People hereabouts really like to watch the Rays on television. We know this because the ratings are spectacular. People love to listen on radio, wear their T-shirts, talk about them around the water cooler and send me helpful suggestions by e-mail for Joe Maddon.
They like everything about this young, vibrant, exciting team that has rushed to the best record in baseball as the end of April nears.
None of that is likely to help them much at the box office tonight, though, when Oakland comes to Tropicana Field. The Rays have built a legitimate championship contender but they rank just 17th in attendance among the 30 big-league teams.
The crowd of 23,250 Sunday to watch David Price’s four-hit shutout win over Toronto was better than only four of the 15 games played that day around the majors. This was after just 22,056 showed up Friday night for a special promotions night to welcome the Rays back from a record-setting road trip, where they won nine of 10 games.
Even the old reliable ploy of throwing in a free concert didn’t work. Saturday’s gathering of 23,870 for the Rays-Jays and postgame John Fogerty concert was about two-thirds capacity for the Trop. The Rays normally pack the house for their Saturday concert series.
To be fair, the Rays raised ticket prices for weekend games to capitalize on the large appetite for the concert series. They also started a complicated five-tier pricing system this season, and I’ve heard complaints about that.
With Oakland and Kansas City here for the next six games — two teams that fans here routinely manage to ignore — I’m wondering how long it takes for Tampa Bay to take another national beating over the Rays’ chronic attendance woes. I’m guessing the fine folks at “Baseball Tonight” are a day or two away at most from a John Kruk jag about what’s wrong with Tampa Bay as a baseball market.
Crowds usually get better when schools get out for the summer, but that’s not for five or six weeks. Continue reading here.