I saw this story on Twitter last  night where the writer speculates that Stu Sternberg would be a viable candidate to purchase the Mets should they go up for sale. What saddened me is that some on Twitter and Facebook are actually expecting it to happen and do not seen at all upset by the thought of it happening.

Its possible….I would NOT mind this. If locals got the ownership, they would be in better position to work with the city leadership and county commissioners on both sides of the bay. There is a carpetbagger stigma starting to come over Stu.

Well, Jeff Vinik is everything Stu Sternberg NEEDS to be right now…and he is getting the money that Stu should be asking for…This is heading for Stu selling out.

My question – why?

Are you upset he did not pony up money to overspend to retain all of the free agents that left the team this off-season?Are you upset that he came out at the end of last season and said payroll was going to be cut as current revenue streams could not allow the club to continue on its spending trends? That is your prerogative but look back at what Sternberg has done since taking over majority ownership of the franchise.

  • Dramatically turned around the tarnished Devil Rays brand in the local community both on and off the field
  • Gave Tropicana Field a much-needed facelift by spending ~$35M in upgrades and renovations in 2006 (wikipedia)
  • Hired extremely competent front office personnel that have produced one American League pennant, two American League East pennants, and top five farm system grades each of the past six seasons and has won the fourth most games in baseball over the past three seasons.

Sternberg and his personnel choices took what was arguably the worst franchise in baseball and in a period of six seasons made it one of the showcase franchises in the entire sport proving that limited resources does not mean limited success.

He does live in New York and own a team in Tampa Bay – the antithesis of the Steinbrenner days when he ran the Yankees from the compound in Tampa, but labeling him a carpetbagger is rather harsh. His actions with the team do not hint at any kind of neglect and his absence at many games should not be treated as such. He is a father of four kids who has actively coached their sports teams and involved in their academic lives which leaves little time to jet set down to St. Petersburg for games on a whim. If anything, the Mets season ticket holder is someone that latched onto a team when his beloved Dodgers left Flatbush for the west coast. We know Sternberg is a Dodgers fan because one of his kids is named Sandy and his own personal email address has the number 32 in it. Additionally, past articles show how actively Sternberg follows the teams and give readers a good look inside the operational style of the owner. A pair of comments from that particular article jump off the page:

Andrew Friedman, the Rays’ general manager, said that Sternberg struck the right balance between fan and boss. With Sternberg in New York most of the time, decisions are left to those hired to make them, he said, and Sternberg chimes in only when his authority and business know-how are needed.

“During a game, he’ll text me on how in the world we could have made that bunt attempt,” Friedman said, smiling. “But he can step back and handle things with a serious, longterm perspective.”

Given that Sternberg is from New York state, it is probably not a reach that he considers famous New Yorker and former President Teddy Roosevelt an inspirational person. It was Roosevelt that once said that, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” That quote is perfectly in line with how Andrew Friedman describes his boss’s management style. If fans wants a more hands on and meddling owner for the franchise, there are good and bad examples in past history for them to review. Mark Cuban stands out on the good side of operations while Ted Turner, many of the Steinbrenner years, and the Vince Naimoli regime stand out on the bad side of things. Sternberg hand-selected Matt Silverman to be team President and Andrew Friedman to be the General Manager. That group had enough sense to promote franchise lifer R.J. Harrison to Director of Scouting and his work in that department has been arguably the most vital part of the franchise’s success in recent years.

As for the original article, I had several reactions to the information within it.

Sternberg Has Close Ties To Mets: “considering that he maintains his residency in New York, there is a good chance Sternberg has attended more Mets games in recent years than Rays games.”

That is pure speculation on the author’s part as he has no way of quantifying that. The only Mets games that we are certain that Sternberg attended are the ones the Rays played at Citi Field in 2009. He admits to being a season ticket holder since the early 80’s and attending nearly 1000 games in the since-flattened Shea Stadium but makes no such mention of his attendance record at Citi Field beyond the three game series from 2009.

Sternberg would also likely bring with him a very strong management team that includes Andrew Friedman (Executive V.P.  Baseball Operations) and Matt Silverman (Team President):

When John Henry sold the Florida Marlins to go take over majority ownership of the Boston Red Sox, the front office personnel of the Marlins did not go with him. Conversely, when Jeffrey Loria bought the Marlins, he took the front office personnel, the field personnel, the scouting reports, and even the personal computers from the Montreal front office down to Miami. The fact that Major League Baseball wanted to contract the Expos and happily bought the toxic asset that Loria created with his selfish behaviors allowed that situation to happen. Part of the current value of the Rays are the people that run the team – stripping those assets from the team as a condition of sale devalues the team in the eyes of a potential new owner.

