Monday, October 13, 2008

Where's The Love For Rays -- In Tampa Bay?

I was talking the other day to a colleague of mine in television production. During a lull in our activity, the talk turned to the ongoing MLB playoffs -- specifically, the Cinderella Tampa Bay Rays. Neither of us are fans of theirs, it turns out. While he couldn't really pinpoint the reason why he's not on the TB bandwagon, I offered a suggestion.

"The fans there don't deserve a winner," I said. Plain and simple.

Taking a look at the 2008 MLB attendance figures, my crankiness is borne out.

Of the eight teams that qualified for the playoffs, the Rays are, by far, the worst in terms of home attendance. There they sit, 26th out of the 30 teams, with a hideous total of 1.8 million people. That's a paltry 22,259 per game.

Tampa -- the City That Never Woke Up.

What's that all about, anyway? The Rays had the second-best record in the American League, on the heels of 10 straight losing seasons. And not just losing seasons, but finishing south-of-the-equator kind of losing seasons. The Rays were a team that was routinely mathematically eliminated when the May flowers started blooming. You'd think that their breakout year of 2008 would have been like pure oxygen to an emphysema sufferer.

But, as Yogi Berra once said, "If people don't want to come to the ballpark, there's nothing stopping them."

Yet, there should have been something stopping them: the Rays provided thrills and chills all summer long -- not that their town noticed.

If that's how you support a first-place team, with barely 22,000 fans per game (less than 50% of its 45,000 capacity), then I say the Rays should pick up their spikes and go somewhere where they give a damn.

Less than half full, on an average? For a team that won 97 games? Past Rays teams would have needed a full season plus most of July of the next to win that many ballgames. Despite the lack of support, the Rays managed to win 57 home games -- over 70 percent. When your winning percentage is 20 points higher than your percent of fannies versus capacity, then something's not right.

I thought something was peculiar this summer when I watched Rays highlights on ESPN. In their home games, all I saw were empty seats in the background.

What was keeping the fans from showing up? Did all the losing make them apathetic? Didn't the local newspapers and TV stations clue folks in down there that something great was happening?

Twenty-two thousand fans per game is a figure reserved for the dregs of baseball. And sure enough, the spots 28-to-30 are occupied by perennial losers like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Florida. You can't blame those fans for staying home.

It's a travesty, the lack of support the Rays got in Tampa Bay. The city doesn't deserve big league baseball. Take the team away from them, as soon as the final out of their season is made. Their stadium, named after an orange juice, should be squished like a carton and eradicated. May as well put something else there, like a Wal-Mart or another retirement home.

Tampa is going to be a great city, once they clear out all the zombies.

Cities that stay home from first-place teams aren't worthy. There are 26 other teams in MLB that would love to be in the Rays' position right now; same with their fans.

Someone should nudge the Tampa Bayans awake and let them know that they're missing a helluva baseball season.

Shame on them, anyway.


Blogger Paul said...

Wrong on so many points. It's a poor writer who cannot even properly research before going off on a jealous rage.

4:35 PM  
Blogger JR said...

Most people who comment about the attendance of this team do so out of ignorance, so I'm going to enlighten you here.

This is an area made up of a very large amount of transplants. If you moved to the St. Petersburg for job reasons, would you switch teams and become a Rays fan? Also, how many of your lifelong Tigers/Red Sox/Yankees friends do you think would say yes to that question? Now you understand the attendance problems associated with this team. That's been the history of this area for all the sports teams here in Tampa Bay. Sports teams have to win in Tampa Bay in order to get fans on board.

It's just very difficult to draw when half the fans in your area are hanging on to the team they grew up with.

Being a Rays fan has been embarrassing at times, coming to the Trop when half the stands are filled with Yankees and Red Sox fans but I'm feeling pretty good these days. :)

4:41 PM  
Blogger Mike Creyton said...

Pure ignorance. The Rays attendance as the season went on increased dramatically. They sold out pretty much every Saturday home game from May on. The one's that didn't sell out were very close. Same with Sunday games.

The first season they drew over 30K per game. And the capacity is 36K, not 45K.

The problem is the season ticket base shrunk to almost nothing after the original owner ruined all relationships with the local business community and 10 years of losing. This is an expansion team that had no history to draw from during the lean years. Baseball attendance is driven heavily by season ticket numbers.

The TV ratings are through the roof and the Rays merchandise sales are 7th in all of MLB. 7th. The Rays have over taken the Bucs as the most popular team in the area and that is with the Bucs being in 1st place.

The season ticket pre-sales for next year have been very strong. All the playoff games sold out in literally minutes.

Buster Olney pointed out that the NY Yankees season ticket base was way down in 1996 due to the Yankees struggling for almost a decade. In 1996 the Yankees only drew 26K per game. That is only 4K more than the Rays this year. The Yankees won the WS in 1996. They also play in a metro area of 20 million people and have a 100+ year history. On a per capita basis, the expansion Rays of Tampa Bay in 2008 outdrew the 1996 Yankees.

Now do some research next time you ignorant fool.

5:05 PM  
Blogger lukin3 said...

In 2006, when the Tigers made it to the World Series they got a 26.6% increase in attendance. Their six year old stadium was state of the art and located in a prime location (at least by Detroit standards).

In 2008, the Rays got a 29.8% increase in attendance. Their stadium is considered by some to be the worst in baseball and is poorly located in a city, St. Petersburg, that is roughly 1/4 the size of Detroit.

