You wonder why the Marlins and the Rays don’t draw as well as they’d like to and why no one wants to give the Rays three quarters of a billion dollars for a new ballpark? This little nugget, from recent public opinion polls in the Sunshine State, may help explain it:
Florida’s MLB teams continue to lag in popularity even in their own home state. The 2 most popular baseball teams in Florida are the Braves (17%) and the Yankees (14%). They are then followed by the Marlins (12%) and the Rays (11%), The Red Sox at 8% and Cubs at 6% fill out the list of teams with substantial levels of fandom.
A huge portion of Florida is, culturally speaking, the deep south and the Braves have kind of taken over the deep south, baseball-wise, in the past 40-50 years. The other parts of the state are full of transplants and snowbirds, a huge number of whom come from the east coast and, obviously, the north. They’re not going to change their rooting stripes easily. It’s already a tall order or any expansion team to gain traction. Add that to all of the people who live there that aren’t from there, and it’s a doubly tall order.
But, of course, these things change over time. As Michael Lortz explored this in greater depth last year, there are more native Floridians now than there were 25 years ago and those numbers will increase. And people can and do change their baseball rooting habits over time, especially when they move. It just may take a bit longer for the Florida teams than it did for expansion teams in areas with a greater native population.
(Thanks to Jake for the heads up)