All the Tampa Bay Rays do is win. The Rays just finished a road trip where they went 6-3, sweeping Baltimore, taking two of three from Boston, and dropping two of three to the Minnesota Twins.
After winning the first two games of a four-game series at home against Baltimore, the Rays are 73-47. They lead the AL East by five games and have the best record in the American League.
The Rays have one of the most exciting teams in baseball. They have outstanding young talent in Wander Franco, Austin Meadows, and Randy Arozarena.
You would think the Rays would have been welcomed back home on Monday to a rocking crowd at Tropicana Field that cheered their every move.
You would be wrong. The Rays announced the attendance Monday night of 5,460 to see one of the best teams in baseball. I’ve seen more people at a local music festival to see a cover band than what showed up at the Trop on Monday night.
This is the lowest attendance in Ray’s history for a non-Covid game. Some of the teams that have spring training in Florida draw larger crowds than this.
The Yankees typically draw nine to ten thousand fans every home game during spring training in Tampa.
Yet this Rays team can’t draw flies to Tropicana field to see the best team in the American League. What is the problem?
Covid cases are on the rise again in Florida. Some people are skeptical about going out in public and sitting in an enclosed area while the pandemic rages.
The Rays play in St. Petersburg, which is 24 miles the other side of the bay from Tampa. Traffic is a nightmare trying to get across that bridge, going North and South during rush hour.
School is back in session. When school starts up, there is always a drop in attendance during weeknight games in early August.
There are too many other things to do like in Florida. Like hang out at the beach, go deep-sea fishing, go to Disney, and the list goes on forever.
Despite this, attendance issues don’t seem to apply to the Buccaneers or the Lightning. They have no problem filling the stadium and the arena game in and game out.
The Bucs have been mediocre until this past season and have had trouble filling Raymond James Stadium. That will not be the case this year.
Nevertheless, the biggest reason attendance is dwindling at Tropicana Field is lies at the feet of Ray’s owner Stu Sternberg. The Glazers owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used to be the most hated team owners in the Tampa Bay region.
Not anymore. Sternberg has alienated Rays fans for openly negotiating with Montreal to split the season between Tampa and Montreal. These conversations have pissed off Rays fans, and they are voicing their displeasure with their wallet by not going to games.
Both the Bucs and the Lightning ownership teams are very active in the community and are constantly giving back to the area.
However, Sternberg stays in New York, where he lives, most of the time and comes to Tampa just several times a year.
The Rays lease expires at Tropicana Field at the end of the 2027 season. There is no re-negotiating of that lease.
The Rays will either have a new stadium in Tampa, be splitting the season with Montreal, or move to a different city.
The best option would be to move to Tampa. You would have 20,000 people cheering loudly for the Rays every night and have more than one sellout a year.
The Rays are currently 27th in attendance in MLB. Just ahead of Oakland, Miami, and Toronto.
The Rays have the fifth-best record in baseball since 2008 and are last in attendance over the previous 13 seasons. This is not a new problem.
Maybe Stu Sternberg will come to his senses and sell the team to someone that gives a damn about keeping baseball in the Tampa area.
We can only hope.