Let us play Conspiracy Theorist for a moment…

We weren’t going to write about this topic, but it has come up in a couple of places including the comments section of this blog.

The question: Was there a deeper motive behind the comments by David Price and Evan Longoria about the Rays attendance?

The evidence:

  1. The comments came from two players, not one. If it were just Longoria’s comments or Price’s comments, the story likely would not have been nearly as big. In fact, when we read Longo’s comments we thought they were interesting. It wasn’t until we read Price’s tweet that we knew something big was happening.
  2. The comments were

    made by arguably the Rays two biggest stars. Well, at least the two biggest starts that will be back next season.

  3. The comments were made by two players that are normally very soft-spoken and whose comments are usually very careful and well-measured. That is, they never say anything controversial.
  4. To take it a step further, there is symmetry to the players that made the comments. One position player, one pitcher. One black, one white. If one were picking two players to represent the entire team, these are without a doubt, the two you would pick.
  5. Reports are that Longoria, who did not play in the game, was waiting in the locker room for the reporters. Something that one beat writer deemed “unusual.” That is, his comment was not a response to a question. Rather, it was more like a prepared statement.
  6. Longoria’s comments to reporters and Price’s Tweet, were made within minutes of each other. And both players used the word “embarassing.”

Anytime one thinks that something nefarious is going on and one wants to know who is behind the plot, the first question to ask is: who benefits?

Were Price and Longoria just trying to get more fans to The Trop? Not likely. There were only two home games remaining in the regular season. Any “bump” would hardly be noticeable for a series with the Orioles and would mean little to overall attendance. And of course, there shouldn’t be any concern about playoff attendance.

No. The real benefactor here is the front office. First of all, the comments created a buzz about the Rays that surprisingly hasn’t been there this year. And even if much of the commentary was negative, any buzz is better than no buzz.

But more importantly, the comments stirred nationwide commentary on the state of the Rays franchise and the lack of support in their current situation. And all of this commentary supports the notion that the Rays can’t survive in The Trop or even St. Pete. The comments by Price and Longoria led to much of the media calling for the Rays to move and find a better home.

Don’t think for one moment that Stuart Sternberg and Matt Silverman weren’t grinning from ear-to-ear yesterday. The entire national media just made the Rays case without Sternberg or Silverman having to say a word.

Or maybe Longoria and Price were just frustrated and it was a coincidence that they both sounded-off with the same expression within minutes of each other.

 
 

29 Comments

  1. Kelley says:

    I totally agree with everything you just said. But I just hope they don’t try to move any farther than Tampa. I don’t want to be a Las Vegas Rays fan.

  2. Dre says:

    I also find it quite curious that the comments were made by two players that didn’t even play in that day’s game

  3. smelpy says:

    as someone who has worked in pr and newspapers/magazines… this all does make sense. great points, cork!

  4. nate says:

    This isn’t far fetched. Remember, the Rays exist because MLB had to expand by four teams to pay off the collusion bill from the 1980s. So I wouldn’t put it past an owner to put together a little scheme like this. Furthermore, the ticket giveaway is part of it. Now if the stadium doesn’t fill up tonight the owners can claim to have even more evidence to support their desires. This goes even further than St Pete vs Tampa. The actions taken are diabolical, and from a public relations standpoint makes to owners look like the victims to onlookers in other parts of the country. Moving baseball teams is next to impossible (we should know). These guys know what they are doing.

    • Hal says:

      The Rays exist down here because George Steinbrenner wanted to be able to see the Yankees 9 times a year without having to fly to New York. He also liked the fact that he thought that we would perpetually suck and be an easy 10 to 12 wins every year.
      I think the comments are innocent and not calculated – the 20,000 tickets however are far more suspicious. My guess is that this is a wager by the front office that we won’t show up even when they give away the tickets; hence we must move from St. Pete.

  5. leningan says:

    I’m going to go with the Price and Longoria weren’t in the game and had plenty of time to discuss the attendance, perhaps even counting the fans. Both had at least 9 innings of ball to gripe and moan about how frustrating it is to play at home in front of a small crowd and probably wondered to each other whether the playoff games would be more of the same. They probably figured their comments would stir up some passion, especially with Evan’s “we play better when more of you are here” follow up. Price probably shouldn’t have tweeted anything, cause tweets provide no context. I think Evan’s comments, when taken as a whole are measured and well-intentioned. The use of embarassing is unfortunate on his part, but watching the game (that i was supposed to attend) in the hospital with Mrs. Leningan, we both made very similar comments about the small crowd. It is what it is. Let’s just hope there are solid numbers (i think there will be) for the divisional, championship, and world series’, so we can enjoy what is sure to be a fantastic postseason. The Trop, for all of its issues, truly is a great place to be when packed full of Raysheads on big occasions. Remember Game 7 of the ALCS?!
    In short, nothing to see here… move along… Go Rays!

    • I also wonder how Stu’s comments in NY affected Longo. He knows he’s (and Price, too) down to only a few games w/ this core group. Next year, Price and Longo are the big doggs on the team and the rest of the 2008 crowd are gone.

      However, the free ticket giveaway is suspiscious….

  6. Daniel Roman says:

    I’ve never seen so much uproar over a couple of players stating facts. If Tampa can’t get more than 15,000 fans out to games, then they don’t deserve a franchise.

    Throw out all the excuses you want, but the bottom line is that a team can’t survive with those kinds of numbers. I’m not saying that the people of Tampa should be slammed for not showing up, but if you can’t support the team, you can’t support the team.

    • raysfan137 says:

      Would all of you people not living in or around the Tampa area please refer to a map or stay out of this discussion. This is a local issue of St. Pete vs. the rest of the Tampa Bay region. It is not, as some ill informed poster said, that “Tampa” cannot get 15,000 fans to the games. It is that St. Pete cannot get them. This is simple geography and demographics people! The owners know it and they want a stadium better suited to draw more of the Tampa Bay population during the week versus just the lower Pinellas peninsula. This goes for national media members too. Do your homework or shut up.

