Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Money for Nothing

Last night I realized that this off-season I will truly miss seeing Clay pitch.  (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com and used with permission)

Last night I realized that I will truly miss seeing Clay pitch once the season is over. (Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com and used with permission)

In March of 2010, the unemployment rate in Florida was 12.3%.  In August of this year it was 11.5% and it fluctuated in the months between March and August.  The average unemployment rate in New York this summer was 8.3% and in Boston the rate was 9.0% in July and 8.8% in August.

Roughly 248,000 people live in St. Petersburg, Florida (home of the Tampa Bay Rays).  There are about 645,000 people living in Boston and over 1.3 million  people living in the Bronx.

As I have mentioned here before, I happen to be one of the unemployed in the Massachusetts and have been for almost a year now.  Every year, I go to more baseball games at Fenway Park than I can count.  This year, I’ve gone to so few games that I haven’t counted them.  I have no children to take to the games, it’s just me, and I’m having a hard time affording to go to games.  I’ve had to decide what the best way to spend my money is more carefully than I have before and most of the time it doesn’t involve going to a baseball game.  That people expect every fan in every state there is a baseball team to be able to afford to go to the games is ridiculous.  That there are those who think the low attendance in St. Petersburg is a reflection that the Tampa Bay Rays fans aren’t loyal fans is just ignorant.

Baseball attendance is down everywhere.  I don’t care what they tell you, use your eyes and see for yourself.  Of the few games I’ve been to at Fenway this year, the only one where I didn’t see any empty seats in the stands was on opening night against the Yankees.  I haven’t watched one Yankees game this year where it wasn’t obvious that there were many, many empty seats.  To say nothing of what we see when we watch the Orioles, the Blue Jays or, pretty much, any of the west coast teams.

I bring this up because David Price, pitcher for the Rays, went online last night and Tweeted this:

Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands….embarrassing

Evan Longoria got in on it to when he told a reporter:

“For us to play 155 games and go a full season of playing really good baseball, it’s kind of like, what else do we have to do to draw fans into this place. It’s actually embarrassing for us.”

As an aside, I find it humorous they both chose to be embarrassed by the fans on a night they got their hats handed to them by the Baltimore Orioles. But I digress.

I’ve ranted before about players who complain publicly about the fans but in this case while I understand it must be frustrating to be playing well and look into the stands and see so many empty seats, if you live in 2010 America and are wondering why people aren’t going to the ballpark, I think you’re incredibly naive to what is going on in the lives of the people who shell out money to support you.  I pretty much told this to Price via Twitter.  It seems many others did too because his latest Twitter update came an hour after his “embarrassing” one:

If I offended anyone I apologize I did not think it was gonna turn into this…

At the time that I’m writing this (8:50am) David Price has 11,032 followers.  I’m guessing the majority of them are spambots, Rays fans and members of the sports media.  I refuse to believe Price is naive enough to not realize how his words would be taken (and used).  It seems to me that MLB either should get their players off of the social media sites or they need to teach them how to use them (and that when they write something, thousands if not millions of people read it immediately).  This isn’t the first time a player has posted something online that caused a backlash and Price certainly could have written something much worse., I get that.  In this case, he offended a good many people and was surprised that he got called on it. (I know personally of others who gave him grief about his post and none of them were Rays fans…to me that’s saying something.)

I wasn’t offended by what he wrote but I was disappointed that he and Longoria are choosing to go public with their judgments of their fans without taking into consideration everything that goes into why someone might not go to the park.  Especially these days.

Speaking in the broadest sense, I’m not a fan of Rays fans (although I do know a few who I like!).  I wish someone confiscated their cowbells and turned them in for scrap metal.  But all in all they are probably no better or worse than the average baseball fan.  And whether the players want to hear it or not, the average baseball fan can’t afford to spend the majority of their free time at a baseball game, no matter where it’s being played.  The Yankees and Red Sox will always bring in more fans than have fans that don’t show up, but they’re the Yankees and the Red Sox.  As good as the Rays have been, they are not a franchise that brings in the fans just based on their name.  There are only so many teams in sports, let alone baseball, that can do that.  So to continue to compare the Rays to them is silly, regardless of what the players think of themselves.

Were I a Rays fan, all Price’s and Longoria’s words would do is make me not want to go to the park to see them play.  But that’s just me.  I can be spiteful that way.

