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Sternberg's patience has paid off


Sternberg's patience has paid off
JOE HENDERSON

jhenderson@tampatrib.com

TAMPA - Tampa remains a relatively young player on the national professional sports scene, just 33 years and counting since the Buccaneers welcomed us to the big leagues by starting with 26 consecutive losses.

Yet, for such neophytes we already have standing in any conversation where ownership is the topic.

We've had some of the best.

We've had some of the worst.

Sometimes, we've had both at the same time.

I mention this because SI.com came out with one of the "best-worst" sports owner lists on Tuesday - five best, five worst, in each of the major sports.

Tampa Bay Rays boss Stu Sternberg was No. 5 on the "best" Baseball owners. For what it's worth, the Steinbrenner family was No. 4 in the same grouping. I think they lost style points on the Carl Pavano contract.

Before you ask, no, the Glazers didn't make either list in the NFL. Neither did the cowboys who own the Lightning, although I'm certain that's because the body of work isn't there just yet.

Give it another year, though. A few more moves like firing a coach who won a Stanley Cup to hire a guy who had been out of the game for a decade, then firing that guy after 16 games, and they'll be right there.

Consider that. Then consider what Sternberg has done with a franchise that was so bad for so long.

Praise where it's due

So, we ask, what really makes a good owner? It goes well beyond the ability or willingness to write checks during free-agent season.

He should know when to take risks. Sternberg had a couple of beauties - starting with giving two guys who had never worked in Baseball the authority to reshape a desperate franchise. He also essentially told Lou Piniella to go away and replaced him with someone who had never managed.

Unlike the Lightning debacle with Barry Melrose, though, Sternberg had a plan and patience. It paid off last year when Andrew Friedman was named Executive of the Year and Joe Maddon was the American League Manager of the Year.

An owner should be concerned about the fans. Since Sternberg basically is a fan, that part seems to come easy to him. He has turned Tropicana Field into an (almost) not-horrible place for Baseball and kept ticket prices affordable.

I think $15 for parking unless you have four people in the car is too steep, but Sternberg has walked that tightrope of fielding a competitive team while keeping prices modest.

It helps that he is a generally available and affable sort who seems to truly enjoy being at the ballpark, but it's not essential to being a good owner. Most folks couldn't have picked late Lightning owner Bill Davidson out of a crowd, but his style of absentee ownership doesn't look so bad now, does it?

Hard not to laugh

We've certainly covered a lot of ground around here with owners.

Hugh Culverhouse was worse at running a franchise than he was at being a human, which considering his r?sum? is a statement worth contemplating. As much as people love to bash the Glazers, they do have a Super Bowl trophy, a bunch of playoff appearances, and they never shacked up with David Brinkley's wife.

Sometimes it's hard not to burst out laughing when thinking of the Lightning's ownership history.

You thought Davidson was an absentee owner? At least he didn't live in Japan, like the team's first owner. He never uttered anything memorable like Art "Stud or Dud" Williams, or any of the myriad things that came tumbling unfiltered from Vince Naimoli's mouth while he owned the Rays .

Entertaining as those times were, I have to admit that a franchise is much better off when you think about the players more than the owners - and I hadn't thought about Sternberg at all until this list came out.

I've thought about when the bullpen is going to come around, or when B.J. Upton will start hitting, or just about anything with the Rays except for the owner.

That's how it's supposed to work, isn't it?

Photo: Stu Sternberg

Affable owner enjoys being at the ballpark

Copyright ? 2009, The Tampa Tribune and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@tampatrib.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 15, 2009

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