Tagged: Stuart Sternberg

Stu Gets Stern

The “big announcement” came and went. 

In a nutshell, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg told the Tampa Bay area that he wants a new stadium.

Principal owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Stuart Sternberg celebrates with the American League Champion's trophy after defeating the Boston Red Sox in game seven of the American League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs on October 19, 2008 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida.  The Rays defeated the Red Sox 3-1 to win the series 4-3.

No duh.

Seriously, was anybody expecting him to say anything else?  Was he going to announce that the Rays would change its team name to the Yankees so as to fool those New York fans and get more people would come to the stadium?  Was he giving the team back to Vince Naimoli free of charge?

We all knew that he was going to say that the Rays needed a new stadium.  He had said all along that the Rays would not be in Tropicana Field when their lease was up in 2027.  He had been saying that for the last two years.

What WAS a little surprising was how directly he spoke to the leaders of the city of St. Petersburg. 

Maybe it was frustration, or maybe it was impatience, but Sternberg made it clear to mayor Bill Foster et al that the Rays would not be honoring their lease agreement with the city and that they would be leaving Tropicana Field for a new stadium well before 2027.

Wow.

After making that desire abundantly clear, he went on to politically embrace the Tampa Bay region and give false hope to those who do not live in St. Pete or Tampa, that they too would be included in the search of the perfect destination for the Rays’ new digs.

Ahhhh, Stu you are one smart cookie.

Everybody in the state–hell, everybody in MLB–knows that the only two real places the Rays will be playing their baseball in the future is either in eastern Pinellas County (nearer the bridge than the current downtown St. Pete Tropicana Field location) or somewhere around downtown Tampa.

But Sternberg was sure to embrace everybody to let them know that they, too, could be a Grand Prize winner.

(anybody else watch “The Bozo Show”?)

And rightfully so.

The team is called the TAMPA BAY Rays, not the St. Pete Rays (though announcers constantly say that the team plays in Tampa–I live in Tampa and think it is an insult that everybody thinks that “Tampa Bay” means “Tampa”–WE ARE A REGION PEOPLE!!  DON’T INSULT US!!).

I am hoping that this whole thing will go down amicably.  Honestly!  I know that I live in Tampa and having the stadium on this side of the bridge would make owning my season tickets infinitely easier than it is right now because I could go to more games. 

But the fact is, if any “side” gets angry with how this is handled, then many people’s feelings will be hurt and the regionality of the team will be removed.

I know that no matter what, people are going to hurt.  The owner of a popular sports bar, Ferg’s, which is right next to the Trop and enjoys great prosperity because of its location, is really going to take a hit.  He has already said that he is very worried. 

I feel bad for that guy.

People who are used to having the Rays in their backyard (I envy them so much!) are now going to have to drive to see them play.  Considering that a large portion of the St. Pete community consists of retirees, that might be difficult.

I feel bad for those people.

Change is hard to take, and hopefully Sternberg understands that he is not just changing venues, he will be changing lives. 

I’m just hoping that whatever the change is, that everybody will be able to embrace it.

Or survive it.

There really is an excitement in the air right now, no matter what happens.

A new stadium!

As a true-blue Rays fan, I could not be happier!!

And it doesn’t matter where it is…

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Intrigue Abounds as Rays Plan Press Conference

Just what are the Rays planning?

Hmmmmm….

Reports from FOX Sports Radio have indicated that the Tampa Bay Rays will be making some kind of “big announcement” at a press conference called by owner Stuart Sternberg on Tuesday.

Rumors are that the announcement will have something to do with the Rays future stadium plans.

Now THAT’S exciting!

I would be pretty surprised if Sternberg is going to announce the Rays’ move to Connecticut, as the New York Post posited earlier in the season. 

Reports from ABC News indicated that Sternberg also has scheduled a meeting with the St. Petersburg mayor for later in the week.

I would guess that the Rays finally got jealous of the Marlins and decided to go ahead with pushing for a new stadium.  Up to this point, the Rays have used their Godfather-like consigliary, the ABC Coalition, to do the dirty work of putting the stadium bug in the ears of fans and officials alike.

The ABC group was charged with finding locations that would suit the Rays’ longterm viability in the Tampa Bay area.  Originally, it was thought that the group would look exclusively in the St. Pete area.  However, 2 of the 3 locations found to be the best were actually across the bridge in Hillsborough County.

As a Hillsborough County resident, I’m rooting for the Westshore spot that the group liked will be chosen.  Selfishly, it would be only about 10 minutes from my house and I would no longer have to drive 45-60 minutes, fighting traffic on the bridge, just to get to the stadium.

However, I am actually happy with all 3 spots.  One spot is near my work in downtown Tampa and the other spot would be just across the bridge in St. Pete, which would make the drive much easier for all HIllsborough County residents wanting to take in a ballgame.

I’m all abuzz!!

The press conference will take place at 12:15 pm Tuesday.

Five Battles to Watch for in Spring Training

As Spring Training approaches (not fast enough, despite my Indianapolis Colts’ moving the Bowl of all Bowls), there are several areas on the Tampa Bay Rays that are in need of shoring up.  These five areas certainly “ray-se” concerns among fans, and failure for Andrew Friedman and company to address them may result in a long summer for the Boys in Blue.  

Here are the five key areas of consternation heading into these few weeks before pitchers and catchers report:

DH

Rays fans loved Pat Burrell in 2009.

He did an amazing job of keeping those in attendance at the Trop cool every night as the human oscillating fan. Hearing Dwayne Staats announce, “Swing and a miss,” with regards to Burrell never got old. Wait…it did.

