Thursday, September 30, 2010

Longoria and Price's Comments Bad For Business

When the Twins won their last World Series, I was five years old and more interested in preparing to trick-or-treat (in the midst of what would turn out to be a historical blizzard) than watching baseball.

As most are aware, the Twins followed up their championship season in 1991 with a decade-long lull. These were the formative years of my love affair with baseball. In the mid-90s, I spent many an evening inside that massive silo known as the Metrodome, watching bad teams alongside the few thousand other fans scattered throughout. In those days, you could move from your cheap Upper GA seats to the lower deck behind home plate and the ushers would hardly notice or care.

The last baseball game I ever watched within the confines of the Metrodome was played under circumstances not at all similar to those laid out above. It was October 6th of last year, and the Dome was packed with more than 54,000 raucous fans who'd come out to cheer on the Twins -- now a perennial contender -- as they hosted the Tigers in a tiebreaker that would determine the AL Central Champ.

I've seen it both ways, so I'm all too familiar with the atmospheric differences between a packed house and an empty building. The Twins fed off the energy provided by their fans in that final regular-season game, willing their way to a 12th-inning walk-off victory. Had the ballpark been only half as full, the victory would have probably been about half as sweet for the Twins -- had they won at all.

So, I can feel for David Price when he expresses his disappointment with the underwhelming crowds in Tampa Bay. On Monday night, after the Rays suffered a 4-0 loss to the Orioles, Price remarked on his Twitter account: "Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands....embarrassing."

Evan Longoria voiced similar sentiments after the game. I feel for them. That doesn't mean I agree with what they said.

Whether or not they intended it, the comments from Price and Longoria come off as potshots at their team's fan base. It's unfortunate, because there are a lot of very passionate Rays fans and I've had the opportunity to meet and interact with several of them. If I were one of those fans, I'd be downright pissed off at these remarks.

While I can see where they're coming from, it's difficult for me to be sympathetic to the plight of these players. Price and Longoria are millionaire athletes who have the privilege of doing what they love in front of thousands of people, and getting paid a substantial amount of money to do it. The game in question, a Monday night contest, featured an attendance of over 12,000 people. While that's not anywhere close to capacity at Tropicana Field, it's not a small number. If I were ever given the opportunity to do what I love in front of 12,000 people I'd probably consider it the highlight of my life. And yet, Price and Longoria both refer to it as "embarrassing."

Despite the obnoxious invective spouted by a radical faction of clueless people out there, the low attendance at Rays games is not evidence of Tampa Bay having "crappy baseball fans." It's a matter of circumstance. The Rays play in a city with a poor baseball demographic, in a terrible excuse for a baseball stadium that is hours away from the most densely populated areas.

More than that, though, this team lacks the history and legacy that tend to comprise the very fabric of a fan following. The Rays have only been around for 12 years, and for most of that time they've been very, very bad. When I was a young lad learning about the game of baseball in a mostly empty Metrodome, and hearing stories from my elders about Harmon Killebrew, and reading Kirby Puckett's Be The Best You Can Be for the 100th time, the Rays were not even in existence. They don't have traditions passed from generation to generation, Hall of Fame players or a city with an ingrained sense of allegiance.

My parents both grew up in Minnesota and have always embraced the game of baseball. You might say I was born a Twins fan. Nobody who can legally drive a car right now was born a Rays fan. It takes time to build a loyal and passionate fan base, and it's especially difficult in an area like Tampa Bay which faces the inherent disadvantages I mentioned above.

But complaining about your own fans is not the way to build that loyalty. Price and Longoria should know better. I'm sure that, once upon a time, they themselves were baseball-obsessed kids sitting in a mostly empty ballpark and simply appreciating the game.

I doubt those kids would have minded playing in front of 12,000 people.


Anonymous said...

"when you're striving for the future, take a moment to remember that your life today used to a place you reached for as well."

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that players should not complain about the fans. The people of Tampa and St, Petersburg have no obligation to go to the game. It is the job of the franchise to make it atractive for the people to go. It is not only a question of stadium (The Twins filled up the Metrodome every time they played an important game). It is also having players that ere not only good, but thet are recognized as part of the fabric of the city (Mauer, cuddy, Kirby, come to mind). I think the Twins make a good job of that. It seems easy, but I bet there are a bunch of guys in the marketing department working hard and smart to make that happen.

Matt said...

I think the media and blogosphere needs to ease up a little on these guys.
The reasons:
- They're both very young men, and young men often speak (or tweet, or whatever) before thinking and act on emotion, not brains.
- They've both grinded out long seasons and are sore, tired, and cranky after a loss at home to a lowly team.
- They play a bunch of road games at Fenway and Yankee Stadium, which are filled with screaming fans who are knowledgeable about the game.