In addition, the Tigers have been in the league for 104 more years than the Rays. It seems this year there are so many bitter fans from other teams that have not won a championship in a long time that are jealous by what the Rays have done. Their jealousy turns to anger and then you get blogs like this: No research, No logic, No facts. You are like that nerdy kid that is jealous of the popular guys with a hot girlfriend. "He doesn't deserve her!" Get a clue and worry about your own city and teams.

5:20 PM  
Blogger lukin3 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:21 PM  
Blogger ThaChief said...

the Tigers have had an average attendance under 25k a Game 15 of the last 20 years. 11 times in that same time span drawing 20k or fewer. Drew as low as 16k a game as recent as 2003, in 2006 the 1st tigers winning season in a long time, ... the attendance grew by 28% from 24k to 32k.

In the Ray's 1st winning season (ever) after 10 years our attendance grew 30% from 17k to 23k... which was at the same Increase as the Tigers...
Tampa Bay's franchise started in 1998, Detroit's started in 1901.
Detroit's fan base is maxed out, Tampa Bay's is still growing., sorry to confuse you with facts.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

My, my -- seems I hit a nerve.

I appreciate all the response, including the stats and percentages and the like. But you know what baseball numbers are like: you can make them look however you want.

But alas, I stand by my comments. No use going back on them now, after I've sparked an outrage.

You can play with the numbers all you want, but the hardest number for all the Rays apologists to swallow is this one: 22,000 per game for a 1st-place team with 97 wins and who has been a great baseball story. That's just not getting it done, I'm sorry.

5:59 PM  
Blogger aria said...

Im sorry but you don't know what your talking about, do some research first ( I think my fellow Rays fan already did it for you) before posting an article that you don't know ANYTHING about! WOW! So many haters and so much jelously to Rays and the fans! And Im sorry that your team in playing golf and fishing at this time:p

6:11 PM  
Blogger Whitey said...

Greg, you seem like you just looked past everything they all just said. Sure, attendance was not grand. But how about the numbers after the All-Star Break? Wanna look those up? We're tired of doing it for you. How about the fact that the '09 season tickets are getting snagged up like they're going out of style?

I mean, maybe in like July or something this blog would have been trendy, but now you're just way too late, and it's causing your ignorance to show. Then again, you're just a blogger. It's not like anybody reads your carp anyway.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Sorry Greg, but how can you not go back on them? Were you only out to spark a reaction, rather than write something meaningful? Sounds like a Fox wannabe to me...

Why not just put your hands up and admit you got it wrong, and have been politely educated?

7:09 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Well, I'll admit that I'm happy to see ticket sales for 2009 increase, as they should. That is, indeed, a credit to the fans down there.

I just don't see evidence of the support in 2008 -- that's all I'm saying.

And BTW, I'm a little more than "just a blogger", but no need to print my resume here! :-)

Thanks for reading!

7:36 PM  
Blogger Mike Creyton said...

After seeing this guy's response, I get it. He is just jealous. Just think. He lives in Detroit, which is the poorest major city in America. Not only that, their baseball team was the biggest flop in MLB this year. Their football team tried to build itself up by signing all of our assistant defensive coaches and cast a way players. They are 0-5 and the worst team in the NFL.

Meanwhile, in the Bay Area we have a 1st place MLB team in only their 11th season of existance. We have a 1st place NFL team that is the standard bearor for defenses in the NFL for the last 12 yeears. We have one of the most exciting NHL teams in the league and just added Steve Stamkos.

In the last 5 years we have won a Super Bowl, a Stanley Cup, and are tantilizingly close to a World Series. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country with some of best beaches in the world.

I pity you. Congrats on having the largest Muslim population in the US. At least you can hang your hat on that. And your self proclaimed title of Hockey Town.

Congratulations on being a city that peaked 30 years ago.

9:24 PM  
Blogger ThaChief said...

"You know what baseball numbers are like: you make them look however you want"

Go to look up the stats,... do the math yourself, you can't possibly argue that.

2nd half of the season they averaged over 25k a game, Tropicana Field seats 36,048... Could attendance been better? ,...Obviously, but the numbers don't lie, the percent of increase in attendance was the same or higher than any other team with an extended amount of Losing seasons.

You were probably one of the haters that thought the team wouldn't sell out their playoff games either,...They sold out in under 20 minutes after tickets became available.

"More than a Blogger"? haha your resume must be written on 'Angel Soft'.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Well, "Chief", I ask you: what do you call it when a team doesn't sell anything out until it makes the playoffs, after playing to 50-60% capacity all season long?

That bandwagon must be awfully full by now. Frontrunners; fair-weather fans. Call them what you like. At least they woke up before October ended!

The Tigers drew almost 40K a game in a depressed economy with a VERY disappointing team. So whose fans are more loyal?


11:41 PM  
Blogger ThaChief said...

The Tigers drew almost 40k on the heels of 2 winning seasons, before that they didn't break 30k since 1984 (except 2000 when they opened the new park).
They sold out several games before the playoff's, every Saturday night game this season was either sold out or a couple thousand short.
Again you won't see the real increase in attendance until next season, just like every other team,...I know you can't be serious though,...and you don't really believe what you blog about, I assume you are a reporter of some sort and the name of the game is to get people to read your articles, whether they are factual,... or not (in your case). But it's working, so good job Greg you've got me arguing with you, even though have already obliterated your blog with facts. Hey in your next response why don't you explain away Detroit's attendance problems. (which by the way I just noticed, Detroit has broken 30k a game only 5 times in the 108 years they have existed), Enjoy watching the Ray's in the world series Greg.

3:44 PM  

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