Rays' Sternberg: Team should be better; stadium search fully under way
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg gave a state of the franchise address today in Port Charlotte, saying he is confident the team is improved over last year's inujury-depleted 80-win team but acknowledging that the level of competition in the AL East is greater.
"This offseason I think we did what we needed to do to improve the ball club and really added some stuff and I'm really looking forward to it,'' he said.
"It looks like we're raised our game, but theirs has gone up more dramatically. You take a look at Toronto, it's a beast. The thing I'm holding my hat on here is I do believe we had a great season last year. Clearly, injuries are part of the game, but the first four months of the season it was unprecedented for us, and I'd like it to stay unprecedented.
"So to know where we were last year, we have the opportunity to improve on that, not only with the guys we brought in, but with the health of the guys, having Kevin (Cash) here and some of the coaches here for the second year, just the cohesiveness is dramatically different this year. So all of that should add up for a better season and it's a great starting point - it's not like we won 64 games last year."
Sternberg also spoke at length about the search for a new stadium, saying they were at "the beginning of a new process" in being able to look on both sides of the bay and hope to have some decisions in th next six-nine months, with the ultimate key being where they will get the most corporate support.
"We are working internally now,'' he said. "I won't say at a feverish pace, but a very measured and very focused pace. There's a lot to cover. It's not like most places, Okay we have a stadium. Here's what it is. Where are you going to put it? Who's going to pay for it? Every team has to deal with those issues. Sometimes it's just how are you going to pay for it. It's obvious where it's going to go. Yankee Stadium was built next to the old Yankee Stadium. Citi Field was built next to the old (stadium). St. Louis, a lot of these places, that part is sort of easy. Who's going to pay for it? You figure that out and all right, let's go.
"With us it's a much deeper process, but we need to really, most importantly, get to the bottom of finally, what type of support is out there, and is it meaningful and impactful to where the stadium is located to change that support? Does a business, does an organization, whether it's a five-person business or a 500-person business or a 5,000-person business, does their support change if we're eight miles away or 28 miles away or sitting exactly where we are but in a new facility?"
Sternberg also said that after two off-seasons of going down, ticket sales and sponsorships should at the least be stable for the coming season.
Check back for more later and in Wednesday's Tampa Bay Times.