Well, now that everyone from the blowhards on 620, to the newspaper columnists, to the die-hard fans have voiced their opinions on the takeover of the Rays by New York investor Stu Sternberg, I think it's time for me to chime in. And I do not write an opinion that parallels everyone else's, so if I agreed with the sentiment being felt in 'Rays Nation', this article would not exist.
And I do have a seperate opinion, one of caution and tempered enthusiasm that apparently many Rays fans and observers do not feel. The ten year reign of terror by Naimoli is over, this is true. There is little to no doubt that he was the worst owner in professional baseball, and one of the worst in all of sports. The things that separated him from other cheap owners-multiple public confrontations-became so repetitive towards the end that they were pushed to the middle pages of the sports section.
Forcing a high school band to pay for entry to the stadium, banning a Mets scout from the stadium for using his bathroom, I could go on and on. But the bottom line is...this guy, at the very least, is going to be much better than Vince. Well, you don't know that. The chances certainly are in his favor, to the tune of about 99.9% more likely to be better, but it is not certain.
What have I got against Stu? Nothing. I personally think he is a nice guy. He was very cordial when I met him in March. He has been saying all the right things. Free parking, repairing relationships, smart philosophy. I had to restrain myself from getting very excited when I first heard what he said. And you should, too. After all, thus far, we have seen no actual moves he has made that should lead us to favor him. He has been SAYING all the right things, but keep in mind, he hasn't actually DONE the right things, save for free parking.
What about firing Chuck LaMar, you ask? Well, any owner whose mind hasn't turned to Cream of Wheat (thank you, San Francisco DJ) would have made that move. The facts are, he hasn't done anything with respect to baseball operations. He doesn't come off as a jerk, which certainly helps, but if Vince had been a jerk who was putting money into fielding a winning team, I would have had no problem with him. Stu has said he will repair relationships with sponsors in the community. It isn't that easy, and he knows that. You cannot just repair eight years worth of pain by saying something or doing one thing.
Relationships with fans are going to be even harder to repair. Vince managed to do a Grade A job of pissing off any fan who managed to get emotionally attatched to the team, and even the ones that didn't. The list of people that Vince has alienated reads longer than Paris Hilton's 'to do' list. Free parking is a start, but Stu has to change the whole shape of the organization. The bitter old people (not all of them, mind you) who pretend to be 'ushers'. The chickenshit security personnel. There is a whole boatload of things that need to be changed for that goal to have a check mark next to it.
Of course, he is not the one who got the Rays into this mess; that title goes to Vince. But this guy is not an idiot, he knew everything he was getting into before he bought a share of the team. And it will ultimatly be HIS responsibility to get us out of the hole.
He can claim to be focused on improving Tropicana Field, but I don't see the contractors setting up their pressure washers. He can claim that he will instill a manager with 'his type' of smart thinking, but that can easily be cancelled out by hiring someone like Bobby Valentine. He can claim to clean house in the front office and he can claim to want to hire a GM with 'his type of thinking', but that can be nullified by hiring someone like Pat Giilick. He can claim to have no interest in moving the team or wanting a new stadium, but words can easily be retracted five years from now when there aren't enough luxury boxes for corporate interests.
The bottom line is, what he has been saying has come only in verbal form. He hasn't really done anything to convince me that he is going to be different. And that isn't his fault. He cannot pressure wash the walls or change the entire philosophy overnight, it just isn't possible. This message is more directed towards the fans with blind optimism that Stu will be some sort of savior. Is this possible? Certainly, but if Stu was a fan in this senario, I'm sure he'd take my cautious view of things, and a lot of people in the Rays' circles need to do the same thing.