The Rays opened the season with a $72 million payroll. Back in March, Stuart Sternberg announced that the 2011 payroll would be less than $60 million. And now, two weeks prior to the playoffs, Sternberg said the payroll is going down no matter what the Rays do in the playoffs…
“No question. Nothing can change that,” Sternberg said before Tuesday’s game. “Unfotunately there’s nothing that can happen between now and April that can change that unless Joe Maddon hits the lottery and wants to donate it, or I hit the lottery.”
The problem with this statement is the timing. Instead of being the great story that they are, cutting the payroll will now be the running theme surrounding the Rays as long as they are alive in the playoffs. And even if the Rays win the World Series, the topic will be “sure, but now they are just going to gut the team.”
The pundits won’t look at the roster. Instead, they will just see this quote and assume that the 2010 Rays are going to be the 2007 1997 Marlins reincarnated. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.
We have no problem with the payroll going down. We have shown that the Rays can still field a competitive team in 2011 with a payroll in the $50-60 million range. The Rays will return at least five starting pitchers, as well as much of the core position players (Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, Ben Zobrist), and they will still have some money to spend in free agency. But understanding that will require more effort than most of the talking heads are willing to exert.
Besides, the stereotypes and cheap jokes are much better for ratings. And now, Sternberg has just teed up the ball for all the “experts” to take a swing at.