Stuart Sternberg is in town!!! And you know what that means…Hide the children, Stu has got some things to get off his chest. Here are a few of the soundbites…

On the attendance:

“It’s well below expectations…it’s not the first time”

On adding payroll via trades:

“Winning is still paramount to everything we do. Doing what’s best for this organization is paramount to everything we do. They’re one in the same. Yes, that will always be an option.”

But Sternberg added that adding payroll has to be done within the context of “what it means for future years.”

In other words, no matter how well the Rays play the game, they still act like a small-market team (even if this is really more like a mid-market). That is, the team is always living for the future, at the cost of not being able to enjoy the present.

The Rays are the tightwad that saves every penny in a growth mutual fund with an eye on retiring at 65. Meanwhile, they are driving a Dodge Stratus and watching Game of Thrones on the DVR on Friday Nights while the Yankees and Red Sox are out having a good time.

 
 

24 Comments

  1. Don says:

    THE Question all Media is affraid to ask Stuie….
    “Besides fielding a good team, what have YOU done to increase attendance at Rays games, and do you feel its been enough to help?”
    Does “that attitude border on the old philosophy….BUild IT and they will come”?
    It doesn’t work like that in todays “entertainment” market place

  2. Blake says:

    Game of Thrones is pretty sweet, though. just sayin.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      A couple of friends are huge fans of the books and come over to watch it at
      my place since we have HBO. We are 4 episodes in so far. And while I think it is entertaining, for the life of me I can’t figure out the plot. So far there are a bunch of little plots that are very loosely connected, but I am yet to get a sense of the overall direction. Maybe they are just making sure they set everything up like the books. But man, it’s taking a while.

  3. Jeff says:

    It will be interesting to see if Stu starts to understand consumer behavior like the Lightning ownership does. If you cut payroll be 30%, expect a 30% drop in attendance and TV ratings. If you increase payroll by……….

    He seems surprised or at least miffed by this year’s drop even though it was perfectly predictable. Same way with the Bucs. If you spend $30 million under the minimum, consumers lose their sense of product value (correct on the field or not, its human nature and thus very predictable)

    When we talk about a new stadium, its really about value perception, for both individuals and businesses. The Lightning get this to the core to the tune of $30 million investment in the Forum that will return many times the $.

    • Carey says:

      Didn’t this ownership group put a similar amount of money in (much needed) improvements to the Trop a few years back? If so, then it seems some of us have short memories.

      Also, Vinick is putting 30 million into HIS arena, as his purchase of the Lightning, I believe, includes the SPT Forum. Given that the Forum is, I believe, one of the 5 most booked venues in the country, this is a smart investment in HIS eventual bottom line.

      Personally, I believe that this attempt to position Vinick vs. Sternberg as good guy vs. bad guy is both short sighted and off base. The situations are completely different. Vinick has a new stadium, that HE OWNS, in a great location. Stew gets to play in a dump that St. Pete owns that is in the worst demographic location in the entire league – and by a large margin.

      FWIW: DRays Bay (which I rarely frequent) has done a nice job with their stadium series (sans yesterday’s claim that we should incorporate the “sail” design).

      • Amanda says:

        You’ve made some fair points. But the one thing, like I joked about in the create-a-caption yesterday, Viniki and Lightning players haven’t lambasted, harped, and continually brought up attendance woes. As a matter of fact, throughout most of the season, Lightning attendance was atrocious because they had to win back fans lost during the last few years of horrible ownership. They didn’t do it by snarky comments. They treated fans like their honored guests and thanked them for coming, even though it may have been a financial hardship.

        I’m just tired of them bringning it up. And even when it’s a situation where a reporter asks them about it, it can be an opportunity to say thank the fans who do come and be understanding about the financial downturn in the Bay area, like the Lightning did.

        • Joe says:

          Thanks Amanda, its a self-inflicted wound, I call it. On surface, the argument is correct. It almost looks like a scorched earth policy to leave the Trop. Out of the Trop or bust strategy.

          Is the glass half empty or glass half full? Vinik is the classic half-full approach while Sternberg looked at it originally half-full, but now is half-empty. It’s the passion the subject generates that Stu doesn’t get. Vinik kiboshes it with just basic good manners while Stu manages to get his digs in about it.

