Criticism Of Rays Fans Misguided, Falls On Wrong Ears

The latest jab at the Tampa Bay Rays fans, or lack thereof, came from third baseman Evan Longoria and pitcher David Price. Longoria made apparently unprovoked statements (although, how often do pro athletes really make unprovoked statements?) about the 12,446 fans that showed up for Monday's game. David Price Tweeted that the attendance was "embarrassing" and apologized in a subsequent Tweet. The Rays could have clinched their second playoff birth in franchise history and that attendance figure was the fourth-lowest all season.

The problem is, the only people who are hearing the complaints are the people who show up and the people who would like to show up but can't afford it. If you don't care about the Rays, you probably don't care that they're upset the attendance is low.

 

And if you're a regular reader of the St. Petersburg Times, the team's disappointment has laced the coverage all year long, whether anyone was quoted or not.

The Rays don't have a huge fan base. This team was a trainwreck for the first decade of its existence. So exclusive of a few baseball loyalists who were just happy to have the game in town, the Devil Rays never gave the casual fan a reason to spend their money on games. The franchise basically wasted a decade in building the fan base.

In the same first decade, the Arizona Diamondbacks won a World Series and made the playoffs three other times.

In their first 10 years, the Florida Marlins won two World Series.

After years of being close to unwatchable - except to those of us masochists who just wanted to watch some semblance of baseball - the Rays expect everyone to jump on the bandwagon in a horrible economy, at a ballpark that is inconvenient for most of the market. Oh and let's not forget the cuisine.

And for all the public finger-pointing at bad, bad Rays fans, where is the marketing department with ticket promotions to try and fill seats? The Cardinals offer 50, 30 and 20 percent off seats throughout the season and they boast the best baseball player in the world in Albert Pujols.

The Marlins have BOGO Tuesdays throughout the season and $7.90 infield box seats for certain games sponsored by a local radio station. Cardinals seats range from $19-250. The Marlins charge $9-315. The Rays are $10-210.

Wasn't it nice in 2008 when you didn't have to pay for parking? Now you have to coerce two hobos to get into the back seat of your car to drive through the gate and spare you parking fees. And that only works on Sundays. The Rays' idea of promotions is giving you t-shirts you probably never wear. Personally, I'd prefer the seat discount.

It's also worth noting that in 2007, Devil Rays average attendance 17,148. In 2008, it was 22,259. In 2009, it was 23,147. Maybe it's not the growth rate the Rays brass would like. But taking all the factors into account, it's still growth.

In this economy, the average person doesn't want to hear that they're not spending enough money on entertainment, especially when it's coming from the mouths of millionaires.

And if the fingers should be pointed anywhere, it's at local officials who can't seem to figure out a deal on a new ballpark, not the fans who are making the effort to show up and are being pushed into alienation with one jab after another.

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