Stuart Sternberg said all the right things. One doesn't get accepted into the exclusive club of Major League Baseball team owners without knowing how to play the game.
No, he is not interested in buying the New York Mets. Yes, he respects the Wilpon family and thinks they are the Mets owners long term, he told the New York Post.
Bud Selig would have choked on his Cheerios if the Tampa Bay Rays principal owner responded any differently. Sternberg stood to gain nothing and had plenty to lose if he admitted interest in Mets ownership at this point.
Much has been made of Sternberg's having season tickets for the Mets. We know his ownership group is based in New York. But really, that's just about proximity and geography. If Sternberg is interested in owning the Mets, and one would have to suspect he'd consider it, it would have more to do with his purse strings than his heartstrings.
Long before he became MLB owner, he was Wall Street man, an investor. He made his fortune by making sound business decisions and exploiting the market. Buy low, sell high and all that.
The Mets, who are not officially for sale, would have to qualify as a buy-low candidate. Off the field, the Wilpon family might be forced to sell the team after becoming embroiled in the Bernie Madoff investment mess. On the field, the team is underwhelming at best with a bloated payroll and a starting rotation of horrors.
Meanwhile, the Rays are coming off a division championship, the payroll has been pared down and the team is still thought to be a contender. Until (and if) the Rays get a new stadium, this is about as valuable as the team will ever be.
And really, that is exactly why Sternberg has to be considering the Mets if indeed it is an option. While the Rays have proven to be profitable under the right circumstances, they will never approach the Mets in terms of potential revenue streams from TV to corporate sponsorship to general population advantages.
The franchise is down, yes, but the upside with the Mets far exceeds anything the Rays could produce. So while Stuart Sternberg keeps putting on his Rays cap, don't be surprised if he's breaking down the numbers in the head the cap surrounds.