ORLANDO — Rays owner Stuart Sternberg reiterated his belief in Tampa Bay as a major league baseball market Wednesday after baseball super agent Scott Boras suggested earlier in the day the Rays would be better served leaving Tampa Bay altogether.
“I believe in the market,” Sternberg said.
Sternberg expected to meet Wednesday with baseball commissioner Bud Selig about the Rays stadium situation during the owners meeting at the J.W. Marriott in Orlando Grande Lakes. He said the meeting had yet to take place when he learned of the comments from Boras.
Selig will likely comment on the Rays stadium issue today when he addresses the media.
Boras, who represents a number of the game’s highest-paid players, was asked Wednesday for his opinion on the Rays’ plight to get out of their Tropicana Field lease and build a stadium that will generate enough revenue to allow the Rays to increase their payroll.
“I would say the tale of two cities, the one they’re in and the one they should be in,” Boras said.
When asked to name the city where the Rays should build a stadium, Boras said, “The one that’s going to support them to the level of the performance of the team.”
Boras, who later suggested New Jersey as a possible destination, then talked about the Rays attendance, which was last in the major leagues in 2013 at 1,510,300 fans during 81 home dates despite a 92-win season that saw the team capture the American League wild card and reach the division series.
“When you have a team that successful, there’s teams that are drawing 2.5 to 3, over 3 million for that kind of performance. It’s just really something for the fans of the Tampa Bay area, they need a new ballpark, they need to address that,” Boras said. “Certainly the bell’s been answered by the organization as far as putting a product on the field that would normally attract fans.”
Said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, “I’m glad to hear on this point that our interests are aligned. Our motivation to increase our revenue is the viability of our sustaining success for the next six years.”
The Rays are hoping Rick Kriseman, St. Peterburg’s mayor elect, will enable them to seek stadium sites throughout the Tampa Bay area.
One of the biggest stories this offseason is the speculation surrounding a possible trade of Rays pitcher David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner. Price made $10.1125 million last season. He is projected to make $13.1 million in 2014, his third year of arbitration.
That the club might be forced to trade their top pitcher (something they did last offseason with James Shields) because of low revenue generated by low ticket sales had Boras, once a critic of the Rays’ low payrolls, siding with Sternberg and his staff.
“I think that retention of their players is key to the building of a franchise, but you also have to understand that that’s probably true of a true grade of an ownership that has had the support of the fan base when winning. They have not,” Boras said.
Sternberg did agree with Boras on that point.
“He wants us, as he should, to be able to pay players more money,” Sternberg said. “And if our revenues went up, we would be able to pay players more money.”
In the meantime, the Rays are currently renovating the Trop to make the stadium more fan-friendly. Walkways will be created behind the outfield sections to enable fans to watch the game while moving around the stadium. The Batters Eye restaurant in center field is being modified to add a meeting place for fans.