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September 28, 2010 - Posted by | 2010 | , , , , ,

16 Comments »

  1. See, I *do* believe baseball players can be that naive. It’s good he got an overwhelming response, maybe it’ll give him perspective next time. It’s too bad if he doesn’t choose to react to it constructively, but a lot of times they don’t.

    Maybe this would offend somebody like Price for me to say this, but I really think a lot of these guys just don’t have the same life experience other people do. They’re still doing the same thing for a living that they were doing when they were 12. A lot of them get drafted right out of high school. The skills they’re valued for are physical and sometimes social / emotional (being a good clubhouse guy), not intellectual. It’s not surprising to me that they sometimes wind up with their cleats in their mouths.

    Comment by beth | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. It’s not surprising that they are unaware of the economic reality outside the park but it is part of basic sports learning to admit one’s mistakes and apologize unequivocally, to take responsibility for one’s words and behavior. So why is he saying “If I offended . . .” when he already has heard from people he absolutely offended? That is such a non-apology statement that it is almost worse than the original offense. People do it all the time and it is infuriating to me. And to follow up with “I didn’t think it was gonna turn into this.”

    Comment by Anita | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  3. I’m not sure I agree with you here, at least in part.

    First, the Rays are not last in attendance. But if you look at the teams the Rays are near, something is amiss. That is, all the teams on the bottom of the attendance list are not competitive clubs. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Oakland, Toronto and Arizona are clubs that are not exactly lighting it up this season.

    And historically, when clubs falter and aren’t in the mix, it is reflected in fan attendance. This has happened to Boston and New York at times. The idea is simple; be competitive and the fans fill the seats. But, this is not the case in Tampa.

    Pardon me about the economic arguments, too. Florida and the Tampa area is not just a retirement mecca. There’s industry, including a growing manufacturing base. Unemployment is a problem, sure, but that alone doesn’t explain how other, less competitive clubs seem to eclipse the Rays in attendance.

    In 2008, I went to the Trop to watch an ALCS game and was floored to note the covered seats. I’m even more amazed that since going to the World Series, and remaining a viable franchise, just on the verge of clinching the AL East, the Rays draw so little.

    The Rays players have to be scratching their heads and wondering where the hell everybody is. Perhaps the small draw is also fueled by low cable subscriptions, hence the news that the Devil Fish plan to cut payroll. And maybe this too, is cause to upset the players.

    I don’t know.

    Sure, the players get their checks, whether people are in the seats or not. But, for what the team has accomplished, I can understand players being upset that no one (aside from the hard core fan), seems to care whether they’re there or not.

    Comment by Tru | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  4. While I agree with your post, don’t you think it’s a bit goofy to use the population of the Bronx in your comparison? The borough is heavily economically depressed and has a very high employment rate (it’s been as high as 15% this year and it’s leveled out at around 13%).

    Part of the reason why Yankee Stadium is so successful is because it’s easy for the millions of people in the area who live outside of the Bronx to get there. It’s a good contrast to Tropicana Field which is not easy to get to even if you want to go there.

    Comment by leonora | September 28, 2010 | Reply

    • don’t you think it’s a bit goofy to use the population of the Bronx

      No goofier than using only the population of Boston or St Petersburg. Fans of all three teams come from more than just the city the park is in.

      The population surrounding St Petersburg is still much less than the populations surrounding Boston and the Bronx…which is part of my point.

      Comment by Cyn | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  5. Another thing I’ve noticed is that athletes who slam fans like this (Brady, now Price) seem to do so with the expectation that fans will react the way they would to that kind of challenge and try to prove them wrong. It’s obviously unclear to some of them that this approach is not the way to get fans to respond more favorably in a case like this.

    It really does boil down to a lack of perspective, I think.

    But there are examples of athletes / organizations who ‘get it’, like the Tigers. They’ve gone out of their way to acknowledge the city’s hardship and what it takes for local fans to get to one of their games.

