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With the New York Mets financial woes seemingly getting worse by the day, some are wondering if the Wilpons will be able to keep their controlling stake in the team.And if the Wilpons are forced to sell the team, one name to keep in mind is Stuart Sternberg, the majority owner of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Sternberg Has Close Ties To Mets
Sternberg, a Brooklyn native, has maintained his status as a Mets season-ticket holder in recent years. And considering that he maintains his residency in New York, there is a good chance Sternberg has attended more Mets games in recent years than Rays games.
Sternberg Will Be Attractive To Other Investors
The Rays were valued at just $320 million in Forbes’ most recent team valuations. Sternberg would need considerably more than that to purchase a controlling stake in the Mets, who were valued at three times as much ($912 million). So it seems likely that Sternberg would need to either form an investment group or join another group.
Potential buyers of the Mets will be attracted to Sternberg’s proven track record as a baseball owner with the Rays. Sternberg would also likely bring with him a very strong management team that includes Andrew Friedman (Executive V.P. – Baseball Operations) and Matt Silverman (Team President).
Sternberg Will Be Attractive To Other Owners
The biggest name being mentioned as a potential buyer of the Mets is Mark Cuban, who failed in previous attempts to acquire the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. But other owners may be concerned that Cuban would turn the Mets into a Yankees-like franchise, driving player salaries even higher.
Sternberg has proven that he can build a winner with a low payroll. In 2008, the Rays won the America League pennant with a $43.8 million payroll, and last year, they won the AL East at $71.9 million. In 2011, the Rays payroll will drop nearly $30 million, and yet some believe they can still contend for a playoff spot.
While Sternberg would certainly spend more in New York, there is no reason to believe he would suddenly spend $200 million on payroll when he knows he has the ability to be successful at a much lower level. That is something other owners would embrace in baseball’s biggest market.
Sternberg Is Unable To Build New Park For Rays
If Sternberg is going to bail on the Rays, this might be the best time. The team is successful, but there is also little hope on the horizon for seeing their attendance issues improve. Three years after proposing a new stadium (a plan that was later scrapped) Sternberg appears no closer to finding a way to move the Rays into a new ballpark that would be more attractive to fans and closer to the centre of the Rays fanbase (Tampa).
Major League Baseball Has Precedent For An Owner Switching Teams
In 2002, John Henry sold his stake in the Florida Marlins to become owner of the Red Sox. The new owner of the Marlins was Jeffrey Loria, who sold the Montreal Expos to Major League Baseball. This shows that Bud Selig will do whatever it takes to get the right owners into the right situations, and the bad situations under MLB control.
Will It Happen?
Sternberg as the owner of the Mets may be MLB’s dream scenario: An owner with a successful track record of fiscal responsibility in control of one of their marquee franchises. It could also give MLB more direct control over one of their more troubled franchises. But in the end, this will only happen if the Wilpons decide to sell the entire Mets franchise, something that seems more likely the more we learn about the Madoff Mess.
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