I cut the guys some slack. Besides, it won't be long before everyone forgets about the remarks. Had the manager said something like this, there would be much more cause for concern, but only because he's not sore and tired, and he's a grown man, not a boy acting on emotion.

Ed Bast said...

Cuddy is part of the fabric of the city? What city, and on what planet? The same planet on which Cuddy's anywhere near the MVP of this team, I guess.

All this recent Cuddy love is hilariously baffling.

Daniel said...

I have never posted a comment before, but you have forced my hand:
1. Tampa, St Pete's is over 4 million people in the immediate area...that is to say with 40 min drive to the trop and is the 2nd largest city in Florida.
2.Minneapolis metro is 3.2 million and not growing like Tampa.
3. The product on the field since 2007 has been exciting! Longoria, Price, Kazmir and some of the best new talent in the MLB. 2008 WS appearance? 97 Games won this year! What the hell do they have to do? How many years after a WS appearance do you have to wait to see attendance results? The twins set their attendance record at the dome in 1992. A dismal season with a terrible product. It was the 1991 carry over.
4. They play the Red Sox and Yankees a ton at home. That boosts attendance. People set up Travel agency trips to Tampa to see their teams from those cities. But the locals don't come out to see the Yanks or sox?
5.Their is a huge population of retired people in Florida who have baseball history and tradition spilling out of them.
6. The Players of the Rays are extremely active and outspoken in the community of Tampa/St. Pete

To sum it up, your take has more holes in it than swiss cheese. It is a decent building to watch baseball. It is a great product and the players are figureheads in the community. The population base is there. The Bucs sell out their games! They have truly sucked forever. The drive? People come from Fargo, South Dakota, Ames, IA, St. Cloud, Winona, see the twins, it is not the drive in Tampa. People will drive to see a game! My Take? Evan and David are right to say what they said. The Tampa fans suck. They are so bad that when they try to jump on the band wagon they trip and fall and miss it all together!

rghrbek said...


I'm with you. The Cuddy love is fantastically mind boggling. 9.5 million this year and 11 million next year, to be slightly below average as a player overall.

If there was some team dumb enough to trade for him next year, we should do it in a heartbeat. Axing that salary, would enable us to sign Pavano, and maybe Thome (doubtful but maybe). Also allowing more at bats for Kubel and Thome. I'd like to say we need Cuddy's right handed bat (which we do, if he was good), but he's Danny Valencia over a full season, with a lower ave. and worse in the field.

Daniel, your take is spot on for Tampa and it's fans. Yes it might have been impetuous for those young players to spout off, but there is no excuse for Tampa not to draw. None. Very exciting team playing in the best division in baseball, full of stars. They don't have to sell out every game, but they should be averaging 25 grand over the season, and selling out when their team has a chance to clinch.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated the shout out to Be the Best You Can Be. I loved that book when I was little and probably read it 100 times too.

Nick N. said...

To sum it up, your take has more holes in it than swiss cheese.

Oh yeah? Let's break down your argument.

Tampa, St Pete's is over 4 million people in the immediate area...that is to say with 40 min drive to the trop and is the 2nd largest city in Florida.

First largest city? Miami. How do the Marlins draw in their similarly craptastic stadium?

The twins set their attendance record at the dome in 1992. A dismal season with a terrible product. It was the 1991 carry over.

"Dismal seasons with a terrible product"?? They won 90 games! They had also won the World Series twice in the past five years. The Rays have won zero World Series and have in fact had three winning seasons in their entire existence. History has proven that it can take fans a while to come around after a long spell of losing (check out Twins attendance numbers in the 2002 season).

Their is a huge population of retired people in Florida who have baseball history and tradition spilling out of them.

The problem is that a large portion of those people are already established fans of other teams, usually the Yankees and Red Sox (who come down to Florida for spring training).

The Players of the Rays are extremely active and outspoken in the community of Tampa/St. Pete

Yes, outspoken about how lame their fans are.

The Bucs sell out their games!

First of all, being a good football market does not equate to being a good baseball market. Second, the Bucs have been around for over 30 years. Third, they most assuredly have not been selling out this year.

Frankly, your argument is based on the same conventional wisdom and false conjecture that leads people to this "crappy fans" conclusion that I loathe. I know baseball people that live in that market and have discussed this matter with many of them at length. The majority of your claims are simply off the mark.

Ed Bast said...

Rg, I'm with you on the trade Cuddy idea. We've gotten along just fine without his bat all year - think of what a decent hitter with RISP could do with all those guys on base in front of him - so don't have to worry about missing his RH bat. Plus there's a decent chance we'll need a real first baseman next year anyhow.

