Stu Sternberg says attendance numbers will hurt Rays’ payroll … again

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The Rays are in New York, home of team owner Stu Sternberg, which often means attendance questions.  And sure enough, we got them.

“I’m a little shocked, I’m a little surprised,” Sternberg said, according to the Times’ Marc Topkin.

Sternberg added he expected the Rays to sell out a potential Oct. 2 wild-card game, and “he was ‘pretty certain’ any subsequent playoff games at Tropicana Field also would sell out,” despite another season of falling attendance that ranked the league’s worst

Without getting into specifics, Sternberg said there would be an impact on next season’s budget, although a long postseason run could make up for the revenue shortfall. The Rays ranked 28th this season with an opening day payroll of about $58 million.

In many ways, its the same ole rhetoric from Sternberg, who has suggested doom-and-gloom payroll reductions for years.  But to the Rays’ credit, these kind of concerns have been largely unjustified, ast he team has been one of MLB’s willingest since 2008.

Even Sternberg admitted in January, “we’re not going to be able to continue (this kind of success), even with a $150M payroll…but (new revenues) help to stack the deck.”

He also acknowledged in 2011 that the Rays won’t ever be able to compete with big-spenders like the Rangers (after they eliminated the Rays).  And better attendance would help…but he wasn’t counting on it.

“If we won the World Series this year,” Sternberg said at the time, “I wouldn’t think my attendance would get higher. It didn’t go up in ’09 when we got to the World Series (in ’08).”

So there should be no surprise from Sternberg at this point, and especially not shock.  He knows attendance will continue to slide for the Rays.  That’s part of the reason the team gets $35M a year (give or take) in revenue sharing to make up for it. It’s the system MLB created to preserve parity
As much as Sternberg has toned down the rhetoric lately – at least out of the Rays offices – there’s little evidence the Rays need help (to their credit) either on- or off-the-field right now.
Cross-posted from Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium blog.