Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If You Win It, Will They Come?

Via the Twitter:

THE_ADAM_JONES: If we were on the verge of clinching a playoff spot. How many fans would we have? Cause at the Trop there was about 1500 ppl. Ppl are pissed about 21 hours ago via Twitterrific

DAVIDprice14: Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands....embarrassing about 21 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

"Obviously we want to bring a championship to Tampa. And we'd like more than 12,000 to 15,000 to know about it." --Evan Longoria

12,466 - Monday Night’s Attendence

Where to start? Will it ever end? While it might just now be perking the national consciousness, the attendance issue for Tampa Bay Rays games has been a bone of contention in the TBA for years. Ever since they’ve started playing in the Dome the radio airwaves have been filled with excuses as to why no one goes to the game.

For those of you not familiar with the arguments they go as follows:

St Pete is too far away and hard to get to. I mean there’s a bridge to cross!

In this economy who can afford to go to games what with their $5.00 parking, $10 tickets and bring your own food policy.?

The Trop is dreary. There should be an outdoor stadium.

The team sucks, why should I pay my hard earned money to go watch a minor league team?

For the longest time that last excuse was the most compelling. It was the easiest to throw out there, and perhaps the most true. After all, the majority of fans in the TBA aren’t natural Rays fans. The baseball fans have moved from other parts of the country so they are Red Sox fans, Yankee fans, Orioles fans (at least I was) first and Rays fans second.

Why should they fork over money to see Felix Martinez throw a ball into the stands or Ten-Run Sturtze give up another homerun? When their team was in town they would go, but that was it. Because they’re not Ray’s fans they are not going to the Wednesday night tilt to watch a bunch of castoffs play against the Royals.

Since 2008, however, that argument has been invalid. The Rays are no longer the laughing stock of the league. They have emerged as a legitimate power not only in the AL East, but in all of the major leagues. Even better, they are a fun team to watch. They pitch well, the run well, they hit...well not all the time, but most of the time.

You can make an argument that they have a potential future Cy Young winner in David Price, a future Hall of Famer in Carl Crawford and one of the best young hitters/fielders in Evan Longoria. With their level of talent and relatively bargain basement payroll this team is the envy of all other teams in the league. If the Rays players played for New York or Boston you would hate them because of all of the air time they would get on ESPN, MLB Network and the other media outlets in the world.

Not only are they a fun team to watch they are primarily a home grown team. Look at the starting rotation. With the exception of Matt Garza, the other 4/5ths of their rotation are comprised of players drafted by the organization. They aren’t the Yankees or Red Sox bringing in talent from the outside. These are “Tampa Bay guys” for the lack of a better term.

That’s why you’re seeing some of the disappointment seep through from the players (and I mean disappointment the same way you’re parents did when they said “I’m not mad at you, I’m just disappointed”). There was always that feeling that if the team was better the fans would rally up and support them and make the Trop a fun place to play.

You saw it in 2008 in the playoffs. When that building is full of Rays fans it is loud. Sure the cowbells are somewhat annoying, but it’s better than dead silence. It’s better than sitting in the left field bleachers and hearing the beer guy shout out his wares behind 1st base (that’s a true story, Rays vs. Pirates four or five years ago. “BEER HERE!” reverberated throughout the stadium).

Now they’re winning, and winning on a consistent basis. The town should be excited for the team, they should be supporting the team and yet the players look up and see row upon row of empty seats. This site has decried the presence of front running fans in the past, but now it would be nice to see them show up. Bandwagon, true fans, other fans, serial killer clowns, anyone would be welcome in the stands.

The players have lived up to their end of the bargain. No one likes owners based on principle, but Stu Sternberg has kept his promise. He’s funded a winning team. When the critics declared he would gut the team after buying them he proved them wrong by escalating the payroll and keeping the young talent around. When Andrew Friedman made the case for dropping $8 million on a closer, Sternberg signed the check. Everyone has kept their end of the bargain but the fans. They have to go to the games.

Where’s Sternberg’s payback? It certainly hasn’t been in his wallet. While he might not be hemorrhaging money or collecting food stamps he isn’t seeing the return he would like for the investment that he put in. At the end of the day it is, after all, his signature on the paychecks - not the fans. He has to see some sort of financial incentive or he will find a more lucrative place to house his team.

According to the U.S. Census there are about 2.7 million people living in the Tampa Bay Area. The TBA generally comprises Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, St Petersburg and the smaller surrounding cities like Brandon , Largo (LAR-GHETTO in the HOUSE!), and Dunedin. It’s hard to believe that out of that 2.7 million people there aren’t 150,000 folks dedicated enough to go to games on a regular basis.

Longoria and Price issued the appropriate apologies, but why should they have to? If they aren’t performing to par the fans have every right to criticize them. Can’t it work both ways? If the fans aren’t performing up to standard why shouldn’t the players be frustrated? Why do I ask so many questions in my posts?

Fans can’t have it both ways. If you say you won’t go because the team sucks, then you better go when they don’t suck. Simple isn’t it? If you don’t go then don’t get upset when the team is relocated to Las Vegas.

1 comment:

shanediaz82 said...

Every time I hear about this I think it's such a shame. I get up to Fenway about a dozen times a year, and the ONLY reason I don't go more frequently is the outrageous cost. If I could walk up to the stadium on game day and buy tix I'd probably go 40 times a year.

You're right too, the Rays are a damn good team and have been for a few years now. It really is too bad...