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.

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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.

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9 Comments

  1. Anon. says:

    Rays fans are loathe to line the pockets of a front office when it has become glaringly obvious that said front office will never pony up for the proper on field tools required to play for the ultimate victory.

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  2. Skateman says:

    I know I'm just one anecdote but the stadium issue doesn't affect my level of "hope" regarding the Rays. I actually like St. Pete and don't mind the stadium at all, though it's a pain to leave after a game. Ratings are down because the team played so terribly in the beginning of the year. I don't think there's any reason to read any more into it. In addition, Red Sox and Yankees fans probably aren't paying as close of attention to their games with the Rays as their teams are struggling.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      But this is more than a 1-year drop. If early season performance is the only factor then why was 2011-13 down from 2010? And why is this season down from 2012 when the rays were 10.5 out in July?

      That being said, yes the record is part of it. But I also see a trend downward over several seasons. That's the scary part.

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      • Skateman says:

        I'm in the finance business and assess various data points all day. The thing about statistics is that you can basically make it say whatever you want (see politicians' commercials for exhibit A). So you see a decline from 2010. I see a strange one-year spike in 2010 that's affecting how you see the data thereafter. We're up 2% a year, for instance, since 2009. We're up since 2011, too. So your starting point is what's throwing you off.

        Why are we down from 2012? Probably because we weren't as far out of it as we were this year for most of the season. I know I checked out for a while in May and June (too painful) and I love this team.

        Frankly, given the level of play up until recently, I can't believe viewership has held up as well as it has.

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      • Michael says:

        I agree with Skateman. Personally, I know I've attended and watched less Rays games this year than any of the recent past. It's not just the number of losses either. I had such high hopes at the beginning of the year, and not only did they get off to a bad start -- it was the way they were losing that made them pretty much unwatchable. The offense couldn't score any runs, and when they did the bullpen would inevitably blow it. Plus, Longo hasn't gotten it going all year, Myers was crappy and then hurt, same for Matt Moore, most if not all of the offseason acquisitions have been disappointing, etc.

        Kevin Kiermyer and Brad Boxburger have been about the only two surprises to the upside this year. That, and I'd say both Odorizzi and Archer have made encouraging progress.

        But when the Rays put together a run before the All Star Game to get within shouting distance of the playoffs, and were fun to watch again, they trade Price in a deal for an underwhelming return that it seems they could have made in the offseason. All in all a very disappointing season. Given that, those numbers you posted don't surprise me in the least. Regardless, I'll be back next year. Let's hope everyone else is too.

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  3. Darryl P Smith says:

    listen there is more than one reason the rays can,t get people to the stadium,what were the t.v ratings when they were on the hot streak.i don,t think it,s the stadium any business can live or die from what?,location,location ,location move that stadium to downtown tampa the pool of people and businesses buying tickets just doubled regardless if they win or lose the lightning have a packed house every nite ,when was the last time they won anything?

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    • Lane Meyer says:

      If corporate sales are so great in Tampa, how do you explain the Bucs horrible sales and the fact that both Tampa stadiums are named for Pinellas based corporations? What it comes down to is the Rays are doing a poor job selling season tickets to corporate partners. I think it may even be intentional as an effort to angle for a new stadium. The Rays sell an average of 10,000 - 12,000 less corporate seats per game than the average MLB team. Add that to the nightly attendance and there would be no talk of attendance issues.

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  4. Rob says:

    To me, these numbers aren't all THAT bad, especially considering how this team has performed overall. Blaming this 'downtick' purely on the stadium is a copout. There's a myriad of reasons as to why this team has lost approximately 10k people. Some move, some lose jobs, some simply tune out till the playoff runs, others stop watching because, well, the Rays have been successful in the regular season, but die in the first series of the playoffs year in and year out. There are more than enough reasons why someone would take a year off from actively watching to account for these numbers, not just the stadium nonsense.

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