The Tampa Bay Rays have been in existence for 11 years and in that time they’ve never won more than 70 games. Until this season. The Rays are currently 30 games over .500, have been victorious 81 times already, and lead the AL East by 4.5 games over the Red Sox.
And yet, the fans continue to avoid Tropicana Field in droves. The attendance numbers are almost as embarrassing as a typical day in the life of Jose Canseco, except that for the first time in their history, the Rays aren’t losers. (Sorry, Jose).
During a recent series against the Angels, the best team in baseball based on their record, the turnout was, well, a tad underwhelming:
On the field, the Rays took two of three from the Angels, and the fans? Well, they stayed at home. The average attendance for the three-game series was a paltry 16,985. Granted, the three games took place during the week (Monday-Wednesday), but fewer than 17,000, for such a marquee matchup, is pathetic.
According to John Romano of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, each of those crowds were the smallest in baseball on those days. They were beat out by such powerhouse series as the Tigers at Rangers and the Royals at Indians.
As REAL CLEAR SPORTS‘ Robbie Gillies points out, overall, attendance is up from an average of 17,148 last season to 21,206 this season, but, come on, the Rays lead the division ahead of the Red Sox and the Yankees.
I understand that the atmosphere couldn’t be more depressing if the games were held at Shawshank, and maybe that’s got a lot to do with the empty seats. I suspect the culture of losing hasn’t helped, either, and perhaps it’ll take a few winning seasons to get fans interested. On the other hand, what else is there to do in Tampa? You can only go to Busch Gardens so many times.