Chatting with Stu

It's that time of year again, it seems. DRays Bay, once again, gets the opportunity to ask Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg a few questions. This year, however, I opened up the floor to a couple other people (Cork Gaines from "Rays Index" and EricSanSan from "Rays Anatomy") and they both got a question in on it. I hope everyone enjoys it and hope the answers given solved a few burning questions for Rays fans.

-Jake

Jake : How much of a factor is future arbitration-eligibility when a payroll-conscious team like the Rays is considering when to bring up players such as Evan Longoria and David Price? In other words, is the financial consideration of the franchise just as important as what is best for the player and what is best for the team?

Stu:.The development process is the primary dictator of the timing of call-ups.  Other factors including injuries certainly factor into the decisions, but a player's development is the driving force.

JL:. I know the optimism is high for the Rays and the players themselves have used the dreaded "P-word" as not being a completely impossible goal. When, in your mind, are our chances optimal for the Rays to be legit playoffs contenders? 2009? 2010? 2011?

SS: I am proud of the changes that have taken place over the past couple of seasons.  They have put the team in a position to succeed, and not just this year but for the foreseeable future.  We have the talent, and now it's a matter of it all coming together on the field.

JL: People have wondered, since we've made him our pick in the 2005, which ownership group led the charge for the Wade Townsend pick? People say that the scouts wanted us to pick Andrew McCutchen, but someone thought Wade Townsend was the easier choice because he'd be a quicker and easier "sign". Can you please solve this mystery?

SS: Those are the types of questions that don't get answered.  It violates a basic principal of the draft room--those conversations are not to be shared.  What I can say is that we're proud to have Wade in our organization.  He's battled through some injuries, and we're looking forward to staying healthy and having a breakthrough season this year.

JL: Late in the offseason, it was quoted that the team would consider adding payroll through midseason if certain options come up. People have often wondered, will the Rays ever use their immense depth in the farm system to put together a package for a veteran who is already under contract?

SS:Developing depth in our farm system has been a priority for the organization.  It's especially valuable for an organization like ours--one that cannot rely upon the free agent market as a primary means to putting together team.  How we best utilize that depth will be determined by factors that can't be anticipated today but it certainly provides us flexibility and options that we didn't have a couple of years ago.

JL:  From reports of the Spring Training workouts, it seems that it's been a much more relaxed and distraction-less thus far. Can you pin-point any reasons why you think that the atmosphere has changed from last year to this year? To use a pun, it seems that we may have truly exorcised the devil out of the team formerly known as the "Devil Rays".

SS:  Sometimes it takes a fresh start--the new name, new uniforms and a few new faces,--for the changes that have been taking place to come into focus.  The changes really started to take hold in the final two months of last season, and we had what I hope is a  very productive offseason that helped carry the momentum into Spring Training.

JL:  I know that you're often a viewer of Rays blogs. Outside of DRays Bay, what Rays blogs do you and have you read?

SS: This one, obviously, as well as the message boards on MLB.com (I am a bit dismayed about Bugshus negativity these past 6 months). Rays Index, Outs per swing and Raysbaseball.blogspot.   Mostly I look to see the passion and a sense if  we are getting our message out so our deepest followers understand the plan.

JL:  Have you guys and the scouting department started to come up with a list of names for this upcoming June's Amatuer Draft?

Certainly , and it will be very fluid as the next four months go by.

JL:. I've noticed an increase in the amount of writers for Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus being hired by Major League Baseball teams. Unless I've counted wrong, the Rays have hired 3 former Baseball Prospectus guys in the last couple of years. I've always wondered if we would ever hire a Will Carroll or Keith Law to a Bill James/Voros McCracken-like Senior Advisor role?

SS: I can't speak to Will or Keith's career aspirations, but we're always looking to integrate new ideas and skill sets into our operations.  We can't simply rely upon convention to be successful.  

JL: . I'm not very knowledgable in the day-to-day business that is involved in running a baseball team, but it was brought up during the postseason that MLB as a whole has made a jaw-dropping 6 Billion dollars and many people believe that the trickle-down effect is basically guaranteeing that every team, big-payroll or small-payroll, is making money (80 MIL, not counting local revenue). However, late in the offseason, it was brought forth that the Rays had lost 20-30 Million. Is the entire revenue-sharing system much more complicated than fans think it is?

SS: The revenue sharing system and the distribution of baseball's centralized revenues are complicated.  We want the Rays to be a self-sustaining business.  As our revenues grow, our expenditures and investments will grow accordingly.  We've certainly run significant cash deficits the past two seasons, but that was not unexpected as we made significant investments in the organization, whether it was to create our international program and or improve to Tropicana Field or to pay off deferred compensation. There were whole host of areas that I felt needed to be addressed throughout the organization, marketing, technology, community outreach etc.

JL:. Evan Longoria's 2008 fate seems to be in his Spring Training showings. We've seen with other Major League 3B that some seem to need more seasoning in the minors and some need to take their lumps before they truly start to excel. Hypothetically, what are the chances that Longoria is one of those rare major leaguers who face little-to-no adversity at all and doesn't really give any glimpses of failure? I've followed Longoria since he first played for the Renegades and even when he slumps, he shows things that make you wonder if he's possibly one of the next great MLB 3B historically. Kinda puts the organization in a difficult position, doesn't it?

SS: That's a question that should be directed to Andrew and Joe, and it's one they've been answering quite often of late. I was fortunate to see Evan's first game in Hudson Valley and we should all be pleased with RJ and Andrew for selecting him. I do not take that for granted.

JL:. You have the floor, what are some thoughts or ideas that you'd like to pass through the fans?

SS: I feel very good about where we are right now and where we are headed the next 3-5 years. We came in here in October of 2005 and I am proud that we have achieved many the goals that we set for ourselves by maintaining discipline and flexibility at the same time. Those are things that are easy to say but not always comfortable to navigate. We have so much yet to do and I am confident in our ability to continue on the path to success. It is not lost on me that the last two years we have all endured the worst record in baseball. That experience has only made the organization top to bottom, stronger. Thanks for the time and thanks for caring. -Stu

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