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Rays shocked no one wanted to see them play the Orioles

Sep 28, 2010, 1:24 AM EDT

The Tampa Bay Rays would have clinched a playoff berth with a victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night. They failed to pull it off, managing just three hits against Brian Matusz in a 4-0 defeat.

Afterwards, Evan Longoria and David Price vented not about the loss, but about the fact it came before only 12,446 fans, a low number even for the Rays, who are 23rd in baseball in drawing 23,000 per game.

Price posted this message on Twitter after the game: “Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands … embarrassing.”

And Longoria told the Associated Press and other media assembled that seeing such a small crowd was “disheartening.”

“We’ve been playing great baseball all year. Since I’ve been here in ’06, the fans have wanted a good baseball team. They’ve wanted to watch a contender,” the three-time All-Star said. “And for us to play good baseball for three years now, and for us to be in a spot to clinch again and go to the playoffs, we’re all confused as to why it’s only 15,000 to 20,000 in the building.”

Price later apologized, and Longoria said he was not taking a low blow at the fans but “trying to rally the troops and get more people here.”

A couple things to keep in mind here:

1) It was a Monday night game against the Orioles, and there was football on TV!

2) Unemployment in the state of Florida rose to 11.7 percent in August. People just don’t have as much expendable cash as they used to.

3) The Trop, by all accounts, sucks.

4) The Rays are almost certain to be in the playoffs anyway. So if you’re going to spend your hard-earned dollars on baseball, why not save up and spring for playoff tickets?

All that aside, Tampa Bay’s attendance has been shockingly low for a team that went to the World Series two years ago and has been consistently good ever since. And it’s a huge reason owner Stuart Sternberg has already said payroll will be cut – possibly drastically – in 2011.

It makes one wonder if baseball will work in the area on a long-term basis, at least without a new stadium. Then again, we all know the perils involved when going down that path.

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  1. notsosmart - Sep 28, 2010 at 3:54 AM

    Build it and they will come, hahaha. The Tropicana stadium is a joke. Who in their right mind would build a stadium on a peninsula?

  2. Route36West - Sep 28, 2010 at 4:04 AM

    They dont deserve to win simple as that. Any fan base that supports there team like that has no right to complain about anything and deffently shouldnt have the right to watch there team win or play in a world series. Everyone is broke all over thats not an excuse. The Rays cant even sell out there own staduim when teams like the Philllies and Yankees fans travel to other peoples staduim. I agree with the Rays players and if I were them I would be out of there the 1st chance I got.

  3. avg joe - Sep 28, 2010 at 5:43 AM

    Agreed. Unemployment is high everywhere, and shouldn’t be an excuse. Regarding the game taking place on Monday night, with football on: these complaints aren’t really about one game, they’re about the Rays’ low attendance all year. I’m sure other teams (much worse than the Rays) sold plenty more seats last night. Sure, the Trop sucks, but if the fans don’t come out for a team as good as the Rays, the new stadium will only go so far. What’s the honeymoon period for new stadiums? 3 years?

  4. Fantasia - Sep 28, 2010 at 5:45 AM

    I think the Pirates draw more. Ha!

  5. Samz - Sep 28, 2010 at 7:07 AM

    It rained in St. Pete on Monday night – attendance would’ve been even lower at an outdoor stadium. As a season ticket holder with plenty of games to observe, I think I see a factor that I’ve never heard mentioned and I think it is a good sign. The Rays have a lot of young families in their fanbase. It is EASY to see the Rays play and that makes it easy to take the kids. No subways, no walking for miles from the nearest garage, no harsh weather and it is relatively cheap entertainment; on weekends I see families everywhere in the stands. These young families (I’m not talking just about the kids here but their 30- and 40-something parents) bode well for the future of the franchise and of baseball generally. But not so much on school nights. I don’t know what can be done about it – baseball can’t be played just on the weekends and I know the games can’t start much earlier than they already do – I’m just saying I think it is a factor and as those young families mature, they will always be Rays fans.

  6. Lino66 - Sep 28, 2010 at 7:12 AM

    Why does not anyone blame baseball itself. It has lost a generation of fans with its addiction to television and ratings. Long gone are the playoff games and world series games that end at a decent hour so kids(the next generation) can stay up and develop their passion for their team and the game itself. Long gone is the Family friendly pricing that a ballpark used to provide. It is easier to say that the tickets are only $10, but how much does everything else add up to. There is a lot of competition out there for the ever shrinking disposable income and the internet and cable industry deliver a better value to the consumer.

