We recently took a look at the combined audience for typical Rays games, including both the attendance and the average television audience in the Tampa-St. Pete market. The results showed that the Rays fan base is a lot bigger than most in the national media realize, ranking 16th of the 27 teams with available data.
But there is a problem with that data and it may be a sign that some fans are starting to tune out the Rays.
While the Rays’ fan base is middle of the road overall, it is actually down significantly from the last two seasons and way down from 2010 when they likely ranked in the top ten in baseball.
Part of this is how poorly the Rays played early in the season.
The Rays will also get a boost down the stretch with 10 of their final 22 home games against the Red Sox or the Yankees. In fact, Saturday’s game against the Yankees is already sold out and Sunday’s game is close to a sellout.
Unfortunately, only one of those games will be on in primetime, so Sun Sports won’t get much of a ratings boost.
What is worrisome is if the downward trend continues into next season. It could be a sign that fans are starting to tune out the Rays.
Even if you don’t believe there is a downward trend (the numbers are still up from 2009 and 2011), we are not seeing the upward trend we would hope for when the team has been so successful over the last seven seasons.
And if fans are tuning out the Rays it could be a sign of growing apathy among fans due to the lack of any resolution with the stadium issue. There is a general sense that a lot of fans are just sick of the bickering from people like Bud Selig and Peter Gammons as well as the lack of anything suggesting the team is any closer to getting a new stadium.
Fans are just tired of it.
Fans don’t always need success and answers. But what they do need is hope (unless you live on the northside of Chicago). Right now there is little reason to hope that the Rays are going to get a new stadium which means many fans will still fear that the team will eventually move (even though that is not going to happen with the strong TV ratings).
If fans don’t have hope, they won’t be willing to make an emotional commitment. If fans don’t have that emotional attachment, attendance and ratings will continue to fall.