Sternberg on stadium talks, expectations, ticket sales, more
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg visited Rays camp today and, as usual, took questions from reporters. We will have more later, but as far as the highlights, he said he expects to talk soon with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman about the stadium situation, is excited about the team's chances for success this season, that sales of flex-pack ticket packages have "been great,'' and that the inflation caused by other contracts makes it hard to potentially keep David Price into his free-agent years.
Here are some excerpts:
What do you think of the team and the job executive VP Andrew Friedman did?
"Well, a lot of the work was done in years past to get us to this point, and there's a lot less turnover this year than in many of the years, if not all the years past. Sometimes that's a good thing. We've had success doing it the other way, but fortunately we were able to bring back a good chunk of the roster and we're excited."
Fair to say you didn't see this large of a payroll (around $80M) coming at the end of last season?
"No doubt. No question. That's very true. I think there's only been one year where I really expected it to go up. That was after '10. I just felt like at the end of last year, we had some things that we were still yet to accomplish with this group of guys, and we're trying to do as much as we can to give them an opportunity to succeed. I think we were fortunate that we were able to get James (Loney) back to play first base. I wouldn't say that was promising at the end of the year. We just don't necessarily go sign a guy for that kind of money just to spend it, and we clearly didn't anticipate a fellow like (Grant) Balfour being available to us at a price we couldn't afford, but at a price that was not unreasonable."
How are ticket sales, especially the flex pack?
"I'm excited. The flex pack, I think, is a great product. We've been working on that for few years. The technology has finally caught up to our desires. We still have some ways to go going forward as this transitions even further. But I think this is, and we try to make it, an extremely compeling product and we have been pleasently pleased with how that's going so far. We're very early in it. The response has been great, really been great."
Have you scheduled a meeting yet with new St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman?
"I expect to see him."
"Well soon is a relative term, but yes."
In the next few days?
"I would expect to be speaking with him. He's got a city to run. Spring training has now started, baseball is on everybody's mind. I've found him to be a real pleasant person, and I think he will be a great leader for the city. I think the city, itself, is poised for some tremendous stuff over the next three to seven-eight years and I think he will be a big part of it, and I'm looking forward to hearing what he's learned over the first few months as well."
Do you expect any movement on the stadium issue this year?
"It's kind of hard to have expectations. We've been out this for eight years basically, about a new stadium. I'm human in some respects. I'm a little numb to it. But I do think things will be different. Timewise I can't say. My focus is on nurturing and trying to win as many baseball games for our fans."
Is there any chance of keeping David Price long-term into his free agency, or is this his last year?
"I wouldn't say it's likely his last year. As I said before we've kept a number of free agents and stars - high-paid guys - right through the end. So winning still trumps all. Unique, talented i won't say one of a kind, but David is like one of a handful. You just can't make decisions like that this far in advance, and we're trying to give the team as big of a chance as we can this year without sacrificing our future as well, there's the opportuniuty of other players, there's the expense that's involved in it, but we're still a little bit, I don't want to say blinded, but a little enamored with the possibilities of what we can do, and what he brings. We saw it last year, the difference of having him in a playoff game last year, he pitched his heart out and just shut down the other team, and knowing he was there because of that gauntlet we had to run through at the end of the season and into the postseason. We'll see. It's more difficult now than it was in the past, given the numbers. There's been inflation.''