How d’ya like the above headline for the Tampa season ticket renewal brochure? Shortly after his Rays were eliminated by Texas in the ALDS, club owner Stuart Sternberg (above, with a typical Tampa crowd shown in the background) — no doubt well aware fewer than 29,000 persons paid to witness one of the most important games in team history — told the assembled press corps his franchise is fucked for the foreseeable future. And for once, I’m not exaggerating, as the following quotes from the Tampa Times’ Gary Shelton reveal ;
“It won’t be my decision, or solely my decision. But eventually, major-league baseball is going to vaporize this team. It could go on nine, 10, 12 more years. But between now and then, it’s going to vaporize this team. Maybe a check gets written locally, maybe someone writes me a check (to buy the team). But it’s going to get vaporized.”
• “If I had $80 million to put out there, we’d be moving along in life,” Sternberg said. “We just don’t have $12 million to put into a hitter.”
• “When I came here, I was confident we could put a winning team on the field, and that would do it. We won, and we won, and we won and we won … and it didn’t do it. Whatever it is, there are 29 other teams passing us like we’re going in reverse now. Except on the field, and at some point, that changes.”
• “As the owner, I could have affected things today. Today, and a couple of games where a thumper would thump. I could decide to mortgage the future and trade all the young guys, but the truth is that we would only get $9.82 extra at the gate. So what’s the sense?”
• “These guys deserved better. They deserved better. We need some horses.”
This time, however, perhaps you can understand the frustration of a man watching his team get outnumbered again and lacking the wallet to do anything about it. Perhaps you can sympathize with someone who wondered how another bat or two might have changed the outcome.
For instance, Texas signed free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre to a six-year, $96 million contract in the offseason. He hit three homers Tuesday against the Rays.
“If it’s just one (hitter), you deal with it,” Sternberg said. “Two, you make do. But four of them? Three of them? If we had gone on in the playoffs, we would have faced that from one team after another. Every team has those guys.”