Principal owner Stuart Sternberg seems optimistic these days, confident the Rays offense will come around, open to an August waiver trade, looking forward to a meaningful September and encouraged by conversations in Hillsborough County about the team's future.
He answered questions on those topics and others via e-mail:
On their positioning at the trade deadline:
We do the bulk of our July work during the previous offseason. A game in April counts just as much as one in September. I can even make the case that early season games are more valuable because they provide information that can inform decisions throughout the year.
When we feel the team can remain in the race, we will do what we can to put ourselves in a position to succeed. We are always limited by our necessity to plan for the future, and it looms large in decisions we make about our players and our resources.
Starting in 2008, there has not been a year where we have weakened our team on the field in July. And if there is a move within our parameters to add a piece or two that makes us better, we will do it. That has been the case each year as well, including this one.
On not adding to the struggling offense:
Our offense over the past several years has a track record that we expected would continue for this season. The runs can and should be there, and the choppiness is something that we are forced to incur, given our position within MLB. We have played about two-thirds of season — a large sample, yes — but there's still a bunch of games to play. There are no guarantees, though we feel the pieces are in place to put enough runs on the scoreboard.
On the injuries, including Evan Longoria:
Injuries play a big role in how we need to react. … Some of our success last year can be traced to our health relative to other teams. This year we have had a rash of injuries, and we have used all of our fingers and toes to plug the holes which have surfaced. Replicating Evan's production for this extended length of time is impossible for us. A shorter-term injury gives our players and (executive VP) Andrew Friedman and his group the opportunity to try (to) replicate or even outperform the player who is out. We saw that in August of 2008. The team got hit by a few key injuries and we didn't miss a beat as others stepped up and performed.
On the talk in Tampa about the team:
I am encouraged to see substantive discussion taking place. For years it has been my stated mantra that in order to flourish, we must grow and nurture a regional fan and corporate base. Elected officials and civic leaders who value having a Major League Baseball team as a part of our community fabric are essential to achieving that goal. We attempt to do all we can to be easily accessible. Accessibility comes in many forms, whether it's through fan friendliness, affordability, value at the ballpark, geography, TV viewership, radio listenership or community involvement. It is imperative we score perfect 10s on those efforts.
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On the new format to the playoff race:
Advancing in the postseason as a wild card is certainly more difficult now, yet winning the division doesn't make advancing that much easier. These are the cards all teams are dealt. Our stated goal has been and continues to be to play games on Labor Day and beyond that are meaningful.