ST. PETERSBURG -- Stu Sternberg was in town for Tuesday night's season opener, and the Rays' principal owner fielded questions about the state of the club.
With Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena in the final year of their contracts, the perception is that the 2010 season represents a critical period for the franchise, as some feel a window of opportunity could be closing.
"Critical's a tough word," Sternberg said. "I won't concur with that. You like to win with the players we have. This group, this core group, has been together now for three or four seasons. And it would be nice to see this group jell again. We've had some additions -- some guys last year new to the mix, some guys this year new to the mix -- and you'd like to see them all put it together.
"I know it's a team that can. They have the talent, they're working hard, and if the dedication is there -- and I'm certain it is -- it's a team that is absolutely built for the long haul."
Improving at the gate is a must if the Rays want to remain competitive in the American League East. When Sternberg was asked what he wants the attendance to be like at Tropicana Field this season, he smiled: "Full. Often. Often full or full often."
Sternberg said he had a desired attendance in mind in 2009, and as a result, has given up that practice. The Rays drew 1,874,962, which ranked 11th in the AL.
"Last year, I wanted to be average," Sternberg said. "It's not often in life I try to be average at anything. So this year, we'll play it game by game, pitch by pitch, inning by inning and see where it leads us. I would expect that we will be in contention, and I will expect that we will have a nice group of fans come out during the year."
And Sternberg's goal for the season has remained constant from what he stated at the beginning of Spring Training, in that he wants "to play meaningful games in September" and beyond.