Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg gave his long-awaited testimony before the Hillsborough County Commission on Thursday, and while sadly nobody filed any lawsuits over it, there was still plenty of drama: Sternberg came out in full stop-Bud-Selig-before-he-shoots-this-team mode, declaring that “Major League Baseball doesn’t believe anymore in the Tampa Bay area” while intimating that MLB might change its mind if somebody coughed up a new stadium.
Selig, meanwhile, played bad cop via press release, releasing a statement that read:
“The status quo is simply not sustainable,” the release stated. “The Rays have been a model organization, averaging nearly 92 wins per year since 2008 and participating in the postseason three times, including their inaugural World Series in 2008. Their .565 winning percentage over the last five years is second among all American League clubs and third in all of Major League Baseball.
“Last year, the 30 major league clubs averaged nearly 2.5 million in total attendance; the Rays, who finished with a 90-72 record, drew 1,559,681, which ranked last in the game.
“We are hopeful that the market will respond in kind to a club that has done a marvelous job on and off the field.”
As Tampa Tribune columnist Joe Henderson points out, that’s actually extremely sustainable — the Rays have managed to field a winning team year after year despite low attendance and revenues — but the other MLB teams would be a lot happier if the Rays were bringing in more money instead of using revenue-sharing funds to boost their player payroll, like they’re, um, actually required to be. But anyway, this is more about Sternberg creating a bogeyman that will threaten to evaporate (or “consolidate,” as Sternberg put it) the team if he doesn’t get a new stadium, so he can get all the benefits of a move threat without having to be all, you know, threatening. Back to Henderson:
I asked Sternberg: If MLB no longer believes in the market, doesn’t that make any stadium talk academic?
Well, let’s not get carried away.
“I said to them, ‘Look, let’s see if we can get the market to work. I believe in the market,’ ” Sternberg said.
It’s just that mean ol’ Bud Selig who doesn’t believe. Help Stuart Sternberg teach Selig how to believe, people of Tampa Bay! Clap your hands if you believe! But put your wallets in your hands first! No, open, so that the money flies out! Faster! Faster!