NEW YORK — Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg was surprised to hear his team was last in the major leagues this season in attendance.
He said the last time he checked, in late July or early August, he thought the team had a chance to finish 28th out of 30 teams, possibly even 27th.
Instead, the Rays limped home at 30th after drawing 1,510,300 this season, their lowest total since 2007. The Rays averaged 18,646 per game.
“I’m a little shocked. I’m a little surprised,” Sternberg said before Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. “My goals sometimes are pretty reasonable. I wanted to be league average (28,422), and I felt we would be 28th maybe with a shot of 27. When I found out we were last I didn’t realize it. I generally didn’t know.”
The Rays could play more games at the Trop this season. They could host the one-game wild-card playoff a week from today.
Sternberg said he expects a full house that day if that scenario comes to fruition.
“That’s my expectations, absolutely,” he said. “I would plan for it.”
Sternberg said the 2013 attendance will impact the 2014 payroll.
“It’s not helpful. We have to re-change our sights a little bit for next year, but there’s still a lot of baseball to be played and it could be helpful toward what happens in the offseason in re-sales and season tickets,” Sternberg said.
But, Sternberg said, he was pleased with the high TV ratings during the later innings of Friday’s 18-inning victory against the Baltimore Orioles.
Still, Sternberg had hoped the supportive fan base would buy more tickets, especially since the Rays entered the final week of the season with a one-game lead in the wild-card standings.
“We budget for certain numbers and we’re extraordinarily conservative when it comes to expectations and budgeting, but it was below our expectations,” Sternberg said. “You have to do it in the context. We budget based on what our expectations of the season will look like.
“We’re outperforming on the field relative to what we budget our attendance for, so with that you would think attendance would be higher when in fact even with the performance it was lower. In that sense it is not ideal.”
The Rays won 51 of their 81 home games, and Sternberg was pleased with that number.
“Well the 51 is way more important than the 1.5. Better to have 51 and 1.5 than 41 and 1.8. Neither would be acceptable,” Sternberg said. “That is what it is, and we are just very focused and thrilled with the way the season’s been.”