The Rays averaged 28,852 fans (80.0% capacity) for their 10 September home dates, including two sellouts in their final two home games of the season. And yet, as recently as four days ago, Mitch Stacy of the Associated Press, wrote a story that was carried in many papers across the country titled, “Question for 1st-place Rays: Where are the fans?”.

But the team is still playing to small crowds at Tropicana Field, a situation that’s starting to give fans a bit of national black eye. The lack of buzz has some commentators questioning whether the Tampa Bay area even deserves to have the team.

These stories continue to be written as if the Rays and their fans are a blight on baseball. The implication is that any other team in a pennant race would be selling out every game, with fans spilling into the aisles.

One of our good friends, a die hard New York Mets fan, alerted us that this is not the case.

The above picture was taken at Shea Stadium on September 14. It was a Sunday afternoon game against the Atlanta Braves. At the time of the game, the Mets had a 1 game lead in the NL East.

The attendance for the game was announced as 56,041, about 300 short of capacity. Take a closer look at the image (a larger version can be found HERE. An even larger version can be found HERE). It is easy to spot the empty seats. In the lower deck they are orange, in the middle deck they are blue and the upper deck they are green. Also note that this photo was taken during the 3rd inning (see scoreboard) with the score tied 1-1.

So where is the criticism of the Mets and their fans? A Sunday afternoon, on a beautiful day, in the middle of a late-season pennant race against the team’s biggest rival, in the biggest baseball town in the country…and it looks like they don’t have anymore than 35,000 in the stands (~70% capacity).

Our friend assures us that the above picture is typical of a Mets crowd for the last few weeks, and yet the Mets continue to announce crowd sizes of 50,000+.

And what about Baltimore? Last night the announced crowd was 12,489. That is at least twice the actual crowd. We wondered aloud if this was the first road game in Rays history with more Rays fans than home fans. A “Tampa…Bay” chant could even be heard on the TV broadcast. Yes, the O’s are 26 games back, but supposedly this is one of the great baseball towns in this country and they have one of the icon stadiums in the sport. And yet, two of the knocks against the Rays are that Tropicana Field is terrible and Bay Area fans care more about football.

Why is there no criticism of other teams like the Mets and Orioles? Because those teams bloat their attendance figures and their fans are fair-weather.

At times the Rays attendance has been disappointing, but our stance is that nobody should expect sellouts to occur overnight. At the beginning of the season, when fans make season-ticket purchases and corporations enter partnerships with the team, many still believed this was a losing franchise. All fans need something to root for. Now that the Bay Area has a team worth rooting for, the crowds will grow. And once they do, they will be loyal.

In the mean time, the only way the Rays and their fans will avoid criticism is to take a cue from the Mets and just lie.

Question for 1st-place Rays: Where are the fans? [Associated Press]

 
 

8 Comments

  1. James says:

    i am surprised about the Orioles fans. they used to have a huge sellout streak in that park even though the team sucked.

    as for the Mets. Look up “fair-weather” in the dictionary, and it starts with Mets fans.

  2. Joe D. says:

    I’m glad that you were able to post this, good stuff, I get so ticked off when I hear the media ripping the Rays attendance, any one remember the early season match up at the O’s, I think it may have been the Rays season opener or 2nd game, the box score reports like 10k and there are no more the about 3k at the game, I think it was a cold and damp day but still, 10k @ Baltimore, and maybe 1/3 of that showed up.

    Rays are just getting ripped on because everyone in the national media hates the dome (even though most have never even been to it, MLB commisioner is guilty as well) so the one thing they can still rip the Rays on is fans aren’t supporting the team, which isn’t exactly true either.

    I’d love to see a break down as to what the Rays attendance is on Fri, Sat, Sun games Vs. Weekday games because I think a huge part of it is getting to the games. In case no one has checked a map St Pete is the peninsula side of a Bay, and there are only 3 bridges to get there from the east (Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando) and south (Sarasota, Port Charlotte) not too easy to get there on a regular weekday. I live in Orlando and have to leave work at 2:30 to make a 7:10 game, and spend $50 in gas to get there and back.

  3. Anonymous says:

    On Sports Reporters, Lupica ripped the Rays saying they played Saturday’s clinching game to 80% capacity when, in fact, no more tickets could be purchased and they sold out. But nobody is accountable for accuracy on ESPN, home of the “Tampa Rays”. Idiots.

    Teams announce attendance by tickets distributed. The Mets obviously have a better season ticket base than the Rays, who have decimated that group of consumers through the years (I used to be one of them for 6 years). To the larger point: who cares about attendance anyway; the Rays have been one of the most profitable teams for years because they have no payroll; all tickets are gravy profit because they get the central fund payments and some revenue sharing.

  4. zenny says:

    There has been an ongoing debate about this issue on baseball-fever.com (see link). Freakin’ jankees want the Rays broken up before the playoffs start, is all.

  5. slacker775 says:

    We had the same problem when the Bucs stunk and when the Lightning stunk. I remember going to Bolts games with absolutely NO ONE there. If the team stinks and it’s apparent that management doesn’t care, people just aren’t going to waste their time. Heck, as bad as the Rays have been in past years or how the Bucs and Bolts were in their down times, it’s almost showing how much of a sporting fan you are to AVOID watching that nonsense.

    It’s so much easier to justify forking down $100-200 for an evening when you have an expectation (with this years Rays a strong expectation) of seeing your team win.

  6. The Professor says:

    i always compare the Rays to the 97 Bucs. That was Dungy’s 2nd year and they were coming off 14 straight losing seasons. That year, after starting the season 4-0 including a big opening week win against the 49ers, the Bucs came home for a game against Arizona.

    Attendance that week was about 60% capacity. It was awful. NOBODY went to the game. it wasn’t until the end of the year that the Bucs started getting near-capacity crowds. They made the playoffs and the attendance hasn’t looked back since.

  7. Curtiss Gibson says:

    I go to alot of Mets games. Went to a Friday night tilt against the Phils a week or so ago. In the middle of a pennant race against the primary opponent, I saw about six or eight sections on the upper deck that were just about empty. I was really drunk, but my friends did confirm that it wasn’t nearly as crowded as they expected.

  8. Doug A. Milhoan says:

    We’re 24th in road attendance. Obviously the other 13 AL cities have no ‘true baseball fans’ since they didn’t come out to see the young, exciting 1st place Rays. Four of the AL playoff contenders are in the bottom 9 of road attendance: 22 White Sox, 24 TBR, 27 LAA, 28 Minnesota. That’s just odd.

Leave a Comment