Everywhere you turned yesterday, people were dumping on the Tampa Bay area for the lack of attendance at The Trop on Monday night. One example is Dari Nowkhah, a sportscaster for ESPN, who said the following (via Twitter)…
11,000 at last night’s #Rays game. 31 games over .500. Pathetic. Why would Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford re-sign?
Let’s ignore the fact that no player in the history of baseball has based his free agent contract on attendance. But in ripping the attendance, Nowkhah was not alone. Bashing of Rays fans could be heard on “SportsCenter” and on “Baseball Tonight” and many corners of the internet.
First of all, as a commenter (Thad) correctly pointed out, most of the parks in action on Monday night had very small crowds. With schools back in session it is hard to expect big crowds for weeknight games. The difference for the Rays is that they don’t have a large core of season-ticket holders. So when other teams have 10,000 people in the stands, they can still report a bloated attendance number that includes season-ticket holders that did not show up. And those figures don’t have the same emotional impact that ESPN is looking for.
But, none of those other teams have the best record in baseball. So why should the Rays be exempt for this criticism? Because a team’s current record has little to do with how many fans show up to the park.
In Baseball Between the Numbers, edited by Jonah Keri, Nate Silver performed a regression analysis that showed that a team’s record in the current season is only the sixth most important factor in determining attendance.
The complete list…
- Stadium quality rating
- Market size
- Honeymoon affect (age of the stadium)
- Games won in previous season
- Playoff appearances in the past ten years
- Games won in current season
- Per-capita income
If we look at the factors more important than the team’s current record, we see where the Rays attendance fails. The Trop is considered one of the worst stadiums in baseball. Outside of the historic parks (e.g. Fenway, Wrigley, etc.) Tropicana Field is one of the oldest in baseball. And the Rays only have one playoff appearance in the last 10 years.
Depending on how one measures market-size, the Rays are either a mid-market or a small-market. Either way, that, and the best record in baseball, is unable to overcome how poorly the Rays rate in the factors that matter most.
The Rays have attendance problems. But thinking that more people should be at the games just because the Rays have the best record in baseball is flawed and misdirected criticism.