The Tampa Bay Rays have a problem.
It’s one that goes far beyond the fact that they are 7.5 games behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead entering a crucial three game series. A series that is so important to the Rays, THE WILD CARD LEADER, that their fans can’t even fathom to show up to support them at Tropicana Field.
As I turned on the TV tonight to watch game one and NESN was introducing Rays star lefty David Price, the camera pulled out to show a stadium that is three quarters empty, including the lower bowl.
It’s an absolute disgrace that this Rays team, which has been competitive every year since 2008, is not well supported by their fan base in the heat of a pennant race.
They are 44-26 at home, just came off a tough 3-7 road trip to the west coast and now the face the Red Sox, where they still have a chance to get back in the division race. These games don’t get any bigger.
What more must this team do to get fans to come out? Apparently they have to actually make the playoffs because the last time I noticed the Trop was near full was during the 2008 ALCS won by the Rays in seven games over the Red Sox. I’m sure you all remember that series for how annoying the Rays fans were with their stupid cow bells.
But at least they showed up.
I know Tropicana Field doesn’t exactly scream baseball and tradition. Its ground rules are a train wreck and a decided disadvantage for any visiting team.
It also looks like a mausoleum on television. But so did the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the former home of the Minnesota Twins.
It didn’t stop Minnesotans from packing the place every night rooting on the Twins, especially during their World Series runs in 1987 and 1991. The fan support there gave the Twins a decided home field advantage and was a big reason for those two championships.
There is talk from time to time that baseball cannot make it in Florida and that fan interest just isn’t there. Whenever the word contraction is brought up Tampa Bay, along with Miami and Oakland are often mentioned as possibilities.
I don’t know about those other cities, but if Tampa Bay loses the Rays to contraction it will be for one reason and one reason only- lack of support. If a team is well run, has a good manager, is perennially good and no one shows up the city should lose its team.
Reporter John Tomase of the Boston Herald was complaining about the passion level of Red Sox fans a few weeks ago and I strongly disagreed with him. He should have thought about Tampa and its fans so he could see firsthand genuine disinterest.