Sternberg has positive outlook on Rays

Sternberg has positive outlook

NEW YORK -- Prior to Wednesday night's game with the Yankees, Stuart Sternberg said that if the expectations for the Rays weren't so high, people would think they were playing really well.

The Rays' principal owner explained that he'll watch the team over a stretch of days and just pay attention to how the club is playing rather than its sub-.500 record.

"We've got some incredible things going on," Sternberg said. "And yet the focus has been on what we're not doing. You have [the American League] Player of the Month [in Evan Longoria]. You've got a guy who's leading the league in home runs [in Carlos Pena]. You've got a shortstop [Jason Bartlett] who's doing as well as anyone in the game. Clearly, there are some incredible positives.

"And clearly we've got some incredible negatives. You start with our catcher [Dioner Navarro], and you can point to a few other spots. But like I said, if the expectations were not so great, people would be overjoyed with where we are."

Sternberg illustrated his point by citing the Rays' weekend series win over the Red Sox, noting that in the past, it would have been cause for celebration. Now that the team has raised its expectation level, Tampa Bay's past weekend's success was expected.

"You like to have the bar low so people are surprised and all of that, but by the same token, I think everybody is realistic and expects this team to be in contention all year," Sternberg said. "And we're at a stretch right now where we haven't shot ourselves in the foot. We could have and should have won a few more games. But we can't be unhappy where we are."

When asked for an adjective to describe where the team is at right now, Sternberg pondered the question momentarily.

"I'm not disappointed," Sternberg said. "I'm just waiting, just waiting to see it all mesh together. Maybe it doesn't happen. But clearly, we're going to have a few guys not hitting as well as they are; they can't sustain it. And we're going to have a few guys who are going to be a lot better.

"We know we're going to be a team of streaks. We anticipated that. And the expectation is, we're going to go on a reasonable run. Maybe we started it five days ago. Clearly, this was going to be the toughest stretch of the schedule -- the first five weeks."

In short, Sternberg isn't panicking.

"I'm not a guy to just say wait and wait, but I think we'll have a much better sense of what this team looks like at the end of May," Sternberg said.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.