get along very well professionally and personally and to me it's an ideal situation. If it wasn’t, we’d make it ideal. We try to get things as ideal as possible. I do believe and I know that they feel great about it as well.
On whether he's concerned about losing Friedman:
Anything can happen. You have only so many hours in the day to think about things and only so many brain cells, and only so much money and only so much whatever. ... I don’t think about that. Fortunately Andrew doesn't think about that either. Matt doesn't think about it. He's got a great department, they work well together. And it's my job to make sure everybody is happy here and motivated and rewarded and that come in a lot of different ways. I couldn't be more pleased with how things are working.
On what, short of a new stadium, could be done to change their economic situation:
We're not changing anything at this point. I've tried everything. People know it. We hear it all the time, we're winning on the field, we're putting a good product out there, the place is inviting, we've got concerts, we've got the second most affordable team. There's not much else to be done at this point. It's baseball here. I believe in the game, I love the game. And just like (Lightning owner) Jeff Vinik loves hockey or the (Bucs-owning) Glazers might love football, you follow your passion and you put everything into it that you possibly can. And you'd like people and businesses and politicians to share your enjoyment and passion for it. And fortunately we've got a lot of people here who really support us and watch our games nightly and come out, and I'm genuinely grateful for everybody that follows the team. ...
There's no 2012 election, there's no new Congress coming in. This is what it is. It's been focused on and talked about. We need to have better resources somehow, and how it plays out eventually I don't know.
On having it work out:
There'd be nothing more perfect than having it all work here right now. This isn't about putting up Stu Sternberg's palace, or my idea of a perfect ballfield. The concept when we first came in was that we were extraordinarily confident we were going to make it work. Win the American League East twice out of 3 years, no, not necessarily. But be competitive. Everybody to a person, long-time residents here, (media members), when you win, oh this place. ... Everybody and the energy, they're just waiting for a winner. So I went in with that mindset and said, Okay great, we're going to be friendly, prices are going to be great, we're going to fix the place up, put all the dough in here, and, you know what, we're also going to win. So I think it surprised each and every person here, but this is what it is. And we're still going to keep going at it day after day and doing the best we can.