Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg has routinely trumpeted the need for his team to break away from its outdated Tropicana Field home, but added in a recent interview he remains convinced the Rays' long-term future can be in the Tampa Bay area.
Speaking with Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, Sternberg said that despite what he calls a "capitulation" on the part of many locals about the Rays surviving in the Bay area he's feeling progressively more optimistic about the possibility.
"I don't feel good about it, but I feel better," he said. "I'd like to think we're going to be able to make progress. ... Ideally, we'll tackle it in earnest at the end of the season."
St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster, who has said the Rays will be expected to honor their lease at Tropicana Field running through the 2027 season, is up for reelection this year. However, Sternberg sounded as though he expects the agreement to remain in place regardless of who's running the team's host city.
"There's no real breaking of the lease," he told Morosi. "We're there. We have to play our games there."
Sternberg acknowledged a growing chorus nationally which feels the Bay area is incapable - for a variety of reasons - of supporting his team.
"If it's up to me, (the Rays leaving the Bay area) is very unrealistic. There's certainly been a lot of discussion, from others within baseball, that we should get the hell out of (Tampa Bay). It's not in my makeup to do that. I am committed to doing whatever I can, until I can longer do it, to make it work there."
When asked specifically about the prospect of relocating the team to Montreal (which lost the Expos in 2005), Sternberg said he was convinced it was a feasible market for baseball but added "I'm not looking. I just want to explore my back yard."
Sternberg also sounded optimistic at the chances of standout starting pitcher David Price still being with the team in a year (Price is eligible for free agency after 2015), though he acknowledged a contract extension isn't likely.
"It's difficult to have a Cy Young Award winner in the prime of his career that fits into the Rays' mold - even if our revenues are up. That doesn't mean it can't happen."