Why Tampa Bay Should be Ashamed of Itself

"It was a big letdown.  We came out all fired up, and you see that, it's really depressing."

This is what Carl Crawford had to say about returning from a late-August roadtrip with the best record in baseball to a hometown crowd of……..11,968.

The Rays have to be commended for the success they've had as a young franchise in what is by far the most competitive and challenging division in which to play.  And yet, if the hometown fans couldn't care less, why would anyone want to play for them? 

A lot gets made about the money and how hard it is for small-market teams to hold onto talent when the deep pockets from NY, Boston, and LA come knocking.  But there are also places that are widely considered great places to play in large part because of their fan-bases.  St. Louis.  Chicago.  Minnesota.  Even Kansas City.  By comparison, Tampa Bay is an embarassment.  They have arguably the most exciting team in baseball playing for them – lots of young talent, some good personality, fair amount of late-inning drama, and the whole David and Goliath thing going vs. the Yankees and Red Sox, and you know how they show it?  By shrugging their shoulders.  What is taking their attention -  the impending Buccaneers season?

It's not often that athletes will pass up the biggest dollars.  When they do, it seems to either be in pursuit of a better chance to win a championship (countless examples) or because they simply love playing where they do (Joe Mauer).  The Rays management is giving their players (and by extension, their fans) a strong chance to win a championship, and the fans – to the extent there are any – are doing absolutely nothing to make Tampa Bay a great place to call home for players. 

As great players like Pena and Crawford near free agency, one has to ask – why would any player ever consider giving a hometown discount to a place like Tampa Bay?  The answer is that as long as vying for a championship in Tampa Bay feels the same as playing meaningless games in August for the Baltimore Orioles, no player ever will.

23 comments… add one

  • Tampa is a weird place. Like I’ve said, I lived there for 7 years. The problem is that there is a HUGE transient population in Tampa/St. Pete so the real baseball fans are not Rays fans, but Yankee, Sox, Cub, Cardinal, etc fans.
    All anyone cares about in Tampa really are the Bucs. I watched the Lightning build a winner between 02-04 and even after they won the Cup, few actually cared.

    krueg August 31, 2010, 11:34 am
  • How can the organization sustain itself? The Cubs pack the house even when they lose. That’s a recipe for longevity. The Rays have the opposite dilemma – no one comes, even when they win. I don’t understand how the team will be able to stay in a place like that for much longer. There must be other Florida locales with less transient populations, right? What about Miami? Heck, even Orlando. I’m not sure it would make any difference but I’d be surprised if that organization is still there in 10 years, even if they win another WS. It’s a waste and can not be anywhere near the money-maker for the owners that it could be if they took the same organization and managmeent and plopped it in a city that cares about baseball.

    IronHorse (YF) August 31, 2010, 11:45 am
  • yep…i’ve only been to one game in tampa so i’m certainly not an expert about the demographics, and you guys are probably sick of me talking about that one game, but krueg is right…i’d say half of the fans in attendance were yankee fans…that, and a lot of empty seats…more than there should have been given the importance of the game…he also mentioned the popularity of the bucs…florida is football and nascar country…baseball is an after-thought…even some of my friends think i’m from another planet because baseball is my favorite sport…but to get back to your point IH…this isn’t the marlins we’re talking about…they can’t give tickets away to see that sorry excuse for a team…the rays are everything you said and more…it’s a damn shame they don’t get more support from more fans…there are some very informed and enthusiastic rays fans of course, and i saw many of them, but at times it felt more like i was in a movie theater than watching a baseball game between 2 terrific teams battling for 1st place…

    dc August 31, 2010, 12:04 pm
  • one of their other problems is the glaring need for a new ballpark if they’re going to stay in tampa/st. pete…the trop was built for hockey i think originally…it’s not a good place to play baseball…from a fan’s perspective it was ok…no good parking options, so i took a cab from my hotel, but i could find cold beer, decent food options, and restrooms…the view was good as in unobstructed…watching a game under a full roof, with all that crap dangling too close to the playing field isn’t what the experience of a live game should be…i actually saw a homerun [can't remember who hit it] go up and over one of the girders…wtf…i’m just not sure a new stadium is the answer for them though, although from a player’s perspective it might provide one incentive to stay…new ballparks only have charm for the first couple of years…

    dc August 31, 2010, 12:25 pm
  • I don’t know. Winning usually cures all ills and this is a franchise that went to the World Series 2 years ago and is now arguably the best team in baseball. If fans aren’t going to show up for that I kind of doubt that they’ll ever show up no matter what is done with the surroindings. I have to imagine it must be annoying for ownership just as itis “depressing” for players as Crawford put it.

    IronHorse (YF) August 31, 2010, 12:45 pm
  • Las Vegas Rays

    krueg August 31, 2010, 1:58 pm
  • The thing with Tampa is weird.
    I would think that they’re going to stay right where they are (payroll wise) because of the money they’re bringing in and they’ll go in rotations. They’ll get continued supplemental picks for the guys they have leaving. They pick up guys on the waiver wires with a little money left and good draft picks in return. They’ll hang around in mediocrity until all those first round draft picks start to click together, and they’ll make a comeback five or six years from now. They were so average and below average for so long, you can’t walk into any level of their system without bumping into an all-American or a first round draft pick.
    In the end, Tampa knows their budget, they know they won’t spend the money on free agents, and they know they can accurately project their future earnings based on the past ten years. With that in mind, they know what they are, and they know they’re only going to be able to compete in cycles.
    They’re a miserable organization for just that reason. If Tampa isn’t providing the team with the support needed to grow, then move somewhere that will.
    Sign Crawford: prove to your fans that you’re a real team, and not some fly by night organization counting the days till you have to actually pay players.
    Put yourself in the Ray’s seat. If Boston or NY had a good group of core young guys, and you KNEW they were not going to sign on the cheap, and you KNEW the team was not going to foot the bill, how excited could you be to live in just the moment when the impending cliff is coming? Who’s gonna protect Longoria next year? No pena and no Crawford. It’ll be completely different.

