If it’s Wednesday, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg must be whining about his team’s attendance again:
“It is what it is,” Sternberg said of the disappointing turnouts at Tropicana Field. “It could be better and should be better. I know we can’t sustain ourselves like this. It hasn’t gotten better. If anything, it’s worse. We had another successful year last season and the economy, while it’s not good, has not gotten worse, but our numbers I think will be down, coming off a postseason appearance. It’s unheard of.”
Sternberg knows there are plenty of fans out there.
“People are watching us on TV and listening on the radio. I walk around and I see all the hats. I want to have a team that’s going to be able to compete, but we can’t lose money year in and year out, hand over fist.
“To run a payroll like we do now, basically the second-lowest in baseball, and barely keep our nose above water, we can’t sustain that.”
While it’s got to be frustrating to have a team in the thick of the pennant race that’s not selling tickets, the Rays are hardly alone in that regard. (Hello, Cleveland!) More to the point, though, early-season attendance usually reflects how many tickets were sold the previous winter, and last winter was a time when Sternberg’s execs were dumping high-salaried players left and right, which isn’t exactly a great way to kick off a season-ticket drive. Add in that Sternberg has spent the last four years complaining that his home stadium is outmoded and decrepit, and really it’s a wonder that anyone comes to the games at all.
It’s certainly possible that St. Petersburg just isn’t a good location for a stadium — whether because the Florida economy can’t support a team there or because, as Sternberg suggested last week, Rays fans hate bridges. But until we see management actually promoting the team and its home park instead of giving fans excuses not to show up, we can’t know for sure.
(Finally, props to Sternberg to adding “can’t sustain ourselves” as a euphemism in the move-and/or-contraction-threat game. I doubt it will surpass “certitude” for word of the year, but it’s still a nice touch.)