Sternberg talks stadium, payroll, CC, etc.
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg addressed the media for more than a half hour this morning, touching on a wide series of subjects, including the issues of a new stadium, the direction of the payroll, his hope to retain Carl Crawford and others. Some initial highlights:
* He mostly avoided the specifics of the current stadium issue, stressing the team is in St. Petersburg now and "isn't going anywhere," but also that they need a new one the "sooner the better.'' He said they are "not involved" in the current conversations and "haven't talked to anybody," and that the final decision will not be the Rays' alone, but made "in concert with business leaders, community leaders and everybody else. The team isn't going anywhere, we're in St. Petersburg, and that's where we play.''
More on the stadium: "We have a stadium, we play in it, we've spent a ton of money putting it into the shape it's in right now and we're enjoying our stay here and we'll let everybody else figure out what needs to be done.''
Asked if Hillsborough County was the right choice, he replied: "We"ll let everybody else figure that out.''
So is the discussion of specific options good? "We're playing where we're playing, and the more talk and chatter about trying to make this team successful, the better.''
He talked about their previous attempt at getting a stadium built on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront, how it "wasn't productive for our organization" and "it created a lot of discord in the community.'' And, he said, "I'm not here to create discord.'' The Rays will get back involved, he said, "when something is proposed, and there are some concepts out there and people want to move the ball forward, I'll be involved.''
As for the current stadium, he said of Tropicana Field: "It's a great place to watch a game, but for whatever reason people are not as attracted to it as they might be to a different venue.''
And also: "I stated since the very first day I came in to anybody who asked, and I was asked quite often, we're not going to be there through 2027 (when the lease expires). It just can't happen. Baseball won't allow it; our partners in baseball, the other teams, won't allow it. And it's just not the right thing for our organization and, quite frankly, it's not the right thing for the population.''
* The team will do everything they can to keep free-agent-to-be Carl Crawford as long as they can, and also Carlos Pena. On Crawford specifically he said: "He's been a face of this organization, he's been a great Ray, he was a great Devil Ray, he's an extraordinary player and teammate, for the community and a face of this team. We're going to do everything we can to make sure he stays here longer.''
* Season-ticket renewals thus far are "bad, not good," and he has no specific goals for attendance for this season after falling short last year of wanting to reach the major-league average.
* Though the payroll is definitely headed down from this season's record $70-plus million, he expects the team to be able to remain competitive in future seasons.