    Brad August 31, 2010, 2:24 pm
  • Not to mention, the Yankees and the Red Sox are both helping to pay the team that’s beating the shit out of them.

    Brad August 31, 2010, 2:25 pm
  • Everyone here knows that the Boston and the Yankees are going to spend the money this winter. Both are going to go hard after one of Crawford, Werth, Lee and ect.
    What’s Tampa going to do? That’s why the fans aren’t going. They know what’s around the corner, so why become emotionally invested in that?

    Brad August 31, 2010, 2:28 pm
  • > Las Vegas Rays
    I like it. Could fix the divisions at the same time..send the Rays to Vegas and make it an AL West club, and take the Pirates out of the NL Central and put them in the AL East.. and tell the Bucs to take a year off baseball and then after that to not ever play baseball again.
    I would love a club come to Portland, though I am not confident that it is that much of an upgrade for the league as a whole.

    attackgerbil August 31, 2010, 5:37 pm
  • Brad, I don’t think it has anything to do with the fans “knowing what’s around the corner.” They’re winning and they’re winning now, and that’s what most fans care about.
    To be honest I would almost rather see the Yankees win than the Rays, because I hate how horrible their fan base is.

    Atheose - SF August 31, 2010, 5:54 pm
  • Also, regarding Longoria not having any protection in the lineup… look at the Padres this year. Adrian Gonzalez has absolutely nobody else in that lineup that hits for power; Venable is the next closest player and he slugs .403. Yet AGonz is still putting up fantastic numbers.

    Atheose - SF August 31, 2010, 5:59 pm
  • “Put yourself in the Ray’s seat. If Boston or NY had a good group of core young guys, and you KNEW they were not going to sign on the cheap, and you KNEW the team was not going to foot the bill, how excited could you be to live in just the moment when the impending cliff is coming? Who’s gonna protect Longoria next year? No pena and no Crawford. It’ll be completely different.”
    AG and I don’t have to…we’re Buffalo Sabres fans. The difference is, HSBC Arena is almost always sold out because we are real fans. The Rays have very few real fans. They’ve been there long enough to build a fan base…time to move on. Not to mention how sick would it be to catch a Yankee/Sox game in Vegas???

    krueg August 31, 2010, 7:09 pm
  • Hughes just doesn’t seem to be able to K anyone anymore…they foul off his pitches and run up his pitch count.
    Not to mention the stupid pitch count thing. What can we really even expect of him in the playoffs? Setup man again? He wasn’t that good in the playoffs last year out of the bullpen…

    krueg August 31, 2010, 7:11 pm
  • Christ…almost 20 pitches with 1 out in the 1st. He isn’t going to make it out of the 4th inning again. FUCK.

    krueg August 31, 2010, 7:15 pm
  • > AG and I don’t have to…we’re Buffalo Sabres fans.
    Krueg, drinks are on me if (when) we lose our team. Contraction is coming.

    attackgerbil August 31, 2010, 7:25 pm
  • Nah…we’re good. We’re the best American NHL market. The Bills are gone though. No doubt.

    krueg August 31, 2010, 7:38 pm
  • 3-0 after the 1st…nice.

    krueg August 31, 2010, 7:38 pm
  • Hughes still sucks though…might not be enough.

    krueg August 31, 2010, 7:42 pm
  • i found this to be a little curious…the dodgers let manny go to the white sox on waivers…well, apparently the yankees claimed ted lilly on waivers, but the dodgers are unwilling to discuss a trade with the yankees because gm ned colletti doesn’t believe they’re out of the playoff race yet…huh?…well they’re clearly out of the race for their division in 4th place 9 games out…the wild card?…not much better, in 5th place 6.5 games out…so, what’s up ned?…get tired of manny in his lame duck year even tho it’s likely he would help in the chase for that wild card you still think you have chance at getting?…gonna try to resign lilly this offseason because you realized he really is a pretty good pitcher?…don’t like the yankees, so don’t wanna help them?…i know there were some rumblings about the dodgers paring some payroll, with the mccourt divorce pending…manny’s departure apparently trimmed $4m, while lilly’s would trim $2m [i think i heard that]…i don’t get it…and i’m a little annoyed because lilly would have been a nice pickup and insurance in case the other options the yanks have don’t work out and aj burnout and vazquez continue to dazzle us with their ineptitude, javy’s couple of successful relief appearances notwithstanding…i think i answered my own question…manny’s not somebody you want as a lame duck…right theo?…

    dc September 1, 2010, 10:11 am
  • Your suspicions are probably right, dc. Part of the reason the Yankees and the Sox always get raked over the coals is becuase teams, even in dire straits, are not willing to help them get better in any way without fleecing them first.

    Brad September 1, 2010, 10:36 am
  • manny’s not somebody you want as a lame duck…right theo?…
    Not Theo’s fault. Or the Red Sox at all. Manny is one of the few human beings who play professional sports, has the world at his fingertips, could be such a great role model and mentor, and chooses to be a dickbag every day of the week. I genuinely hope he snaps his femur every single time he takes the field.

    Brad September 1, 2010, 10:38 am
  • yeah, i wasn’t placing any blame on theo brad…frankly even though manny still had something in the tank, and if motivated could’ve helped the sox, like he ended that season with the dodgers, theo absolutely, positively, did the right thing by purging manny…the situation had become intolerable…
    manny = “dickbag” …couldn’t have said it better myself…

    dc September 1, 2010, 12:17 pm

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