Rays owner Stuart Sternberg made comments in the locker room following the Rays elimination from the playoffs in which he suggested that the Rays are being held back by the lack of ticket sales, and indicated that if things don’t improve, the team would either move or be contracted.
Today, Sternberg addressed those comments and the ensuing criticisms in an email sent to season ticket holders (thanks to those of you that forwarded the letter).
In the letter, which can be read below, Sternberg doesn’t back down from his comments, saying it would be “disingenuous” to suggest everything is fine with the team. However, he does want it known that he is not complaining or blaming the fans.
Sternberg adds that the organization is “committed to doing all that [they] can to find solutions.”
We can quibble over whether the Rays are truly doing everything they can. But the lack of effort by the Rays to open any dialogue whatsoever with the city of St. Pete on the stadium issue seems to contradict this notion. At least that is the appearance on the surface.
As fans, we just want to know that Rays want to stay in the area. The rest is just details. But when there is no dialogue between the two sides, and the only word we hear on the issue all season is “vaporize,” it is hard for us to be in an understanding mood.
“Thank you for being such a big part of a wonderfully improbable season!
I know you share my pride in our ballclub’s successes over the past six seasons. We are one of three teams to reach the Postseason three out of the past four years. To do it from the AL East, while winning the East twice, makes it all the sweeter.
Rays fans support the team in many ways. Perhaps they attend a few games each year, coordinate a group outing, or watch or listen from a distance. I am grateful for each and every Rays fan.
But it is our season ticket holders who have been and continue to be our foundation. Without your loyal support, we could not begin to do what we do. I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate the time and hard-earned money you invest in the Rays. You are the ones who support the team through thick and thin. You spread word throughout our community about the great experiences you have at Tropicana Field, as well as your memories and friendships that are connected to Rays baseball.
We all care deeply about the organization. We want it to succeed. We want it to be a fixture in Tampa Bay. We want the seats filled, the atmosphere charged, and the play on the field to be of high quality. Each Spring, we want to look forward to the bright prospects of a new season.
As in the past, I will continue to communicate with you honestly and with candor.
I became the principal owner of the Rays in 2005 because I believed that Major League Baseball could thrive in Tampa Bay. The transformation of the franchise has been breathtaking: a rebranding of the team to become the Rays, significant investments in Tropicana Field, top notch fan experience and customer service, and, of course, development of an acclaimed baseball operations department.
Just as when this organization was “under construction” back in 2005, we continue to face major challenges. At that time, I said that there were no quick, easy fixes. I asked for patience as we built the Rays from a team that had never experienced success into what it is today.
Recently, I have acknowledged that the future of the Rays and Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay is precarious. I have expressed concern about the long-term health and vitality of our franchise. When asked by the press, I did not shy away from answering questions about attendance and our future. For the sake of our franchise, we cannot ignore these questions. Doing so would be a disservice to the organization, its employees and all of its loyal supporters.
Please do not take my remarks as a complaint — they were not intended to be. I was not pointing fingers. I was not blaming anyone. I do not mean to sound ungrateful to our fans for their support, and I certainly will not tell anyone how to spend his or her money. I was simply being forthright about a reality that must be faced. It would be easy to assure you and all Rays fans that everything will be fine, but that would be disingenuous.
It has been a thrilling past six years for the Rays. We have experienced success on the field that most everyone believed to be impossible. This success has exposed questions from which neither the Rays nor the Tampa Bay region can hide. I assure you that our organization is committed to doing all that we can to find solutions.
I am proud to be the principal owner of the Rays, and I am truly grateful for your support, dedication and passion. Thank you for being a season ticket holder. Your support does not go unnoticed by any of us within the organization.
I look forward to seeing you on Opening Day 2012 for the next edition of our Rays.