    Comment by beth | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  6. If there is an argument about population, Tampa Bay has a head count of over 4M, and is only a 30 minute drive away.
    http://www.tampabay.org/subpage.asp?navid=1&id=6

    I’m not trying to start any sort of argument here – as an unemployed person myself, I’m well aware of how hard times are for a lot of people, and having driven through Florida on numerous occasions, it would appear that there are areas in that state far more economically depressed than up here in Seattle, even before the economy took a dive. But there aren’t a few thousand more Rays fans in a city of 4 million that can afford to go see a baseball game? It does seem a little strange to me. Their cheapest tickets there are $10 for the upper deck. The next cheapest are $13 to sit a little closer above the field. Tropicana Field allows for fans to bring in food, sealed water, and sealed juice boxes. Parking is $10- $20, depending on the game being played.
    If I were Price, I might be a little annoyed, too, regardless of how naive I may or may not be about my million-dollar paycheck. Everyone else’s mileage may vary…

    Then again, what do I know, I’m a Seattle Mariners fan. We get people to come regardless of whether there’s championship ball being played or not, and our seating/parking is more expensive. :/

    Comment by Megan | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  7. I don’t buy the economic argument. For the most part fans there simply haven’t supported the team. It’s not a recent phenomenon.

    Hey, I love the fact that a guy like Mike Lowell comes to Boston and loves the experience–I love that even a player like Mark Loretta can appreciate the fans during what wasn’t an especially good year. But the flip side of that is that there are parks where that experience doesn’t happen. If the team isn’t very good, as Tru suggested, it’s not that surprising, but if the team has clawed its way to being consistent competitors in the toughest division in baseball, on a budget far less than their peers, and even the bandwagon fans don’t come out, I don’t mind that the team’s unhappy about it.

    And given that a lot of us get upset about the press interpreting for us what the players are supposedly thinking, I hate any situation where a player actually says to the fans what he feels and then gets attacked for it.

    Comment by KellyO | September 28, 2010 | Reply

    • I’m not saying the economic argument is the only argument, but I do think it’s a valid one. Had the economy not tanked over the same period of time that the Rays have become contenders, who knows how many people would have decided that going to the game was a good way to spend their disposable income? I also think the fact that the team hasn’t developed a “brand” like the Yankees or Red Sox, regardless of how well they play, factors in as well.

      I’m a big believer in just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean it’s always the smart thing to do. Telling the fans they are an embarrassment (which is, essentially what they’re doing here) because they don’t show up at the park isn’t exactly the way to get the fans to start showing up at the park.

      And if Price felt so strongly about what he said, then he shouldn’t have apologized. At least not with the excuse of not realizing there would be backlash. “I’m sorry I offended people but look at it from our side where all we see are empty seats” would probably have resonated better with people.

      As a baseball fan, I would hope a team doing as well as the Rays are would draw good crowds, but I don’t think people, especially the players, should just expect that it will happen and I don’t think people should be trashed for their no-shows. It’s my personal belief. As a fan, insulting me, especially not acknowledging there could be legitimate reasons for low attendance, isn’t the way to get me to show up at the park.

      Comment by Cyn | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  8. Well then yes when you put it that way, using straight population numbers is pretty goofy overall. Here is a chart that the Rays ownership presented that helps illustrate why the Trop is such a bad location:

    http://twitpic.com/2subgi

    The park is simply in a terrible place for most people get to. I think that has a lot more to do with things than pure population numbers.

    Comment by leonora | September 28, 2010 | Reply

    • Definitely a fair argument (about getting to the Trop) and another reason the players could give the fans a little slack.

      Comment by Cyn | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  9. Well, perhaps the comments aren’t really targeted towards “fans” of the Rays. It’s the idea that a city with plenty of population, coupled with a winning team doesn’t draw is the embarrassment.

    Personally, I blame Wade Boggs.

    Comment by Tru | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  10. I really think if the venue was in Tampa with a retractable roof and if the cowbells were abolished, their attendance would be higher!

    Comment by Becky | September 28, 2010 | Reply

  11. “What Tru said”, let’s blame Wade Boggs!

    Comment by noni | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  12. Florida is a state of transplants. So many of the population here came from another part of the country and already had a team they supported and continue to support. There are MANY Sox fans and Yankees fans living in the vicinity of Tropicana Field and that’s a partial reason for why they get such big crowds for those games. Also, Sox and Yankee fans tend to be rabid fans who will travel to see their team play 30 minutes away or on the other side of the country. The Rays are still a relatively young team and are still building their fan base.
    It is too bad more of their fans aren’t going to the games to see this really good baseball team. I’m not one of the Sox fans who hate the Rays. I enjoy watching them play and hope they do well in the post season.

    Comment by Brenken | September 29, 2010 | Reply

  13. In support of the economic argument… http://soxblog.projo.com/2010/09/free-tickets-dr.html

    Comment by beth | September 30, 2010 | Reply


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