A lot of casual fans make up their minds on a team before the season even begins. And considering the Rays slashed payroll by 41.7 percent this season, it is no surprise that attendance is down dramatically in 2011.

But now we get a better sense of just how many fans have jumped off the Radio Flyer bandwagon. Television ratings are down 37 percent from last year. That is the biggest drop in baseball (click on “Read More…” below to see chart).

Last year, the Rays finished fifth in local TV ratings with a 5.9 local rating. This gave hope that fans were interested in the Rays even if they weren’t making it to the games (the Rays finished 22nd in attendance).

But this year, those numbers are both down, with the Rays falling to 29th in attendance, ahead of only the Marlins.

Here is a yaer-by-year look at the TV ratings and the attendance. And the trend paints an ugly picture…

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47 Comments

  1. Rob says:

    It's because they are so painful to watch this year.

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    • zenny says:

      Yes, they're just not very entertaining. That, and the fact that several of the "faces" of the team are gone, has turned off many casual fans.

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  2. Jay says:

    Well when only a few players on the team can actually hit the ball, this is what you get. Longo's not been 100% this year. Really when you watch the Rays you get good starting pitching and solid defense, but it is painful to watch when the offense does not put points on the board. Ratings will only get worse this year if the Rays unload for prospects.

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  3. maggie says:

    Do these numbers reflect computer and other device users? I watch every game, but not always in real time. In fact the Rays and MLBTV are the only reason I own a computer.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      Well, these are local TV ratings, and the Rays games should be blacked out locally on the computer. So it shouldn't impact the numbers. But yes, there are a lot of non-local people that are not being counted here. But that should be consistent across all teams.

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      • maggie says:

        Games are on MLBTV 90 minutes after completion. What I said was "when I can't watch in real time" Some third shifters and all second shifters have to and do watch games after the fact. We're still fans when we can't go to games or watch live on tv. ( I used to creep into the back computer sometimes and sneak a peek.) I know I'm not alone. Plenty of fans who do shift work. You day people don't know we're out there.

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  4. MJ says:

    While there is reason to worry, it's not exactly fair to compare this year to previous years until this year is complete. Having said that, while it is a large drop off in ratings, last year saw an even larger change in the shape of an increase. The ratings are still on par w/ the magical season of '08, and much higher than any years prior I would imagine. It's not what you'd like to see if you are the Rays, but the season is only half way over, and we are learning what the standard is for a good/mildly entertaining Rays team in Tampa Bay (somewhere around a 3.4-4.0 rating and 20,500 in attendance).

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  5. Tone says:

    They are really hard to watch. I agree with a lot of what others have said in their comments. Same reason for the attendance drop I bet too. The owner and all the media dug the team a grave all offseason and yet there is this surprise that interest has dropped. I remember opening weekend was watched on TV and in the stands with good numbers, but we all know how the team performed. The start of the season was beyond boring to watch and there are continual spurts of dog poop. I am a very loyal fan and even I turn the games off when they are in slump mode. When they slump offensively, they are nearly impossible to enjoy. Casual fans are not into that.

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  6. rayalan says:

    I must admit that even though I am a "died in the wool" Rays fan this team is hard to watch some times. Their offense is beyond anything reasonable. The thing I do not understand about this big drop is, this was the case last year as well. They are great to watch with leather gloves on their hands in the field but they are simply dreadful with a wooden bat in their hands.
    It appears that the dreadful offenss is the culprit here so it looks like Stu is going to to have to "foreward fund" some offense, to get folks back in the fold and the money will come back to him. Let's just hope he is willing to do that.

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  7. Chris Mooney says:

    Big free agents that hit home runs are not worth the price ON THE FIELD. And this is what the front office doesnt understand, or at least ingnores. They do an incredible job of getting the most bang for the buck, but that "bang" is never going to be enough to compete on a consistent basis.Every once and a while, they will get a good 2-3 year window if all the stars align. And the rest of the time they will be a good team. But "good" doesn't win the AL East when both the Yankees and Red Sox are having a typical season.

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    • Chris Mooney says:

      to finish my thought...those big boppers are overpriced for what they do on the field, but they also put fannies in the seats. People, especially the casual fan and the young fan, want offense. They want runs, and more importantly, they want home runs. And that makes big bats worth the price, even if the production isn't worth the pricetag.

