Through the first 60 games of a long season, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg has no issues with his team's performance.
Attendance, however, is another matter.
The Rays entered Tuesday night's play with a 31-29 record, trailing the first-place Yankees by 3 1/2 games in the rugged American League East, despite starting the season 1-8.
"It's been a roller-coaster season that started down, but if you said to me in February that in the beginning of June you're going to be a couple of games out of first, right there with the Yankees and the Red Sox, I'd have signed up,'' Sternberg said. "You can't ask for any more than that.
"Our bullpen has been a pleasant surprise, then you've got the play of Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and our starting pitching. And I can't say enough about our manager. Joe Maddon is the right top for the pot. We get guys who leave here and aren't as successful, for whatever reason. We bring new guys to the Rays and they are a little more successful than they've been.''
With an average home attendance of 17,954, the Rays rank 29th in baseball, ahead of only the Florida Marlins. That average is the lowest since they drew 16,139 a game in 2006, before earning two AL East pennants and going to the World Series in 2008.
"It is what it is,'' Sternberg said of the disappointing turnouts at Tropicana Field. "It could be better and should be better. I know we can't sustain ourselves like this. It hasn't gotten better. If anything, it's worse. We had another successful year last season and the economy, while it's not good, has not gotten worse, but our numbers I think will be down, coming off a postseason appearance. It's unheard of."
Sternberg knows there are plenty of fans out there.
"People are watching us on TV and listening on the radio. I walk around and I see all the hats. I want to have a team that's going to be able to compete, but we can't lose money year in and year out, hand over fist.
"To run a payroll like we do now, basically the second-lowest in baseball, and barely keep our nose above water, we can't sustain that.''