Sternberg visits, talks
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg made his first visit of the spring to Devil Rays camp on Tuesday morning and had plenty to say. He expressed confidence in his team, which had a major-league worst 61-101 record last season. He said the team was on track for improvement and that his one specific goal for this season is for the Rays to increase their number of home wins from 40 to 50.
Here are some excerpts of his comments. Check Wednesday’s Times for more, as well as Gary Shelton’s column:
Q. What are your thoughts going into your second year?
A. My thoughts are, we are in a great place. We’re just where we wanted to be. And there’s nothing I would have changed looking back to this point. I feel good about it.
Q. Are you in line with what you envisioned in terms of payroll (which will be about $24-million on opening day):
A. We didn’t have an exact expectation of what we’d be spending. We’d spend what was necessary and what we could spend to improve the entire organization and give us the best chance to complete. So I feel fine about it.
Q. Do you feel more pressure to compete this season?
A. I feel like the honeymoon is over. I don’t feel more pressure to compete. We have pressure to compete, to put an organization together. After that, things are going to happen how they are going to happen. We are doing what’s in the best interests of the entire organization from the major-league level on down. I feel extremely confident that we’ve got the pieces in place.
Q. What have you learned in the past year?
A. There haven’t been a lot of surprises. I think I was kind of surprised that people were accepting and that the honeymoon lasted as long as it did. I think people are still confident in what we're trying to accomplish here. There is nothing that has been really surprising, fortunately.
Q. Do you have expectations in terms of wins? What would satisfy you at the end of the season?
A. Improvement. An exact number, I couldn’t say. If I have a personal goal, and it is purely personal, not an organizational type of goal, it’s to win 50 games at home this year. I think we showed last year we can have some real success at home. It gave the players something to build on. Obviously our road record (20-61) was putrid, to say the least. So I’m focusing on our home advantage and what we were able to do at home, and consistently compete and consistently beat teams. My goal is to get to 50 wins at home and after you do that, a lot of good things can happen. That’s basically it. I don’t generally set goals in terms of wins.
Q. Is it realistic to think you can be a legit playoff contender next season?
A. I’d like to think we’re a contender right now. In baseball, there is so much optimism, especially this time of year. Obviously the Yankees are in a better place to contend than we are, and a number of teams are in a better place than we are, but I think we are in a very good place. I would not measure the success of this season by whether we are a contender or not. It’s if, are we putting ourselves in a position to contend to succeed. It’s sort of a small step; the 50-win number at home is really my issues, my sort of bugaboo right now.