By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 9, 2005
Of all the things new principal owner Stuart Sternberg said upon introduction last week, the most encouraging for Devil Rays fans had to be the simple fact that he is going to spend money.
No, he's not going to spend all of it on the team's player payroll, and that will be one of the biggest criticisms heading toward next season. Sternberg promised that the Rays' major-league $29-million low payroll will go up, but given the spending habits of their division foes, an increase to the mid $30-million range isn't going to make that much of a difference.
But he is going to spend.
After many years of doing many things on a minor-league level, the Rays are going to be run like a major-league team. First class will be more than something employees are told they can't use when flying.
Whether it's cleaning Tropicana Field, renovating the home clubhouse, improving team accommodations on the road, replacing the office computer system or adding a veteran reliever, the Rays are going to do things better.
"We've got some significant capital going in," Sternberg said. "Some is going to payroll this year, some is going to payroll next year and some the year after that. Some is going to fixing up the Trop. Some is going to bringing in new management. We're going to try to balance it, and it's a reasonable amount of money."
Throw in the $15-million or so to get Vince Naimoli to leave, the $2.2-million being paid to Lou Piniella to not manage and hundreds of thousands to others to not work, such as former general manager Chuck LaMar, some of his staff and some coaches, and it would seem Sternberg's group is investing at least $20-million just to start fresh.
"We've been constantly writing checks," Sternberg said. "I haven't looked at the balance yet. We have a good deal of money to spend but (team president Matt Silverman's) job, along with management and myself, is determining how much do we spend today, how much do we spend over a three-year period, how much over a seven-year period, and, most importantly, where is the money deployed."
Sternberg and his partners have plenty of money. But they intend to spend wisely, trying to get the most from every investment. While their competitive side may prompt them to spend more, fiscal responsibility may cause them to pause. So, too, will reality.
"It would take more money right now to completely fix the situation, quite frankly, than I'm prepared to put in or that would really make any sense to put in," he said. "But over a reasonable period of time, if we do the right things and we make the right investments, we should be able to not just get our noses above water but ... we are going to get to that point where we have some real fun."
RAYS RUMBLINGS: At some point, the new ownership is likely to look seriously at moving the team's spring training out of St. Petersburg. That could lead to reacquiring an affiliate in the Class A Florida State League. ... While Piniella was allowed to leave and manage elsewhere, the Rays have said they would like to have him eventually return to the organization in some advisory capacity. ... Orioles scouting supervisor Alan Marr, a high school classmate of Sternberg, could end up joining the Rays. ... In firing LaMar, the Rays also dismissed assistant GM Scott Proefrock, his longtime associate. But the other assistant, Bart Braun, who came to the Rays from the Braves in July 1995 with them, kept his job. ... Employees got new business cards with the Under Construction logo but - hinting at the expected reorganization - the cards didn't include titles. ... What exactly did Sternberg mean when he said of Naimoli: "I would not be standing here today if not for his efforts."
MISCELLANY: New Tigers manager Jim Leyland has interest in hiring pitching coach Larry Rothschild from the Cubs. ... Ex-Ray Fred McGriff may have an interest in coaching. ... Jim Tracy appears to be the front-runner for the Pirates job. ... Marlins officials think they have a real shot to lure Piniella. ... Coaches Bob Geren and Ron Washington (who is also interviewing this week in Florida) appear at the front of the line to replace Ken Macha in Oakland. ... Bradenton's Joe Mays joined the list of available veteran starters when the Twins let him go.
Information from other news organizations was used in the report.