Good for David Price and Evan Longoria.
The Tampa Bay Rays ace and third baseman called out the lack of support from the hometown fans after last night’s 4-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. The loss, coupled with Boston’s 6-1 win in Chicago, will make the Rays wait at least one more night until they can clinch a playoff berth.
In typical Tampa fashion, the potential clincher was played before just 12,446 fans – 34.5 percent capacity – at Tropicana Field.
“Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands,” Price tweeted around 11 p.m. “….embarrassing.”
Longoria also went on the attack. “For us to play 155 games and go a full season of playing really good baseball, it’s kind of like, what else do we have to do to draw fans into this place?” Longoria said. “It’s actually embarrassing for us.
“I’ve thought about this for a long time. I’m not trying to take a low blow at the fans. I’m actually just trying to rally the troops and get more people in here. I’m not trying to say we have bad fans or any of that because, believe me, I’ve been here since ’06 and I love the Tampa Bay community.”
Price apologized for the message about an hour later, posting, “If I offended anyone I apologize I did not think it was gonna turn into this..”
The comments have seemed to cause immediate friction in the market. The St. Petersburg Times’ John Romano writes today, “I would absolutely agree with anyone who says that Tampa Bay is not a great sports market. I just think it defeats the purpose when Tampa Bay’s biggest stars are the ones saying it.”
For sure, there are plenty of factors why the market is such a dreadful destination for sports: economy, stadium location, fair-weathered fans, etc. But the fact remains, the Rays have the second-best record in baseball, and are on the verge of their second AL East title. And yet the Tampa Tribune points out that Monday’s crowd was the fourth-smallest of the season. The Rays are averaging 23,047 per game this season.
Rays fever, catch it.
To put that in some sort of historical perspective, the Montreal Expos averaged 24,543 in 1994, the year they were on their way to the NL East crown before the strike wiped out the postseason. The Expos are in Washington now. That begs the question, where are the Rays inevitably headed? Because it isn’t working in Tampa-St. Pete.