The Tampa Bay Rays are exactly halfway to the finish line (81 games played) and they are 45-36, 9 games over .500. Seriously – how are that at this point? They are 19-20 at HOME, but 26-16 on the Road. Yeah – 10 games over .500 on the Road. How? When? Where? Why?
The First thing I would say the reason for the better record on the road…it is always more fun and motivational to play in front of fans. Many times, the Rays will say they have drawn 18,000+, when actually they are lucky if there are 10,000 people in the building – and that includes the staff and the players. So I blame us, the fans first and foremost for the Rays poor home record. Look, I played soccer at a professional level…and the fans do matter. I was an energy guy and I can’t even explain how much the fans helped. If I was playing for a team that struggled to draw at home – it was almost deflating if we would only draw a couple thousand fans. And then you go play in towns where they are drawing between 8k & 12k fans…totally awesome atmosphere – even if it was hostile. Oh yeah, by the way, on the Road, they play in front of an average crowd of almost 26,000. Hmmmm – you gotta think the Rays LOVE going to Boston & New York to play. And despite the lack of loyalty of the community, they are still sitting only a couple games out of the AL East’s Division lead.
We should be embarrassed as a community that one of the top teams in Major League Baseball is sitting in our backyards and we sit 2nd from the bottom in Home attendance (only above the Florida Marlins). And if I am the owner of the Rays, why would I work for a new stadium. We (the Rays) have been competitive in the toughest division in baseball to win and we still don’t draw. I wouldn’t put any hard work in either if I was the owner – except to maybe look for a place to move this team somewhere that will give them the respect that they earned.
Let’s really look at what the Tampa Bay Rays offer. They compete with the Big Boys, they play the New York Yankees & the Boston Red Sox 18-20 games a year each. And Toronto has a slow pitch softball lineup…anyone in that order can take you deep. And the Baltimore Orioles are managed by a very good Buck Showalter who really knows how to turn bad teams around…just ask the Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yes, I know Buck didn’t win it…but those 2 teams won it the year after he was fired. But he was able to get those 2 young teams developed to that point. Oh and guess what – that is exactly what the Orioles are – young and talented.
Plus, the Rays do it with the smallest amount of money available to spend on salaries in baseball. Florida Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria has the deep pockets to spend on salaries, but he refuses to do it, except about once every 5-10 years. When Loria does spend it…he does it one year – goes for the Monty – and hits! And then after he wins it…FIRE SALE!!!! Pretty ironic that the 2 worst drawing teams in Major League Baseball have the lowest team salary in the League…umm – I don’t think so.
So, with this said…DO NOT blame management for not going out and trading for a “rental” player in Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder…this is the budget we help give the owners. If we the Rays could even get their attendance to 25,000 a night…the owners may feel obligated to try to “go for it!” But there is no pressure to do that with the lack of a so called “fan base.” Think about it. If the Rays had to give up a high prospect and mid-high prospect and you add Reyes to this lineup…oooh man – LOOKOUT! You get a motivated Shortstop, who is only motivated by money and not wins…but, ironically – it is Reyes contract year – and he is killing it. You add that dynamic leadoff guy to the top of the order and follow that up with the American League leader in doubles, Ben Zobrist & Evan Longoria looks like he is breaking out and warming up…well, what you have there with this lights out 1-2-3 punch starting staff – that is called – another playoff appearance in 2011!!
Come on my Rays Central Peeps – let’s get out there once or twice a week and fill that stadium. If we do that – and then the Rays don’t spend money – then we can have at it with management. But until that point – there isn’t much anyone can say to this team, except great job being competitive with a nickel and 2 dimes!
What do you all think Rays fans? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.