    • Sean says:

      “I’ve never seen so much uproar over a couple of players stating facts. If Tampa can’t get more than 15,000 fans out to games, then they don’t deserve a franchise.

      Throw out all the excuses you want, but the bottom line is that a team can’t survive with those kinds of numbers. I’m not saying that the people of Tampa should be slammed for not showing up, but if you can’t support the team, you can’t support the team.”

      I take issue with a couple things you said here.

      First, you said “a team can’t survive with those kinds of numbers”. They survived with worse for twelve years. There are also franchises with worse numbers that have survived much longer (see: Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and others). The statement you made here is defective because it goes against direct facts.

      Second, we are averaging 23K a game at home, not 15k. 23k equates to about 1.8 million fans, and it has been holding at this point despite continued economic blight in this area. We are drawing 500,000 more fans a year than we did four years ago, so the support is growing. All the signs are pointing to growth, including TV ratings and advertising. If the signs are pointing towards support growth, what makes you think we don’t deserve a franchise? Do you live here? Do you have any idea what the crisis is here?

      I consider it a feat in and of itself that our attendance figures haven’t dropped substantially this year, let alone held at, in my opinion, a respectable level. That being said, if they can’t give all the tickets away tonight, well, I’m not sure what leg St. Petersburg will have to stand on. This giveaway is not a callout to Tampa area fans as much as it is to St. Pete area fans.

  7. Mike says:

    I thought this about 5 minutes after I read the comments. Just way too fishy not to be planned.

  8. d-money says:

    More tabloid journalism at its best.

  9. Kevin says:

    If the front office or PR team were to hand pick the players to make these comments they would include Crawford, in my opinion. This way the media could easily transition to something along the lines of “the attendance stinks and as a result the team can’t keep it’s best players like Crawford. The team should move.”

    Now, if I was Crawford I would tell them no way. Not burning bridges on my way out of town.

    But Crawford would be the choice.

  10. Beth says:

    Cork I agree with you. And I’m deeply annoyed with both Stu Sternberg and these two players for choosing moments we should be relishing to insult their customers.

    But I don’t want this to ruin the rest of the season, and I’m ready to move on.

    Can we drop this topic and talk about the likely postseason roster?

    I promise you the ugly attendance, payroll and stadium issues will still be there in November. But actual baseball will not.

  11. The BIZ says:

    I respectfulyl disagree. Keep in mind they are in the dugout for 9 innings. I am sure a conversation could of went down like this in the dugout.

    Evan: This is embarassing we can clinch today and there is no one here. I am sick of this I am going to say sometihng to the media.

    David: yeah, i think i will tweet it. It definetly is embarassing.

    • d-money says:

      WHAATTT??? You mean there is a reasonable explanation???

      NO way…I don’t believe it. Those guys never talk in the dugout.

      I guess next you’re going to tell me that Neil Armstrong actually landed on the moon.

    • John says:

      More like:

      “Dude, I can’t f***ing believe this. The the f*** is everybody?”

      “Seriously.”

      “It’s like…are these people f***ing retarded? Don’t they know what the f*** we’re doing here?”

      “Embarrassing is what it.”

      “Exactly. F***ing embarrassing.”

      (Repeat for nine innings.)

  12. Steve says:

    I think the comments were strategic and not coincidental. It challenges the area while helping in the campaign to rule out St. Pete as a possible consideration. Its tit-for-tat with the Mayor but the Rays have every numbskull sports journalist parroting back the easily understood sound bite. The ticket ploy is just another way to prove their contention that St. Pete doesn’t work and to build pressure for a new stadium. If a bunch of people show, they’re on the fan’s side, if not, then I can hear the commentary tomorrow “We can’t even give the tickets away!” Sternberg will do everything in his power to contest the notion that the economy has anything to do with attendance – - ironic in that in his past life his company (Goldman Sachs) helped create the very economic crisis real people have to live with today.

    • d-money says:

      Who the F*$k do they rays think they are??? Giving away 20,000 tickets. The nerve of them. I mean can you believe these guys… i bet the GLazers have something to do with this shit as well. Those MF’ers are always up to no good.

      Why not take it for what it is? Two players made some comments that while I believe they had every right to say probably should have kept to themselves so the Rays decided to give tickets away as an olive branch.

      Not to mention they’re going to make plenty of money on concessions that they wouldn’t have otherwise made. So its actually a smart business move.

      But instead everyone has to make it out to be some sinister ploy on the part of the evil Rays.

  13. The BIZ says:

    heres the problem i have with conspiracy theories, they are open ended. they have no actual specifics. is this implying that the front office pulled in the players during a pennant race, and said heres what we need you to do ” make comments towards the fans”.

    I dont agree with this theory at all. sure its fun to come up with these conspiracy theories, but comeon. lets get real and logical here.

  14. Remember when Slugworth was a plant for Willie Wonka? Yeah, that was crazy. This could just be for real. It all hinges on tonight. If they fail to give away 20K tickets, that would not be good.

    • d-money says:

      There is no way they don’t give away all the tickets. There are cars lined up around the block. And I saw people waiting at the Trop as early as 11:00am

      • Cork Gaines says:

        Times says 700-800 at 4pm

      • Beth says:

        20,000 people is A LOT of people, and trying to mobilize 20,000 at the last minute isn’t so easy.

        While I still see it largely as a good will gesture, the fact that they are giving away SO MANY does make me a tad suspicious that they are looking for this to fail. They could have made a good will gesture and given away 5,000 tickets — made a similar point but been more likely to give all the tickets away.

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