          • Amanda says:

            Thanks Joe :) Here’s something else that I just thought of; something that I had just read in my boss’ handout to her sellers (she’s a real estate agent) that walks them through the process, and it made me think of this conversation. One of her suggestions to her sellers if they can’t leave when an agent brings buyers in for a showing, to not point out or apologize for any problems (consmetic, structural, or otherwise) with their house because it actually accentuates a problem. Stu and other members of the Rays organization (front office, players, etc.) bringing this up — or not bringing up positive aspects instead when they’re asked — accentuates the problem.

            The scortche earth idea does seem to make sense. I don’t know that it’s true, but it’s a valid theory.

          • Jeff says:

            Yes, Carey, the Rays did indeed put money into the Trop and the team, and what happened? Attendance went up 30%! And while I get the Rays have investment limits given the market size, there are other ways to “keep investing” that don’t involve money– investing in the trust of the fans, investing in the community (which Stu doesn’t seem to want to do himself), that all add up to fan engagement and being willing to pay (in time and money) to get to the Trop more often.

            Again, as fans we need to take our emotions out of it a bit to see how basic this really is. If not, we will just have the same circular arguments over very practical and predictable problems.

          • Carey says:

            They are completely non-comparable situations. The Lightning – aside from the Koulis years – have always had strong attendance and, I believe, have been at the top of the league in attendance for most of their time in the forum.

            As mentioned, Stew came in and did many of the things Vinick did (even putting money in a building they do not own), built a winner, went to a WS and still in the bottom 1/4 in attendance. I think both of you are overestating the woes of the Lightning in terms of attendance and are comparing apples to oranges with the Rays and Lightning ownership situations. But, hey, why bother with facts when it make for nice rhetoric on message boards and sports radio.

            Does Stew need a course in PR. Absolutely. But making him out to be the “bad guy” to Vinick’s white hat is unfair and completely off base.

  4. Joe says:

    I am not sure if I want Stu Sternberg being producer of a movie if I want it produced. Some real shoddy comments about the movie if he doesn’t like it, what have YOU done, Stu? What can YOU say Stu what can you do to change the perception?!

    • JP Peterson says:

      Don’t forget Stu gets 70 million in revenue sharing/central fund money before he sells a single ticket and Vinnik gets about 8 million…yet Vinnik’s payroll is at ^$60 Million+! A lot more more then Stu’s! You are right…no comparison!

  5. Don says:

    How can you compare Lightning who play -1/2 the games the Rays do in a stadium that holds 20,000, IF the Rays were like that they would sell out 20,000 everynight… try to compare Bucs attendance… even after super bowl wins to get the real picture of TODAY

    • Amanda says:

      It’s a somewhat fair point you’re making, Don, but I think you’re being a bit too literal with the numbers. It’s all relative. For the sake of arguement, if ESPN showed a highlight of the Lightning in, let’s say, February when they were (I think) still in first place and there were only 15,000 people in the building, they would harp on that they’re not filling out the arena for a first-place team. It wouldn’t matter if it the Trop can fill 35k or RayJay can fit 65k.

      Let me put it another way: When was the last time there were 20k fans on a Monday and Tuesday in the middle of the regular season when it wasn’t the Yankees or Red Sox in town? These are actually decent numbers — not perfect but decent. It may be a good sign, but then again, it may be a fluke. Why didn’t Stu take that angle? Why didn’t he mention that as a positive?

      • Carey says:

        15000 (nearly or over 3/4 capacity) is comparable to 22,500 in the Trop. That’s not a bad crowd.

        And who cares about ESPN. Why would any baseball fan worth their salt waste their time with ESPN, when MLB Network offers an exponentially better product?

  6. Gus says:

    Gus on Payroll: Well Below Expectations

  7. MJ says:

    These comparisons between Vinick and Sternberg and the Trop and the Forum are just silly.

  8. Amanda says:

    Carey, it won’t let me reply to you again (I think the reply box would have been too thin), but I think you’re reading into something I’m saying. I don’t think of Sternberg as the “bad guy,” especially since we’ve seen the likes of Namoli and Koulis in the area. He’s done great work of pulling this organization up by the bootstraps.

