The article is titled “Rays need to get out of Tampa Bay.” And it is filled with all the typical ESPN.com rhetoric. Such hits like…
The Rays have some passionate and supportive fans. There are simply not enough of them.
And then there are nine or ten more paragraphs of “yadda, yadda, yadda” to support the conclusion that the Tampa Bay area “hasn’t been a great place for Major League baseball to do business.”
But what really puts the article over the top is the picture sitting front and center. The same one you see above. It’s great, right? It caters to every stereotype of Rays baseball. Thousands of empty seats.
There is only one problem: It is a bold-faced lie.
The first thing you will notice (here is a larger version) after the empty seats, are the old school Devil Rays logos. [Ed note: the photo has since been removed after the author of the article got ripped to shreds on Twitter. The story is now using a pic of Kelly Shoppach hitting a HR in Milwaukee, of course]
But wait. There is more.
A search through the archives shows that
the Rays used teal on the tops of the dugouts from 2003 through 2005.
Then we noticed that the first baseman appears to be wearing #19 (Aubrey Huff) and the second baseman appears to be wearing a number beginning with a “5.” Jorge Cantu wore #59 in 2004, his rookie season. So that narrowed it down to the second-half of 2004.
So…To emphasize that the Rays need to “get out of Tampa Bay,” ESPN.com uses a picture from the 8th inning of an afternoon game in September played between two teams that were a combined 61.5 games out of first place.
Ahhh, but it gets better! No, really!
Remember Hurricane Ivan? Of course. Well, this game was during Hurricane Ivan (thanks Andrew). The Rays had to travel that night to New York to face the Yankees. As a result, the team moved the game from 7:15 to 12:15 at the last minute. And according to the game notes, “the actual turnout appeared to be between 1,000 and 2,000.”
So, by all means, let’s use THAT game as an example of Rays attendance in 2011.
Yeah, that’s credible.
But we’re not done. Oh no. There is more! Here is the picture ESPN.com used on their front page as a tease (click on the image for a larger version)…
Look at how empty the Trop is! Because, you know, the Rays have terrible fans if they don’t show up for a closed practice during the 2008 playoffs on a day there was no game (more huge thanks to Jamal).