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  8. Chris says:

    I agree that the offense has been less appealing this year, but I believe the lack of games against both the Yankees and Red Sox has adversely affected both ticket sales and TV numbers.

    The Rays have only played 5 of their 18 home games against the Sox and Yanks.

    The Rays have only played 10 of their 36 total games against the Sox and Yanks.

    There are only 4 more 10 pm EDT games left in the second half, after their week in Seattle and Anaheim.

    These attendance and viewing numbers will definitely trend up in the second half.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      This is true. And it probably explains some of the drop. But it doesn't explain why general interest in this team isnt growing. Because when we talk about Yankees and RedSox games, we are talking about a lot of Yankees and RedSox fans. We shouldn't have to depend on them for big numbers.

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  9. Gus says:

    Reversion to the mean. Were probably a little high last year, probably a little low this year. TV ratings aren't precise to begin with. Truth is somewhere probably in the middle.

    But in there, I think, is a frustration with how many at bats of Kelly Shoppach and the Mendoza line line-up can you watch without losing some enthusiasm. Plus, the chilling double whammy of a payroll slashing and a terrible start and your most famous player being busted for steroids. None of that is helping.

    Finally, any sports team is a collective enterprise between ownership, fans and players. When ownership is a constant negative force, even the most loyal fans will ultimately pull back. You may be seeing that now. Effectively, Sternberg had told the Pinellas penisula (the people closest to the games) that they and their stadium are not good enough to host major league baseball games for his team. The manager called the stadium a "joke" and the players called low turnout last September "an embarassment" (note Longo and Price have been hit by the bad karma ever since those statements). That is not a way to turn on your fan base at the gate or on the tv.

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  10. Gus says:

    One more -- the Diamondbacks, the Rays bretheren with a state of the art retractable roof stadium in a sunbelt market, aren't exactly drawing in droves either -- 23,957 (13th in the NL) for a team battling for 1st in the division (and have a World Series title and acouple of playff appearances in their history). Fairly similar franchise at this point to the Rays.

    Home Run Derby in the Trop would be awesome, by the way, with cameras in the catwalks, the Ray tank and the Bryce Harper back wall in play. Nobody has ever even whispered about an attempt to get the All-Star game here.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      Bud Selig has promised an All-Star game as incentive for building a new stadium.

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      • Gus says:

        We never got an All-Star Game for our first building; why should we build another one to get one? Only franchises to never host an All-Star game are the Florida franchises I think. (but plenty of World Series and playoff games)

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    • Steve says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that Rays ownership and players have done a wonderful job in driving down expectations and also making public association with the team akin to wearing a "kick me" sign. They've been so public about what an embarrassment the team is, that many fans don't want to be associated with a joke. The ownership is basically laughing at fans for supporting the Rays and lambasting them when they don't show. The biggest shame is that some fans in the Bay area only think the ownership looks down on residents of St. Pete - - not true - - they look down on the entire Bay area. RTFL.

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  11. Mark E says:

    Many (most?) fans enjoy offensive battles. Rays' bats are pathetic, dating back to mid-last season. Eight(?) shoutouts, a dozen (+?) more games of 4 hits-or-less = LOWER ATTENDANCE AND LOWER VIEWERSHIP.

    Ironically, the only guy who can do anything about it is Stu -- the very same individual who openly criticizes the fans, the home town and the Trop. Unless he decides to fork over for some offensive power, the batting stats and thus, the viewership/attendance aren't likely to change much.

    Myself, I love a good pitching duel, and I'm loyal to the Rays, so I'm still watching and attending games.

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    • Beth says:

      I'm not sure I buy the argument that casual fans aren't watching the Rays because the team isn't strong offensively. Their offense last year wasn't much better, but TV ratings were higher. And knowing that a team is struggling offensively already suggests a deeper appreciation of baseball than many casual fans would have. Finally, the other complaint about baseball is that the games take so long. Well, games with very few hits go by pretty quickly. That Sunday Shields-Sabathia match up was over in 2 hours!

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      • Mark E says:

        My opinion is formed by many, many baseball/Rays conversations with many people. I've heard dozens of times this season that the games are "boring" to watch this year. Actually, the offense was quite productive the beginning of last year -- when the TV ratings were at their highest. They stayed high through the season (when offense puttered out) because of the Rays' playoffs contention.

