Rays owner Stuart Sternberg: “This is untenable as a model going forward.”

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After yesterday’s loss to the Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg held court and he brought the noise regarding the Rays’ future. The extremely pessimistic and damn nigh depressing noise.

The upshot: the Rays keep winning but attendance goes down. About how the model that he and everyone believed in — win games, get fans, get money — just doesn’t apply in St. Petersburg, and that because of it, there is little hope for the future of the Rays. You often hear owners of small market teams talking about the “challenges” they face, but caught after yesterday’s loss, Sternberg was far more frank than we are used to hearing:

“I am frustrated this year. We’ve replicated last year [on the field] and our attendance numbers were down 15 percent and our ratings were down. The rubber has got to meet the road at some point here. When you go through the season, you control your own destiny, if you win out. We’re getting to the point where we don’t control our own destiny. This is untenable as a model going forward.

“”When you’re sitting here at this point and you lost by a run, you know another X dollars might have changed things. Three or five million wouldn’t have changed things necessarily but 15 to 30 might have. That’s where we were. And for the foreseeable future that’s what we’ve got … Whatever you want to say, there are 29 other teams passing us like we’re going in reverse right now. Except on the field. And at some point that changes.”

Which stinks. But the fact is, Sternberg bought the Rays fully-aware of the challenges of drawing fans in St. Petersburg, fully-aware of the terms of the stadium lease which ties his team to Tropicana Field and fully-aware of how challenging getting public funding for a ballpark is in this economy.  It’s a bad situation, yes, and I feel bad for Rays fans, but Sternberg needs to get past his griping stage about this and try to do something about the team’s situation.

What can he do?  Well, if it’s truly hopeless, he can sell.  If he doesn’t want to sell for some reason he can try to negotiate some sort of buyout of the lease with St. Petereburg and look into privately-funded stadium projects either in the Tampa Bay area or elsewhere.  What he can only do for so long, it seems to me, is to (a) continue to state the bleedin’ obvious about the Rays’ lot in life, because that doesn’t fix anything; and (b) beat his head against the wall in an effort to get local government to fix his problems.

My sympathies, Mr. Sternberg. Really, you have them, because you’re right, it shouldn’t work this way.  But get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’, ya know?

Alabama man arrested for stealing a Braves golf cart from SunTrust Park

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Last Tuesday night, the Braves hosted the San Francisco Giants at SunTrust Park. They lost 6-3. An Alabama man named Marcus Stephens almost came away a winner, however. At least if stealing a $4,500 golf cart that belongs to the Braves makes you a winner, which in some circles I suppose it would.

Stephens lost, however, when he crashed the cart into a metal pole, attempted to flee on foot and was apprehended by Cobb County Sheriff’s deputies. This all went down at 1:40AM Wednesday morning. The report doesn’t mention anything about alcohol being involved but I’ve read enough stories like this to make educated guesses about such things.

That being said, Stephens seems relatively composed in his mugshot:

I mean, yeah, the eyes look a bit red and puffy and the overall vibe he gives off is “I came to the game as part of the Sigma Nu reunion (Auburn University class of ’06, GO TIGERS!),” but I expected much worse after reading the headline.

 

Anyway, dude is out on bail. Somewhere, someone is really super proud of him, I’m sure.

Report: The Yankee Stadium charity is a secretive, self-dealing boondoggle

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The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.

The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:

  • Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
  • Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
  • There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.

Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.

If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.