ST. PETERSBURG — Rays president Matt Silverman (Harvard, Class of '98) is typically a man of many, and occasionally large, words.
But trying to quantify what qualifying for the playoffs this season means to the future of the entire organization left him searching his extensive vocabulary.
"I'm trying to think of a good word for you," he said. "The word that's coming to mind is 'invaluable,' but it's more powerful than that …"
That's so because of how truly bad the Rays were, how much progress they've made on and off the field since Stuart Sternberg put Silverman in charge in October 2005, and the challenges (financially, competitively, demographically) they've overcome to make it so.
"Especially because it eliminates one of the key question marks about the organization: Can it ever win?" Silverman said. "And the answer is yes, and there's a good chance that we're going to have winning baseball in Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future.
"And now is the time for the community, especially the business community, to signal its approval and support of the organization. And if we can strengthen that partnership and build that support, the entire community should be happy with the results."
A team's success on the field one season — especially when it comes unexpectedly — is considered a springboard for better business the next.
As much because people like to be associated with a winner as anything, season-ticket bases grow, sponsorships are increased or enhanced, advance ticket sales jump and images of the franchise locally and nationally are improved.
And the Rays are already planning (hoping?) to reap the benefits. The lack of attendance and corporate support, the parochial pettiness dividing Tampa Bay area fans, the ignorance over prices and access to Tropicana Field, all of that can be reduced in the aftermath of success.
"Next year," principal owner Sternberg said, "will be a pivotal one for the business."