  7. Pueo - Sep 28, 2010 at 7:17 AM

    Look to ownership, marketing is their responsibility. The Rays ownership basically has no marketing plan, “Trying to do business without advertising is like winking at pretty girl in the dark.”

  8. quint - Sep 28, 2010 at 7:43 AM

    That doesn’t really apply though, Rays are the only team in town, they win, and people know they host 81 games a year. The Rays shouldn’t need to do much of any marketing to get people to show up.
    You think Boston’s attendence streak would end if they cut their advertising budget?
    Yes the Rays could probably do more to get people out, but frankly its hard to think any spend would bring in masses of people, it would most likely be a wash at best.

  9. lowbudgetguy - Sep 28, 2010 at 7:43 AM

    Samz, I concur – school nights are an issue with many local Rays fans, just watch the numbers of children in the camera shots of the stands during any game. I can’t fault the players for feeling the way they do either. It has to be tough to come out night after night seeing thin crowds and watching the Yankees and Red Sox bring more fans to the park than our own team in many cases. Tampa is a football town and pretty much always has been. However, for the last time – everyone, from writers to out-of-town fans who have never lived here nor visited, stop regurgitating the heresay and baseless negative comments about the Trop. Quite contrary to nationwide (and knowledgeless) opinion, the Trop is a pretty damn nice facility for a low-budget team, one that allows the Rays to play on in the worst of weather (um, a regularity in Florida for most of the baseball season) and it is not the dank, musty, drab place that those who have only seen it on TV think it is. The money spent to enhance its baseball presence (close to $100 million total between 2 occasions) and further improvements by the Sturnberg group in recent years have made it a fun place to go to. I’ve been there many, many times over the years, including going back to the days when the Lightning and AFL’s Storm played there and it is vastly improved over what it was then. No, it isn’t Camden Yard or the new Yankee Stadium, nor does it have the history of Fenway Park – hard to do that when your team isn’t even 15 years old – but unless you’ve ever set foot in the facility, speak to something you can offer knowledge of or shut the hell up.

  10. lowbudgetguy - Sep 28, 2010 at 8:13 AM

    Oh yeah, and @ Bob Harkin – “3) The Trop, by all accounts, sucks”
    Way to present a strong argument, playing the “by all accounts” card. Hmmm, New York – historic franchise in a city of almost 20 million people and their own TV network vs. 12 year old franchise in an entire area of only about 3 million, roughly half of which are turncoat transplants who still love their team from “back home”, and barely over 10% of the payroll – wow, what a fair comparison.
    You, and all the other writers who have no firsthand knowledge, SUCK.

  11. Jonny5 - Sep 28, 2010 at 8:24 AM

    This is why next season the Rays are losing players a team of that caliber should be keeping. A repeat championship caliber team, broken up because no one shows up for the game. The Fans….
    In perspective to your excuses Bob, lets just do a comparison.
    12,446 fans showed up for the possible clinching game. That’s about how many Philly fans showed up in Washington DC. Hmmm?
    It was monday night… Ok, yes it was. And Philly fans drove all the way to DC, with their kids. School is second rate to a division clinching game. Everyone knows this, duhhhh.
    Unemployment is 11.7% in FLA 11.9% in Philadelphia
    The Trop sucks. Yes it does. But sitting in a constant rain for 2 and a half hours then driving home wet from DC sucks worse.
    And the last excuse is so bad I’ve decided to forget i even read it.
    Bob, it was a very Valiant effort to try to make excuses and sugar coat the facts. But the Fact remains. And your post should be more like this. “Rays fans SUCK! They don’t support their team. So when it falls apart and the team is ran more like the Marlins don’t bitch about it.” :>)

  12. sportsfan8487 - Sep 28, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    Bottom line is the Trop is in the wrong place. The fans that can attend live 1 hour away (like me). I have gone to 20+ games this year but can’t do it during the school week since my family and I wouldn’t get home til about 11:30 p.m. and my son’s high school bus picks him up at 6:20 a.m.!!! Maybe we weren’t at the Trop, but TV ratings have to be through the roof because most of my friends and coworkers don’t miss a game!!! MOVE THE STADIUM TO TAMPA!!! Plain and simple. Then my commute would be 22 minutes to the stadium courtesy of the Selmon overhead expressway! Me and about a million and half of the Rays other fans who live EAST of downtown! Find a space for it somewhere downtown and there won’t be another problem with attendance!!! TAMPA LOVE THE RAYS!!!

  13. Paper Lions - Sep 28, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    I’m a huge baseball fan, but live baseball is over-priced. There are 81 home games/year, and most can be enjoyed as well or better at home for free. Going to the ball park is fun and can be a great experience, but the time, cost, and aggravation surrounding that endeavor make it cost prohibitive. Smarter people just stay at home and watch on TV for most (or every game) game. It is just a better value for the experience.

