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Rays brass suggests success may be sustainable

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - In a season-ending press conference where Rays' general manager Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon celebrated another successful fall run, both men acknowledged the team's shortfalls at the box office. 

But neither would suggest, as principal owner Stuart Sternberg indicated Tuesday, that success was unsustainable in Tampa Bay without a new stadium.

"We're going to be a really talented team next year," Friedman said, sitting alongside Maddon.  "We've proven time and time again that it's not necessarily about the payroll number; it's about the talent we have. So, it's easy to use (revenue) as an excuse, but the two of us refuse to do so."

Maddon called the team's success - built around youth, pitching, and defense, not big spending - a "validation of the system."  Friedman says the team embraces the "us vs. the world" mentality.

But while the Rays have won two of the last four American League East titles and won the wild card in thrilling fashion this year, this year's inexplicable drop in attendance makes the challege of winning even harder.

"Is it easy? Of course not," Friedman asked rhetorically.  "In this division, to compete against the teams that we do, with the revenue gap, and to try and close the revenue gap on an annual basis is extremely difficult. But it's why having success in this division is so special."

Friedman indicated the Rays have the players to make the playoffs again in 2012 without a big jump in payroll.  And he said payroll could still grow next year since Sternberg doesn't hold Friedman to a hard number.

Maddon said he was reminded of the team's revenue issues when Texas' Adrian Beltre clubbed three homers in the final ALDS game Tuesday a year after Cliff Lee pitched two dominant ALDS games.  Both were high-priced free agents the Rays couldn't afford.

The Manager of the Year candidate also said more fans would be preferred, but the small group of loyal fans (and the roof) make Tropicana Field possibly the loudest venue in the majors, something that excites his players.

Connect with 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky or Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky.  You can read his sports business blog, Shadow of the Stadium.

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