Taking a shot aimed more toward apathetic fans than the forces preventing a new ballpark, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said the Tampa Bay Rays attendance — or lack thereof — is “inexcusable.”
Speaking at his annual press conference during All-Star festivities, the commissioner noted the Rays were 29th in MLB attendance (20,582 fans a game) despite posting a winning record this season and compiling one of the best records in baseball in recent years. While there’s not always a direct correlation between winning and attendance — the surprisingly competitive Cleveland Indians are last in MLB attendance at 19,256 fans a game, while the last-place Phillies are atop the MLB attendance standings — attendance usually is a lagging reward for winning.
But in Tampa Bay, the fans have not rewarded the team for building a winner, past a modest 7 percent rise in attendance this season.
“They’ve run a great operation,” Selig told the Tampa Bay Times at the All-Star Game. “They’re a very competitive organization. They have very competitive teams. To see that they’re No. 29 … it’s inexcusable. Nobody can defend that.
“I know that people down there … will be offended; not the fans, not the people who go every day,” he told theTimes. “And I know they have great intensity, the people there. … I watch a lot of games every day — sometimes all 15 of them — and I pay great attention not only to what’s happening on the field, but to the attendance.
“So to use my father’s old line, nothing is ever good or bad except by comparison. I’ll rest my case. It’s disappointing. And I’m concerned.”
The impasse over a new ballpark the city continues: despite some talk from Tampa officials and businessmen, no one seems interested in taking on St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster, who says he will take every measure to make sure the Rays play out their lease at Tropicana Field, which runs through 2027.
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