NEW YORK — Principal owner Stuart Sternberg has his own personal, peculiar and rather pointed way of measuring the progress the Rays have made.
"What's happening this weekend is we have a lot of Red Sox fans rooting for the Yankees," he said Friday. "I just want to be there with the Red Sox fans when they cheer Jeter on, and A-Rod and their former (player) Damon and Giambi and the whole crew. All the guys that they 'love' all year long, year after year, they sit there and root for them to get hits and strikeouts and all that good stuff. …
"I've been waiting two months for this weekend, and here we are. … That's what the whole weekend's about for me. That's my version of gloating. Next we're going to go on to Mideast peace and global warming and all the important things, and the presidential election. But we're starting with this, which I think is a pretty big issue."
Sternberg said the series against the Red Sox "felt like playoff baseball," and he couldn't have enjoyed it — as a fan and as an owner — more, especially with how it turned out, winning the last two games in their final at-bat. And then he heard from more people after those two games than at any other time.
"You can't ask for more," he said, then did.
The season, Sternberg said, "seems real, but it seems extraordinarily unlikely." He noted how the Rays "didn't go on one of these 19 of 22 runs to get there," and how their success had been building all year, but also how they knew how tough the stretch of 12 games against the Jays, Red Sox and Yankees — "the so-called gauntlet" — would be.
"To go up to Boston and respond was just one more indication," he said. "So it seems real and we're just asking for more from everybody."
Sternberg will be at the Trop on Monday, to address "St. Pete-type of issues" such as the stadium situation and other "good stuff." Same with the question of what — now — it would take for him to consider the season a success.
"A few things have to happen," he said. "As far as the team itself goes, you just keep going and keep winning. It's great, it's fine, we want more."