So while fans of the Boston Red Sox celebrated the capture of the terrorist that had held the city hostage the past week on Saturday afternoon, noted baseball columnist Peter Gammons took a cheap shot at the Tampa Bay Rays franchise. In an interview on NESN on Saturday, he implied that the Rays draw 8,000 fans a game to their MLB games.
Yes, I will admit that the Rays have problems drawing when they face teams other than Boston or the Yankees. But there are two things worth pointing out about the franchise. One, every night, the Rays have to compete with minor league teams well within the surrounding communities of the Tampa Bay area. The Tampa Yankees. The Clearwater Threshers. The Dunedin Blue Jays. The Lakeland Tigers. The Bradenton Marauders. Ask the average baseball fan if they would spend $25-$50 to go to a minor league park and pay much less for hot dogs, beer, coke, parking, and tickets as opposed to paying $50-$100 to go to Tropicana field and having to do likewise.
A good sized beer at the Trop costs $9. You could probably get a quality beer at a minor league park for half that, if not less.
We’re one of the smallest markets in MLB with the problem of having to compete with nearby minor league teams, so by not moving all of these teams out of the area, Major League Baseball created our problem, and not a problem of our choosing.
Secondly, the Devil Rays/Rays have only been in existence for 15 years. Boston has had major league teams going back well over a century. They have a shrine to the game in Fenway Park that’s popular with their fans. Fathers can take their sons to Fenway and tell their kids that when they were little, their parents took them to the very same park.
We don’t have that kind of tradition here yet. And by the time that tradition develops, the Rays will have moved to a newer ballpark in the area, or in some other city. Comparing Boston to Tampa is like comparing apples to oranges. But yet some think these comparisons are fair.
And by the way Mr. Gammons, the Rays drew over 15,000 for the Friday game against the Oakland A’s, but drew 25,611 for the Saturday night game, and 25,954 for the Sunday afternoon game. Just looking at some attendance figures at random, the Pirates only drew just over 20,000 for a game at home against Atlanta on Sunday, while the Reds-Mets game at Citi Field just drew over 26,000 that same day. While the Pirates and Mets franchises are having problems with their on-field products presently, it goes to show you that sagging attendance can hit anywhere in MLB, and is not just a Tampa Bay area problem.