NEW YORK — Top Rays officials virtually pride themselves in not committing to any kind of payroll level, ceiling, floor or window, insisting they are, and always shall be, willing and able to adjust to what's best for the team.
(Translation: They've got plenty of money and will decide how and when best to spend it.)
But here's one thing you can bank on: Next year's opening day payroll won't go up another 82 percent, as this year's did, in what was essentially a modest jump from a major-league low $24.1-million to a second-lowest $43.8-million.
"It's impossible for that to happen," principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "Only the Internet bubble and the Asian stock markets can do things like that. You can do it, but it's not a healthy way to run your business or your life."
More likely, from what Sternberg said, will be steady average growth. (With just the six players signed long term plus Scott Kazmir, they're already pushing $35-million for next season).
"I look at it over the course of a five- or seven-year sort of plan, and I think we're right there," Sternberg said. "Last year we went down, the year before it grew a little bit, so we're going to have that band and it's going to keep going like that."
This year's increase was more than they had talked about, but Sternberg said that won't impact his spring training pledge to consider in-season additions.
"We have room to cut payroll, we have room to grow payroll," he said. "Really, we'll be opportunistic. I know you guys have heard it, but we are never going to take our eye off of that. If somebody happens to want a high-priced talent of ours and we can get low-priced talent, great. And if they want a low-priced talent and we get high-priced talent that we think is very additive, that's fine, too."
Forbes magazine values the Rays at $290-million, up 8 percent from last year but 29th overall and well under the MLB average of $472-million. An accompanying piece on Sternberg's efforts floats the idea of the Rays forming their own TV network after a further "merger" of the Tampa (Bay?) and Orlando markets. … Hitting coach Steve Henderson will work through the pain and have right hip replacement surgery as soon as the season is over. … Baseball America made it official that the Rays are No. 1 for a second straight year in its organization rankings. … Eric Hinske will get his Red Sox World Series ring in an on-field ceremony when the Rays go to Boston on May 2-4. … Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci picks Evan Longoria as AL rookie of the year and writes: "Get him to the majors ASAP. The kid, polished and confident, looks as if he's already been in the bigs 10 years." Verducci also pegs James Shields as the AL's most underrated and B.J. Upton as the "Breakout Player." … With baseball operations director Dan Feinstein winning the bet by making it through the offseason to opening day without using chewing tobacco, team president Matt Silverman will donate $1,000 to an animal-related charity. … Kind of funny to hear Aubrey Huff say "it's tough to get up and play in front of a crowd like that" when the Orioles drew a record-low 10,505 Wednesday given his experiences at the Trop. … The Rockies honored pitcher Joe Kennedy, who died during the offseason, by having his 16-month-old son, Kaige, throw out the first pitch at Friday's home opener; the Rays haven't disclosed any plans to honor Kennedy, who pitched 82 games for them from 2001 to 2003.
Got a minute?
Band you'd love to be on stage with?
Best meal you make?
Steak on the grill. Maybe a baked potato.
A Mercedes S550, white. Still have it.
Guilty pleasure at the mall?
Jeans. Cool jeans. Like True Religion.
Oh, c'mon, how about with your wife's permission?
My wife. That's all you're getting.
Playing a new tune
The Rays on Tuesday will unveil a completely overhauled in-game entertainment program, with new scoreboard graphics, features, animation and music, all supposedly more player-focused and professional.
We'll see. The Rays hired a firm (the DCB group) that did the Blue Jays' games (which tend to be loud) and was involved with the Angels (who aren't shy about things), though supposedly more for how it does things than what it did.
The Rays are keeping quiet about their plans, so we'll have to wait and see if there is a specific Rays song (as the Jays have: Okay, Blue Jays, Let's Play Ball!) or a localized version of the Angels' Rally Monkey (the Bursting Sun?)
All team president Matt Silverman would say is: "The curtain goes up Tuesday."
In 2005, under the direction of new ownership and management, the Rays signed two of their best young players, Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli, to similar long-term deals that could be worth around $32-million over six years. With the Rays acting last week on the options as the guaranteed portions end, they couldn't have worked out more differently:
Guaranteed money: $21-million, including $500,000 signing bonus.
Year Salary Games Key stats/honors
2005$500,000 156 .301, 15 HRs,
led AL in triples (15)
2006$2,500,000 151 .305, 18 HRs,
led AL steals (58) and triples (16)
2007$4,000,000 143 .315, All-Star,
shared AL lead
in steals (50)
2009$8,250,000 after Rays picked up option
2010Rays hold $10-million option
Guaranteed money earned: $9-million, including $4-million option buyout.
Year Salary Games Key stats/honors
2006$2,000,000 92 .302, 16 HRs,
missed 2 months
2007$750,000 35 .204, didn't play
after May 15
2008$2,250,000 Playing status uncertain due
to fatigue disorder
2009Rays declined $6-million option,
making Baldelli a free agent
2010-11Rays declined joint option of $8-million
in 2010, $9-million in 2011