    You’re missing my point when I’m talking about Lightning attendance vs. Rays attendance. It’s not a 1-to-1 ratio in the numbers compairson, and I’m not talking about numbers anyway. What I’m saying is that the Lightning ownership were thankful for the attendance they had, even when they only had a few thousand people show up on Super Bowl Sunday. The players even thanked the fans that showed up that day. The last time the Rays players talked about the fans, they put them down. You even agreed with me on this point.

    You can like a guy (Stu) without thinking the sun shines out of his every orafice. I can point out what I think is a flaw in the way he’s doing things, but that doesn’t mean I hate him or think he’s the bad guy.

    • Joe says:

      And I agree. I respect Stu’s business acumen and sense and what he’s done for team and pride they have given the area. But I think he misses the point on how to work with fans, not against them. Now, I will admit I am stronger than that, why should I have lots of negative energy against the man? I think he has what I call a failure of understanding, coupled with a media contingent that coddles his every word. I don’t think he gets it with fans, but it doesn’t constitute hatred. But if its this bad as he says, shouldn’t he question his priorities?

    • Sarah says:

      Agree with you 100% Amanda. I can appreciate all the this ownership group has done to improve the team and still cringe when I see Stu interviewed at Yankee Stadium last year in the heat of a pennant race and his comments to the press are all slamming Rays attendance. This is how you treat your customers? Even a poorly attended game features 18,000 people who have spent time and money to support you, when they could have spent those things doing something else. I think the Rays have done a good job of showing their appreciation through an improved “fan experience” (what other ballpark is kept as clean and has such pleasant staff?) but a poor job of having players and top management express that appreciation as well.

  9. ALLEN says:

    One problem seems to be FLORIDA. Look at the two teams with the worst per game attendance figures—-Tampa Bay and Florida. I don’t get it. Is it because so many Florida residents are from elsewhere and they can’t replace their loyalty to another team? i’ve been a Braves fan for decades, but my #1 team since 2006 has been the Tampa Bay Rays. They’re local, they play hard and they’re my team.

    I love the Trop. It is enjoyable to watch games in the cool of that stadium. Hard to get to, yes, but I don’t think the Trop is alone. The only other two stadiums where I’ve seen major league games were in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium and the old Comiskey Park in Chicago. I’d take the Trop any day. Unfortunately, I do think location may be a detriment. Prices could be a factor. Heck, it cost me $145 for three people in the press level.

    Anyway a new stadium in either downtown St. Pete or Tampa is not the solution, but I don’t know what is. GO RAYS!!!

    • Sarah says:

      Agree that the Trop is a fine place to watch a game — but don’t agree about price .Most surveys find that Rays tickets are the best deal in the majors. If you don’t want to pay $145 for three people, don’t go to a “prime” game. Press level seats are $27 for other games.

      • ALLEN says:

        Perhaps I was misleading. I attended a Cincinnati game which was not prime. The $145 included tickets, processing fees, “convenience” fees, parking and a delicious snack for two people. That doesn’t include driving costs and the hectic drive through Tampa to the stadium.

        I’m not complaining for myself and you are probably right that Rays tickets are the best deal in the majors. I’m only suggesting cost may keep many away from the ballpark.

        I’d love to see the Trop filled for every game, but it is a mystery as to how to get fans out. It took me 2 hours to get to the stadium Tuesday night, but if a new stadium is located in Tampa, that’s going to limit severely attendance from St. Petersburg.

        I really do wonder if the problem is a FLORIDA disease as is evident in low attendance for the Rays and Marlins. If that’s the problem, why is it and can it be corrected?

        We’re certainly not going to solve the attendance problem in this forum.

        • Sarah says:

          Certainly there are other costs than the ticket prices, but since you can bring your own food and park downtown and take the shuttle you can really minimize those costs if cost if a factor.

          But I wonder whether the attendance problem is in part a larger urban planning problem. We have no really urban center that is convenient to a large percentage of the population, and we have no mass transit system capable of funneling large crowds to a central spot. So there’s no location that is obviously accessible to a critical mass of potential baseball fans.

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