Major League Baseball Has Precedent For An Owner Switching Teams:

Yes, they do, and a rather ugly one at that. They bought the Expos from Loria to help facilitate the Marlins and Red Sox ownership situation and to begin to put the chokehold on the Expos franchise with the intent of contracting them as well as the Minnesota Twins. They would have gotten away with their plan as well if not for the meddling courts in Minnesota that held up a contractual injunction between the Twins and the Metrodome. Since baseball could not contract the Expos, they mimicked Rachel Phelps’ business model in the movie Major League and took the life out of the franchise trying to restrain their successes on the field as the club continued to compete for a post-season spot. MLB even went as far as refusing to allow the club to expand the roster to 40 players in September of 2003 claiming the expenses of doing so would be too putting the club at a competitive disadvantage. MLB thought they would only control the team for two years which was painfully obvious when they signed a one year deal with an option with FieldTurf to re-surface Olympic Stadium and yet they held the asset from 2002 to mid 2006 when Tom Lerner bought the franchise.

Yes, Sternberg has the frustrations of playing in one of the two worst ballparks in the major leagues (Oakland being the other one) but also is sitting on the leagues second best accumulation of farm system talent and a major league roster littered with bargains in the form of Evan Longoria, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Joyce, and others. Conversely, the Mets have a newish stadium with excellent corporate revenue streams but a major league roster in disarray due to the current ownership’s dealing with Bernie Madoff. Those financial strains have prevented the club from making any serious additions this off-season and the club still committed salaries of $72M to pay Johan Santana, $51M to pay Jason Bay, and $30M for David Wright until his next contract negotiation comes up. Additionally, the Mets’ farm system was described by prospect guru Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus as, “Neither great, nor awful, the Mets’ organization is a middle-of-the-road one that provides more long-term bets than immediate assistance to the big-league squad.”

Pretty stadiums do not build success – just ask the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. Sustainable talent at both the major league level and minor league level is what builds success and there is no better situation in baseball for that than right here in Tampa Bay. Sternberg made his millions on Wall Street making sound financial investments. He spent $65M to buy a 48% controlling interest in the Devil Rays in 2004 and today, Forbes values the Rays brand at $320M meaning Sternberg has received a 136% return on his initial investment (before factoring in inflation).  Forbes currently values the Mets franchise at $912M – well above the $312M the Wilpons paid for the franchise in 2002 but the club also holds the second-highest debt/value ratio in baseball trailing only their brethren across the river. If Sternberg is looking for another successful return on his investment, buying controlling interest in a highly leveraged team with less than ideal talent at the major and minor league level does not seem like the place to do it.

About Jason Collette

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5 Responses to Why?

  1. jimwisinski says:

    This is a really good post.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Strong post Jason. The concept of resenting Sternburg for not pumping more money into the Rays is shocking and representative of a person who can’t see past their own motivations.

  3. davidbloom says:

    Stuart Sternberg has improved the franchise. Thats is clear. The thing that I always think about is what Jay from Dan Hirsch’s RaysBB message board said when Stu initially took over. He said give him a few years, and let me know if you are still excited as much about him as you are today. Tell me if he is not that much different than Vince.

    Based on payroll, he faced the financial constraints the Namoli group faced. He has brought in group think approach with Hunsicker and a board of baseball people. He didn’t go with the traditional GM appointee, but gave Friedman the final decision maker as VP. In that sense, Stu has changed the dynamic. Just look at what Mets just did with their front office.

    Overall, I am thrilled what the organization has done. However, just like in everything you have to judge all the different categories. They goofed going for a new stadium when they did in St. Petersburg and now it is going to haunt them moving forward.
    However, they have shown that they are committed to the area.

    Lastly, as a baseball fan of Rays I constantly have to defend what the Rays are doing. We have heard the Florida Marlins joke over years. The Rays finally got out of the mode where the jokes stopped. Now, its the jokes all over again. I guess bottom line is this off season was a bit of reality what the organization really is. Its a small market team that is set up well to be competitive. Just don’t get too attached to any players.

    p.s. A big market team fan would never accept trading of a guy like Garza in his prime at a reasonable based contract. If Garza was traded like that, look out Upton as he is about to get expensive and his production is lesser. I think Rays could of gotten a reasonable package for Upton.

    • Garza is now making $1.3M more than Upton – and he is where the team had a position of strength to deal from which is why he was the one moved for some much-needed higher level organizational depth.

      As far as your other grievances with my work/actions – feel free to reach me via email to discuss offline.

  4. Pingback: Some Final Thoughts On The Sternberg Story | Rays Index

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