SBD/September 25, 2013/Franchises

Stuart Sternberg Says Rays' Poor Attendance Will Affect Payroll For Next Season

Sternberg says he was a little shocked by the Rays' league-worst attendance
The Rays ended their home season Monday with a full-season total attendance of 1,510,300, "the lowest since 2007," according to Danny Knobler of CBSSPORTS.com. The '07 Rays "lost 96 games, the 10th straight season of 90-plus losses." The '13 Rays have 88 wins with five games remaining in the season. If they get to the postseason, the Rays would have "the lowest home attendance by a playoff team in 34 years." The '79 Pirates drew 1,435,454. Knobler: "You know what is novel: A playoff team with the lowest attendance in the majors. As far as I can tell ... it's never happened before." The Rays are "last in average attendance this year, and are basically guaranteed to finish the year last in overall attendance" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/24). In Tampa, Marc Topkin notes Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg "didn't expect [attendance] to be worst among the 30 major-league teams and said it will have an impact on next season's budget." He said, "I'm a little shocked, I'm a little surprised. ... I wanted to be league average after '08, and I felt (this year) we would be 28th, maybe with a shot at 27th." The Rays finished with a "major league-low average" of 18,646. Sternberg: "We budget for certain numbers and we're extraordinarily conservative when it comes to expectations and budgeting, but it was below our expectations. ... We have to change our sights for next year now." Sternberg also "took issue" with MLB's current "unbalanced scheduling format, calling it an 'abomination' to have teams playing vastly different schedules competing for the same wild-card playoff spots." He said that it was "not fair for the Rays, who play 76 games against the other rugged AL East teams, to be battling with the Indians and Rangers, who each benefit from having two of the league's worst teams in their divisions" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/25).

THERE'S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY: In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes the Yankees have "asked themselves why they must spend so much for players, while other teams can win for much less." This is part of the "driving force behind the Yankees’ goal of getting below" the $189M payroll threshold for next season. But every time a team like the A's, Reds and Pirates "clinches a postseason spot, it reinforces to them that there must be a better way." The Rays, "again, have shown that there is." Every player "has an expiration date, and too many seem to reach it in Yankees pinstripes." The team owes P CC Sabathia $71M "over the next three seasons." The Rays, who opened this season with a payroll just under $62M, would "never box themselves into a contract like that." It "would not be an option" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25).
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