When Stu Sternberg and company bought the Tampa Bay Devil Rays they were the laughing stock of the league, perennial cellar dwellers in the uber competitive American League East since the first day of their inception. This team rarely won more than 50 games and consistently lost 90 plus. What little fans we had had next to nothing to cheer for and even less to place hope in.
Five years later we have a chance to clinch a spot in the major league playoffs for the second time in three years and a legitimate shot at a second world series berth.
From the first day in the rays front office this new ownership group has seemingly done everything right. They have made trades that embarrass rival GMs. They have turned slap hitting shortstops into all star MVP candidates, drafted an All Star game starting pitcher and developed a league front man third baseman. They have turned the Trop from a graveyard into a nightclub. They hired a progressive manager who did things a little differently but has a knack for making players play with incredibly chemistry and resolve.
And here we sit today, 6 games to play and with a magic number of one, but there is controversy swirling... and this ownership group gets it right one more time.
In the face of immense criticism following an ill-advised, emotionally charged pair of remarks from the franchise players that did nothing but alienate and belittle the fan base, the Rays will give out 20,000 free tickets to Wednesday nights game at Tropicana Field. In one sweeping gesture the Rays front office will erase most of the ill will felt by their fans the past twenty four hours, many of whom felt they had been wrongly attacked by the franchise players barbs. By giving away free tickets the Rays acknowledge what many people have been saying all along, there is not a lack of support just a lack of disposable income.
This market is dealing with unprecedentedly high unemployment. The recession has hit everyone and its unfair for professional athletes who make millions to tell any fan how they should spend their money and time on a Monday night: Sternberg is recognizing that with this gesture, and this writer sure appreciates it.
Wouldn't it be nice if some other Tampa sports team owners took notice of how Sternberg, Silverman and co. handled this one? Facing black outs and immense fan unrest the Glazers have said nothing, and worst of all done nothing.
If only they could be more like Stu...