  14. Diego - Sep 28, 2010 at 8:50 AM

    Move the Team to Brooklyn….

  15. mustbechris - Sep 28, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    On the other hand, there were 10,000 Phillies fans watching them clinch against the Nationals. In the pouring rain. On a Monday night when there’s football on. IN WASHINGTON D.C.
    And you can’t tell me that people in Philadelphia have more money than people in Tampa. Because I can assure you they don’t. The bottom line is some fans care about their team, and Tampa fans just don’t.

  16. Diego - Sep 28, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    Move the Team to Brooklyn….

  17. wend28 - Sep 28, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    So nobody shows up to watch these guys try to clinch a playoff spot? What’s going to happen next season after the team that was worth seeing is dismantled? Is there going to be 8,000 people showing up instead of 12,000? And still no resolution on the stadium… I sense these the region will probably lose the team at some point. It’s a shame because this team is fun to watch, especially when they beat the Yankees and Red Sox. However, the attendance is embarrassing for the sport.

  18. Trevor B - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:41 AM

    There are plenty of places you could move this team to that would probably draw more fans:

    Alaska

    Montana

    Idaho

    Northern Territories Canada

    That one isolated, small island is Hawaii that nobody remembers the name of

    Either of the Dakotas

    Wyoming (could be called the Bison then)

    Oh, the possibilities are endless for places that could draw more fans for this team.

  19. -z- - Sep 28, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    It is the west coast of Florida!!! – A huge portion of the population base moved from somewhere else and come with the “Home Team” alliance already in place. The few you manage to lure into becoming Rays fans only have a few more years to live and then you lose them. Add to that: This large portion of the population base are ALL living on fixed incomes and don’t have children to introduce to the game. It was a stupid idea to put a team there in the first place and it remains a stupid idea – Shame, because it’s a good team and fun to watch.

  20. jj jones - Sep 28, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    How long have the Phillies been a team compared to Tampa? It is flawed to even try and compare them. It’s like trying to compare the Chicago Bears to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

  21. matt - Sep 28, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    With all the reasons people keep giving for this I’d say that the two most relevant are the bad location of the stadium (and the lousy stadium itself) and the fact that there isn’t a long-term history of baseball in that area. It will be a gamble for that area to build a new stadium and hope a tradition starts for Tampa. Is ownership willing to operate at a loss for several years to try and build that tradition up with quality teams? It’s a bad cycle. Ownership says they will slash payroll because of lack of support and fans say we won’t commit our hard earned money because pwnership keeps slashing payroll. Doesn’t sound too promising. I really think it would take a special ownership group with the vision to operate with some losses for a few years in hopes of better profits in the future by building a base of hard core fans.

  22. BigBBFan - Sep 28, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    I wondered why I never got the pretty girl.

  23. F. Amos - Sep 28, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    I went to a game at the Trop about 6 years ago when they were terrible and I couldn’t see what the fuss is about. It was mid-July, about 95 degrees, 100 % humidity. Going indoors for a couple of beers and a ballgame was a great way to spend a summer evening.

  24. Paper Lions - Sep 28, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    …but you never went back? You went to “a game”. Yeah, must have been great.

  25. Cuz - Sep 28, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    I’m a season ticket holder for the Rays and have been for a couple years. The trop is fine for watching a game. It sure beats being in the heat and humidity of the area. But it lacks a lot of the amenities of the newer stadiums. it’s hard on the players I’m told, but I spoke to members of the ground crew who say they spend more time on it than the players and don’t have any issues.
    I’m also a business owner in Tampa and can assure you THE ECONOMY has a great deal to do with attendance issues. Our revenue is about 50% of what it was in 2008. Unemployment is over 12% and underemployment is rampant.
    One other thing does suck. The trop is in a bad location, it’s a long drive for the majority of the population in the area. It’s not easy to park and getting out to the expressway to go home after the game can be an adventure.
    I was disappointed in the attendance Monday also. i was more disappointed in the teams performance Monday. I hope Longoria wasn’t trying to link the two things because that’s absurd.
    I think it will take a new stadium, a renewed effort to get the players into the community in a big way to generate interest and a lot of corporate interest in seats and luxury boxes to get it fixed. By the way, based upon population, a greater percentage of the population of the Tampa, St. Pete area attend games than for the Yankees games. (and Yankee attendance is down also, averaging 8000 below capacity)
    Oh, and Stu, saying you’re going to cut payroll by almost 50% doesn’t help anyone.

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