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        • Rob says:

          The games are boring. We have had a Saturday package for a few years now, and it has come to the point where I am dreading going to the games. I love a pitcher's duel too, but it seems like there are too many games of the 6-1 variety where we pick up 3 hits over 8 and then hit a solo shot in the ninth inning.

          The hitting isn't the only issue either - other than Shields, it seems like our pitchers work so slowly and throw way too many 3-2 counts.

          And what is up with the wave? How in the world does a stadium full of people start a wave when you are down 4-0 and the other pitcher just set down 13 in a row? It's pretty sad when DJ Kitty is the highlight of the night (though he is pretty cool).

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  12. Rob says:

    We lost our "best" player to the Red Sox and the smiling "face" of the franchise was traded to the cubs. Ownership got rid of our bullpen and we replaced them with cast-offs and backups from junk heaps around the league. Just remember that our big off season reason to watch the rays was MANNY!!!

    While those moves were the right ones to make and Kotchman has performed better than anyone ever thought. There aren't enough Sam Fuld youtube videos to make me love a .220 hitter.

    As a casual fan those are all reasons to leave and it is no surprise they did.

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    • Beth says:

      Hey, Sam is hitting nearly .240! (I do get your point, though. And what a shame that Sam's .238 is probably around the mean for Rays' starters).

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    • Indiana Rays Boy says:

      "Just remember that our big off season reason to watch the rays was MANNY!!!"

      Huh? When the Rays signed Manny, I hated that move, press conference with Maddon, Friedman and Manny smiling together was sickening and they were unlikeable with him on that team. IMO, I was screaming for Vladimir Guerrero to be the DH for the Rays instead of this $2 million dollar waste of space that got busted for PED not to mention he was a bad guy in the clubhouse. When Manny left, it was a breath of fresh air and Damon covered the debacle at the DH position when he couldn't play the field on a full time basis anymore.

      Sam Fuld had a nice 3 week run but he went back to reality of being a 4th OFer (via Jason Tyner 2.0). Kotchman was a huge steal at 1B for a bargin price and Joyce being a All Star even he deserves more playing time than Maddon is giving him. The offense is bad again under Shelton/Maddon "Wait for the walk and mistake to happen" philosophy that won't win championships anytime soon.

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  13. LoLJFH says:

    As reported from Bud Selig's (moron) news conference today on Hardball Talk.com: •He’s surprised by the Tampa Bay Rays’ low attendance this season and understands the concerns of Rays’ ownership. I would guess that if the Rays could figure out a way to move, Selig would support it.
    So, basically, the commish and team ownership are giving up on the area. Nice. Reeeeeaaaaaallllll nice Bud and Stu. Drop salary, field a team no one can watch, cry foul and then leave - seems to be a looming MO of these guys. Neither cares about what anyone that supports the team thinks in chats like this and on the radio because they don't listen or read these. Listen to Andy and Dave on 620 each week and you hear their thoughts loud and clear.

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  14. Don says:

    NOTHING LIKE AN ATTENDANCE/VIEWERSHIP RATINGS BLOG TO BRING THE MORONS OUT IN DROVES

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  15. Dew says:

    The owners and Bud Selig are ruining baseball by having such diversity between small market teams and the rest. I'm going to puke if I hear one more threat of the Rays being moved or contracted. Just pencil in the Yankees and the Red Sox as playoff teams every year unless there is a miracle. And the Rays have been the recent miracle. But that's in the past now. I doubt I'll even watch the allstar game tonight.

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  16. Joe says:

    This is PRECISELY why I am sick and freakin' tired of Stu Sternberg and our moronic media not going to bad and STANDING UP for our area. This is a weekly brow beating of the fans, even if they have a stake in the team or not. The game and the marketing of the game is pushed to the I-95 corridor from Boston to DC and everything between, sprinkled in with Chi-Town or a LA or SF. This team and this market and the fans and the RESIDENTS will NEVER, EVER be treated fairly or with respect. I have said it 1,000 times over, this is Stu's investment, he is the "Executive Producer", using a movie term, and if he doesn't like the script or how the movie is turning out, THEN CHANGE THE SCRIPT!

