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.