No folks, “The Bat” was far from a fan fave-the typical fate of so many .221, 14 hr, 64 RBI guys making 9 million dollars. As of this moment Burrell is still a Ray-not for lack of trying, though. While the much maligned Milton Bradley’s name was bandied about as a possible replacement at DH, nothing happened. Tough to know whether that was for the best or not.

The question remains, though: Who will fill the DH role in 2010? There is no clear cut answer. It seems unlikely that Tampa Bay will look to free agency to find a Burrell replacement. The addition of closer Rafael Soriano and the resigning of Kelly Shoppach pretty much ate up the petty cash lying around Stuart Sternberg’s office. Promoting from within might occur, with Willy Aybar itching for a chance to play every day. A Burrell trade could happen too, but the price tag for the 33-year-old veteran might be a little high for most teams.

Perhaps Rays fans should prepare for another breezy summer inside the Trop.

 

2B

This position was occupied by several people in 2009.  Akinori Iwamura was certainly one of the Rays’ most beloved second basemen of all time (sorry, Brent Abernathy).  However, he is now gone, doomed to the Sarlaac Pitt.  Other second basemen of 2009 include Reid Brignac, Joe Dillon, Willy Aybar (what an experiment in futility that was) and the great Ben Zobrist.

While Zobrist may very well become the Rays everyday 2B in 2010, there could be a problem should Zorilla be moved to right field instead. Brignac probably will not be the every day answer-though it would be neat to see him break camp as the starter so we can see what he can do with consistent at bats-so the Rays might just consider the recently acquired Sean Rodriguez.

Side Note: I know that every team wishes they had a player with the last name “Rodriguez” simply so they can take that player’s first initial and add it to “Rod,” ala “A-Rod.”  But, seriously, Rays fans, let’s please avoid calling him S-rod, ok?

Rodriguez has some serious pop (easily 20 hr power) and shouldn’t be a defensive liability should he take over the 2B position.  I am sure that the Rays see him as a long term answer at that spot in the infield, but it will remain to be seen if Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon will give the youngster the green light coming out of Spring Training.  If he can win the job when the team breaks from Port Charlotte, many things would be cleared up as Zorilla’s move to right would be set.

 

RF

Should S-Rod (oops!) take the 2B competition, the question of who will be the next right fielder becomes simple arithmatic.

Zobrist’s bat and strong arm at the corner outfield position would be a perfect fit.  He would seemingly complete one of the better outfields in the majors and finally settle the revolving door that the Rays have had at that position for years. 

However, if Zobrist were forced to man the 2B position because Rodriguez was not ready for the majors and Reid Brignac was, well, the same ol’ Reid Brignac-a move that Maddon may not frown upon as much as may be thought-then the Rays could potentially be in trouble in right.

In the offseason they unloaded one of the Gabes (both Kapler and Gross were really one entity in 2009, but the Kap has stuck around for about a million in 2010) which means more playing time for Kap-should he earn it.  But his struggles with righties means that the Rays will have only 1/2 of a right fielder-not ideal.

Right fielders in waiting (for how long is to be determined) might be Matt Joyce, Justin Ruggiano, Fernando Perez, and Desmond Jennings, but it is difficult to determine whether or not any are ready to be with the big club.  Jennings, Ruggiano, and Perez may be better suited for CF, which limits thier contributions to RF to a simple “fill in” status from time to time. 

Joyce was a big part of last year’s Edwin Jackson trade, a trade that Maddon has consistently said may work in the Rays favor despite Jackson’s double digit wins and All-Star appearance in 2009 and Joyce’s almost season-long stint at Durham.  Will this be the year that Joyce shows his own All-Star potential and takes the right field spot by force? 

If Rodriguez could take over 2B and Joyce was the every day RF (or at least could platoon with Kapler) then that might give Maddon the option of using Zobrist as that super-sub again-something that certainly worked in the past.  Perfect scenario?  Maybe, maybe not.  It would seem that Zobrist would prefer to have his position staked out beforehand so he could maintain his focus throughout the long season. 

This might be the most contentious position battle as we near spring training.  However, the emergence of either Joyce or Rodriguez will clear everything up quickly.

 

5th starter

The Rays seem to have gotten their money’s worth (we hope) in the Scott Kazmir deal.  Adding the highly touted Sean Rodriguez and the potential of lefty Alex Torres and infielder Matt Sweeney (the biggest Sweeney) has put the Rays in a great position for the future.

However, after moving Mitch Talbot to Cleveland in the Kelly Shoppach trade (he was the player to be named later) the Rays find themselves potentially a little thin in big league ready starters.

Sure, the rotation looks fine at the top with James “Big Game” Shields and Matt “Just As Big Of A Game” Garza.  Spots 3 and 4 should be fine with David Price and Jeff Nieman, especially if both build on their 2009 performances.

But where do the Rays go from there?

At the moment the 5th spot is manned by Wade Davis, but he was hardly consistent in his 6 starts last season in spite of his 2-2 record and 3.72 ERA.  While he struck out an impressive 36 in 36 1/3 innings, he also had games where he simply blew up. 

If Davis does win the 5th spot, who do the Rays turn to should somebody or, God forbid, two somebodys get injured?  In the wings stand Jeremy Hellickson (he might be ready sooner than we think-hopefully) and-<gulp>-Andy Sonnanstine.  Not exactly a scenario that inspires great confidence.

The likelihood of the Rays adding a 5th starter via free agency seem small, though veterans such as Vicente Padilla and Joel Pineiro might be interesting (both would likely expect more than the Rays could afford).

At the moment it seems that Joe Maddon’s squad will be content with the arms they have and head into Spring Training hoping for two things: 1) that those aforementioned arms remain healthy; and 2) that one of the guys in camp really stands out to claim the 5th spot.