    It is time for this man to leave Tampa Bay behind and let new owners LOCALLY just grasp the situation, grease some palms and ease this process. Stu doesn't get it, or HE DOESN'T WANT TO GET IT!!! I am tired of this man's incessant, passive-aggressive or using Bud the Human Shield to talk crap! It's bad enough that the area won't even be considered for an ASG at the Trop!! It should happen, dangit!!!

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  17. Sarah says:

    Joe, I get your frustration, but where, exactly, is this local ownership going to come from? Our many local dot com millionaires? Our dozens of locally headquartered Fortune 500 corporations? Our region doesn't exactly have a deep bench of smart, rich people.

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    • Joe says:

      I was thinking about Chris Sullivan, but I know he's had a round of stuff before. What we need is a philanthropist who is willing to be patient, not just drag knuckles and offer ultimatums and play quid pro quo games with payroll and effort. I get it, Tampa Bay fans suck....So what can we do about it?

      It's just the line of questioning. Are we all problems or solutions? Stu treats everyone like we are all problems instead of being proactive, he is now reactive.

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      • Sarah says:

        Sorry, but the local billionaire philanthropist willing to put money into this team and wait years for any return simply doesn't exist. Thinking that this paragon of an owner is going to come along and solve our problems is no more realistic than thinking there is some magic formula for building a great new stadium that will increase attendance and cost the tax payers nothing. If we are really having a discussion about the future of major league baseball in the Tampa Bay area, that discussion needs to be grounded in reality.

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        • Joe says:

          My point is that being threatening and demeaning and acting petulantly at every turn is not going to accomplish anything. Nothing good can come of how Sternberg has acted.

          You are underestimating the amount of revenue that is at Stu Sternberg's disposal. If you think he is hamstrung, you are mistaken. Not that anyone for sure knows precisely, but it is a lot more than what kind of major league effort that Stu has put in the 25 man roster.

          If you can't afford it, then sell. Heck, my only loyalty to this is to the fans of the team, more so than to the team itself. It hurts and hurts royally to see this team and its fans crapped on every other minute. And it also hurts to see our media just bend over backwards and support the Rays management team and MLB's agenda blindly without any wink or nod to the fans' plight. The fact we have Major League Baseball in our community is a tremendous asset not lost by me. Again, it doesn't take a billionaire, but heck, I want a FAN of my area that I love, a pure champion of the fans and the community, not some carpetbagging dictator with good business sense to come in and simply rake everyone over the coals for his own benefit. There are Chris Sullivans or Bob Bashams or Jeff Viniks out there, or a consortium of owners who only need about 30 or so percent of the club (Stu's percentage) to buy him out and take over the managing general partnership.

          The time is NOT NOW for a stadium. Let's table it, let's revisit it in about 3 years when the planning can resume with the bonds of the Trop paid off. Let's have proposals on both sides of the bay, and an owner who will not force himself on the Mayor's office or City Council and cry to MLB about what he can or can't do. Stu has offered ZERO in solutions in this, rather he just restates his position. Let St. Pete/Pinellas have one last shot at it, and if they come up with something, they get a right of first refusal, if not, then I would imagine they would be amenable to the lease being revisited ONLY if the club will go to Hillsborough.

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  18. rayalan says:

    Milwaukee the 36th largest tv market averages over 36,000 per game. Tampa Bay, the 13th largest tv market averages 19,000 plus. What kind of excuses can we offer. I am membarassed by our lack of support for what this ownership group has done. I live in east Hillsborough county and have season tickets. We all need to stop pointing fingers at everyone else and get together and support this team before we lose them. They deserve our support.

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    • Steve says:

      I'm never certain why the Twin Cities and Milwaukee's success with attendance is evidence against the Rays. These teams draw well, they should be commended. As a native of Florida and a transplant to the Northeast my experience is that there is almost a mania, to do something, to do anything outdoors during the all-to-brief interlude between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I've looked at attendance information on minor league teams and northern teams seem to always draw more, even when dealing with MLB competition and a smaller population base. How do you explain in 2009 the New Britain Rock Cats drawing 5556 per game, and the city whose name is bandied about as our competition - - Charlotte - - the Knights drew 4513. The closest MLB team is 6 hours away, the population disparity is pronounced and most people in CT are fans of the Yankees, Sox and Met but they still have a better gate. I think if the roof comes off in St. Pete, Tampa, Brandon, Gulfport, or wherever attendance will drop even further.

