Sternberg has softened his tone in three years since his memorable, sharp-toungued press conference, now saying it was "unrealistic" the team would leave Tampa Bay.
But the interview was not without interesting quotes:
FS: Do you think Major League Baseball could work again in Montreal?A large part of why Montreal didn't work before was because after the '94 strike, complaints about attendance became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually, only 4,000 fans a game were trickling through the turnstiles.
SS: Yes. I know it can.
SS: My gut. I was at Olympic Stadium the day after they got Bartolo Colon. I’ve been convinced — this is before I bought the (Rays) — that it would be an incredible place for baseball. That doesn’t mean my baseball team, but a baseball team.
FS: Do you think there will come a day when Montreal has a team again?
SS: In the next five years, no. In the next 20, yes.
FS: An expansion franchise or one that moves there?
SS: I think a franchise (that moves there). I know nothing. There’s no discussions. I don’t see any reason or need or desire for expansion — anytime in the next 10 years, certainly. The stadiums built in the 1990s are 20-year-old stadiums. They’ll be fine for another 20 years. If you look 20 years out, there could be population shifts and separation of corporations. And you need a decent-to-good corporate base to have a successful baseball franchise.
FS: Has the thought ever occurred to you to move your team to Montreal?
SS: I thought about it as a great baseball market. But this is probably three, four years ago. I was asked and pressed about it. I said I could think of seven (viable) places (for relocation). But I’m not looking. I just want to explore my backyard.
Maybe the Rays are going down the same road toward that self-fulfilling prophecy?
Sternberg also told FOXSports.com that if he cannot get a new stadium in Tampa Bay, he'll eventually sell the team. It's why we've previously said the worst threat of the prolonged Stadium Saga was not relocation, but Sternberg's departure.
Sternberg added that a buyout of the team's current contract with St. Pete is possible, but indicated he had no interest in discussing numbers or even the legal issues in play. (It's the same reason St. Pete won't negotiate a buyout publicly - you forfeit negotiating leverage).
He repeated his commitment to the region, but said the pressure on a new stadium is coming from other boogeymen: "All the other owners are consistently writing checks to us and see no way to get out of it, some of this will be their desires."
Good news for John Henry and Hank Steinbrenner - those checks will shrink in 2017 when the Rays sign a new, lucrative television deal.