This weekend John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times raised some eyebrows with a column titled “Has a baseball team ever won so much and drawn so few as the Tampa Bay Rays?”
In the piece Romano refers to the Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles as two franchises that had sustained success and poor attendance…
I could actually make a pretty strong argument that baseball has never seen a team win so consistently and draw so poorly as the Rays from 2008-12…The Minnesota Twins in the early 2000s and the Baltimore Orioles in the 1970s had similar runs of sustained success on the field with low numbers at the gate, but neither was as bad as Tampa Bay relative to baseball’s average attendance.
Romano also cites this year’s Indians, but notes they get a pass because “Cleveland is a proven big-league market.”
But are these really the best comparisons? No, the best comparison of the modern era is a team that almost moved to Tropicana Field, the San Francisco Giants.
Prior to the opening of their newest stadium in 2000, the Giants played in Candlestick Park, which like Tropicana Field, was a horrible facility in a terrible location (also on a peninsula, away from bridges to the mainland).
Here is a look at the attendance for each team per win. For the Rays, data represents all 14 completed seasons (1998-2011). For the Giants, data represents the 14 seasons prior to the opening of their new ballpark (1986-1999) as well as all years since their new park opened…
It should be noted that from 1986 through 1999, the Giants went to the playoffs three times and played in the World Series once (losing to the A’s). Sound familiar?
Of course, this doesn’t guarantee a new stadium in Tampa Bay will be as successful as the Giants’ new park. But it does show what a difference a new stadium in a better location can make.