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      • Sarah says:

        That's an interesting point -- and I can well remember going to some games at Shea Stadium or Fenway Park on hot nights just to get out of my sweltering apartment and see some real grass! The baseball was incidental.

        As I always tell my friends from the Northeast, who wax poetic about the wonders of outdoor baseball and laugh at our dome: when they agree to move the baseball season so that it starts in October and ends in April, I'll advocate an outdoor stadium in the Tampa Bay area, and no doubt on a lovely November evening it would be filled.

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  19. Dave L says:

    Its not surprising attendance is suppressed. With national sports media calling the Trop a joke. And ownership and Local talk radio constantly talking down the experience of going to a Rays game, you would think its like the old Kingdome. Funny thing is if you talk to the fans who actually go to the Trop they love it. We go to 20+ games a year on the sunday season ticket package and all the fans we talk to love the venue if not the outcome as Dewayne would say. My daughter is 14 and we have been to road trips to Safeco, Camden Yards and Target and she thinks the Trop is a better park. Thank god she has the innocence of youth to form her own opinion and isnt exposed to media and our ownership to influence her enjoyment of our home games. For those who want a retractable dome, consider pumping AC into 8 billion cubic yards of summer Florida humidity, imagine how long that would take?

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    • Mark E says:

      Well said Dave! I love the Trop. The ownership complaints about the Trop are just a rich owner, making a huge profit (don't believe he's not), wanting MORE, MORE, MORE.

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  20. Don says:

    Hey Alex ..why haven't you commented on your solution to attendance/tv rating with the other morons that can't talk baseball...
    I'm disappointed in you...

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  21. If you cut the payroll by 42%, you should have an equal reaction in attendance and viewer ratings. If you can tell us what the RAYS receive in luxury tax from the Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles and Blue Jays, I'm sure our payroll is less than that. Sternberg is stealing money. He was not able to afford owning a big league club, so he resorts to stealing luxury tax money that should be going to payroll. I hope he has a air tight pre-nup with his wife or we will be repeating the Dodger's scenario.

    He should be extolling the virtues of playing ball indoors at 72 degrees but instead he degrades the venue. He wishes that taxpayers will duplicate the gift that the Glazer's got, making them wealthy beyond their wildest dreams with a new stadium and lease agreement. They couldn't afford the Buc's either and planned to move the team immediately to Baltimore to collect $50 million relocation reward that would cover their down payment. In this economy, he will NEVER get a new stadium, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER EVER.

    If you can't afford to be a big league owner, Sternberg, sell the team!

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  22. Michael says:

    Doing a one year year over year for TV ratings is stupid.

    The 2010 Rays were anomalously good. And as a result their TV ratings were anomalously good as well.

    Ratings from 2009 to 2011 are still *UP DRAMATICALLY*... up dramatically from a 2009 seasons coming off of a Cinderella World Series appearance.

    People will point to these TV ratings as the condemning point that the Rays cannot survive... but what the fuck? The ratings are still great. A 30% drop from 5th in the entire goddamned league still leaves us in a good spot, and we are in such a small market. Baseball is a long season. Are we expecting casual fans in this market to watch baseball for half the year every year in perpetuity?

    I think it's irresponsible to post these ratings numbers as a doom and gloom story when they are still relatively so great.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      Stupid? Irresponsible? OK. We did not post the 2011 ratings in a nutshell. They are presented with the previous year's ratings. And the "doom and gloom" is not the ratings. It is that the attendance is down dramatically AS WELL AS the ratings. It is that the attendance is 29th in baseball. It is that the interest in this team is not growing like it should be, but instead is regressing.

      But hey, if you think this team is doing great, that is certainly one opinion.

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      • Michael says:

        They don't have to be doing great to not be doing horribly. Over two years the TV ratings are up substantially, comfortably over 20% at least. And since this article was written, 2011 attendance has gotten a predictable jolt from mid-summer diamond level games.

        I don't see what is productive from pointing out that the Rays TV ratings are plummeting using a 12 month frame of reference. Yes. Of course they did. Who thought they wouldn't?

        It is a shame, but I don't think that TV ratings going down after literally a banner year is a sign of anything other than "yes, casual fans don't want to watch a team that they perceive as being bad".

        TV is a fickle thing. And we have fickle baseball fans. The combination of these two components and a dismantled team, I thought, might not be a cause for concern.

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