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Sternberg on stadia, slumps

Posted May 6, 2009 by Marc Lancaster

Updated May 6, 2009 at 07:34 PM

NEW YORK—A trip to the Bronx usually means Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg is on hand, and today was a no-brainer on that front. Sternberg and his family drove in from the suburbs to get their first look at the new Yankee Stadium, and the New Yorker was duly impressed with the massive structure.

Here’s what he had to say to the Tampa Bay media on the trip about that, the Rays’ hopes for a new building of their own and the team’s early season struggles:

Do you want one of these?

“Yeah, I want one – who wouldn’t? It’s a great resource for them. It’s a great resource for them and it’s great for the whole area. It’s wonderful.”

Does seeing this place make you think about your stadium situation?

“I don’t need to see this to think about my situation. We have our own business, we have our own organization, and I don’t spend all day thinking about stadiums, but we know that it’s out there and it’s something that we know is going to be necessary at a point in time for us.”

Is there a timeline for that?

“If it were up to me we’d be in a different building today. We tried, we felt we’d be somewhat along the road to getting something done, but right now I’m not thinking about it, really. We have the ABC committee that’s working on it and hopefully the sooner the better, because the sooner everybody starts making decisions the better for everybody.”

Surely the economy can’t be helping?

“You don’t make multi-generational decisions based on what the economy’s like in any 18-month or three-year period. If the economy was great, does it mean people would be throwing a stadium at us? No. Clearly, as bad as the economy was – and it’s still wobbling – it’s not an ideal time to be doing it. But if the economy’s going gangbusters in nine months, I don’t think people are going to line up and say, ‘The economy’s great – let’s build our own stadium!’ It’s got to be something that works multi-generational; it’s a 40-, 50-year proposition.”

What are your thoughts on the Rays’ season so far?

“I think if the expectations weren’t so high, people would think we’re playing really well. ... We’ve got some incredible things going on, yet the focus has been on what we’re not doing. You have the player of the month, you’ve got a guy leading the league in home runs, you’ve got a shortstop who’s playing as well as anybody in the game. Clearly, there are some incredible positives, and clearly we’ve got some incredible negatives. You start with our catcher and you can point to a few other spots. But if the expectations weren’t so great, people would be just incredibly overjoyed with where we are – beating the Red Sox a few games, oh my gosh!”

But high expectations are what you wanted, right?

“Absolutely. OK, you like to have the bar low so people are pleasantly surprised and all that, but by the same token I think everybody’s realistic, expects this team to be in contention all year, and we’re in a stretch right now where we haven’t shot ourselves in the foot, but we could have and should have won a few more games. But you can’t be unhappy with where we are.”

Are you disappointed in the team’s start?

“I’m not disappointed. I think it’s just, I’m waiting. I’m just waiting to see it all sort of mesh together. Maybe it doesn’t happen. But clearly we’re going to have a few guys not hitting as well as they are; they just can’t sustain it. And we’re going to have a few guys that are going to be doing a lot better. We know we’re going to be a team of streaks; we anticipated that. The expectation is we’re going to go on a reasonable run – and maybe we started already, five days ago.

“Clearly, this was going to be the toughest stretch of the schedule, the first five weeks. And not to take any teams lightly at all, but when you take a look at the teams we have to play after we get done with this road trip for the next couple of months, relatives to the ones we had to play the first month or two and [a lot of games] on the road and whatnot, it won’t be as trying and I think that’ll be helpful for us. I’m not a guy to just say wait and wait and wait, but I think we’ll have a much better sense of what this team looks like at the end of May as opposed to the end of April.”

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