This past November, NYBaseballDigest.com drew my ire with this post about Carl Crawford that was full of more holes than Pat Burrell’s swing. It irked me so much, I felt the need to reply to it, rather harshly. Today, that is happening again. I was perusing my TweetDeck #Rays column while enjoying the awesome left-over pizza from Alphonso’s in College Park when I came across:
Rays Fan Support Still Disappointing http://bit.ly/9lDxf2 #rays
I will freely admit that I was one of the more vocal whiners about the Wednesday and Thursday night attendance, but that by no means gives the story any merit. If you take out those two games out of the small sample size, attendance has been quite solid. Poor mid-week attendance is nothing new for the Rays fan base – it is what they have always done. In 2009, the club averaged 19,085 on Wednesday night games and just 17,470 on Thursday night games. Mid-week attendance went down 7% in 2009 from the incredible 2008 and that will happen in a market that had the 3rd highest unemployment rate of all 30 MLB cities in 2009. The club was one of only eight to raise their attendance last year in a very bad economy and the region is currently sitting at 13.1% for the unemployment rate.
Despite a bad stadium in a terrible location, despite half of the home schedule including the lowly Baltimore Orioles, the Rays are still averaging more fans per contest this season than the Arizona Diamondbacks, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, and the historic Chicago White Sox. Yes, the White Sox in a nice stadium that is very accessible via public transportation is averaging less fans than the Rays in a crappy dome with zero access via public transportation. Yet, it is the Rays that Silva decides to pick on for attendance? The Orioles are understandably on the low end of the spectrum for local interest for the games. While I am not in support of fans basing their attendance on the opponent, I can respect the fans that pick and choose games based on their entertainment budget.
Yes, the Yankee games did not sell out these past two nights but factor in two thoughts. One – yesterday’s game was on television so a fan could stay home and watch it in the comfort of their favorite chair and save the cost of buying the premium ticket charges the Rays have imposed on Yankee games. Additionally, related to the first one, Rays fans do not have to tolerate Yankee fans. I know some Rays fans that purposely avoid going to Yankee games because their fans are that obnoxious and unruly and it takes away from the enjoyment level of the game. I don’t blame them – for every level-headed fan, there is this guy that nobody wants to put up with.
The mid-week schedule does not get any better with the A’s and the Indians serving as the next two mid-week opponents before Boston comes rolling in near the end of May. If the club is still pulling in 16,000 for mid-week games in June, Silva’s article has more punch. To base disappointing attendance on five games is a terribly small sample size. He thinks the club has to average at least 30,000 an night for the area to be viable for baseball and a new stadium. If that were the case, that would disqualify over half of the markets in the league including the likes of Minnesota, Atlanta, Chicago White Sox, Texas, and Seattle. Already this year, the club has filled a higher percentage of their stadium’s capacity than the Diamondbacks and Rangers who both enjoy much better parks than Tropicana Field.
Mr. Silva is welcome to revisit this situation by the all-star break and blast the area for poor support once there is an increased sample size but to do it one week in seems rather petty.