Unfortunately, there are 2 roadblocks to getting this done:

1. Gardy.
2. The only people who think an aging below-average hitter and below-average fielder are worth $11 million per year are Gardy, and Twins fans like Anon who think things like niceness and trying hard outweigh things like skill and production.

In fact, Cuddy's so "versatile" I wouldn't be surprised to see him starting in CF next year.

Ed Bast said...

Nick, when I first heard the story I took an opposite viewpoint, but your article is pretty well-reasoned, and I can't disagree. Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I see that I put the name Cuddy in the post and that created a gag reflex on some people. The point was not to promote or defend Cuddy as a baseball player, the point was to state that the marketing people at the Twins do a good job promoting their team, and the players collaborate with that. I don't know exactly what the problem is with Tampa, I don't live there, but you don't get the fans to go to see you by tellim them that they suck.

rghrbek said...


After reading your last comment, it's not such a black and white issue as I originally thought.

I still think they should have more fans in the seats than they do, especially with that product.

However, they have lots of mitigating factors going against them. Tough call.

Ed Bast said...

Well Anon an apology is in store then. You're certainly right about the marketing thing; you don't hear about a guy like Brennan Boesch, for example, exalted to the near-mythical extent Cuddy is, even though their hitting statistics are almost identical.

That seems about right: Cuddy is a poor man's Brennan Boesch.

Anonymous said...

The problem is Florida. Cultural differences. Tampa can't turn a profit as is without revenue sharing.

The biggest mistake was MLB giving an expansion to that stadium. It should have been like Colorado with the promise of a nice facility in the immediate future. It's harder to hold the town ransom for a new park now. Yet, without a new park, MLB and the owner would be wise to move the franchise to a more viable market.

Silent Solja said...

No matter what market you're in, drawing 12,000 fans for a PLAYOFF CLINCHING GAME is totally unacceptable. What do the Rays need to do to draw the fans?

Obviously there are hardcore Rays fans out there, as there are in every market, but they are definitely in the minority. 12k fans is understandable when the team sucks, but the Rays play fantastic baseball. Nick brought up Miami and the Marlins. They are further proof that Florida is a horrible baseball market with apathetic or lazy fans. Like I said before, there are hundreds of hardcore Rays and Marlins. However, those fans are vastly outnumbered by the empty seats in the stadium.

So yes, the Rays DO INDEED have crappy fans. Florida in general is not a sports-attending state. Remember all those years the U of Miami was a football powerhouse but could never sell out. It has taken the Heat to put together the best basketball team in 20 years to sell out Heat tickets.

Price and Longoria were absolutely right. Yes, they should be grateful to be paid millions to play baseball in front of any fans at all. But in the MLB, 12k fans at important late-season games aren't going to cut it in terms of a business model. Hopefully those die-hard fans will be willing to accept their fate when management is forced to cut salary by $25 million to stay in business.

Anonymous said...

Nick, all the reasons you cite are reasons that it IS embarrassing. As a Twins fan I'd be calling out the Twins fan base if they weren't showing up. And I'd applaud players for doing the same (assuming they were doing their part on the field)

Anonymous said...

When I first read the players remarks I felt sorry for them that they worked so hard and have few fans show up to watch them. But getting butts in the seats is the job of the team’s marketing people, not the players per se, although the players can help by being active in the community. The remarks of Longoria and Price are counter-productive. The fans who are showing up will be pissed that their support is seen as not enough, and the folks who don’t show up anyway will certainly be less inclined to show up now. Good luck to the Rays marketing folks. Go Twins!

Save Big Money at Denards said...

"If I were one of those fans, I'd be downright pissed off at these remarks." Talk about misdirected angst. Price and Longoria made a very obviously true statement, why be mad at them? If I was either one of those passionate TB fans I'd be pissed off at the fact that I live somewhere that won't have a MLB team in 10 years.

Nick N. said...

Price and Longoria made a very obviously true statement, why be mad at them?

It's disrespectful to the people who have spent their money and time to come out and support the team. It's "embarrassing" that 12,000 people came out to see them play on a Monday night?

It's the fans that pay these guys' salaries. They should be appreciative of every last one they get.

Dave said...

I'm going to be honest, I am a crappy fan. At least by this comment section's standard.

I have been to one game this year. I used to buy flex 40 packs at $2 a ticket, $80 total. The ONE game I went to this year cost me that $80 with a date.

Early in the season I would watch the twins at bars to get the crowd feel without paying through the nose.

After school started again I had to stay at home and watch games with friends because my taste in beer is to expensive.

I had to cancel my cable subscription because I couldn't afford it. I now listen to the twins on the radio while I do my homework.

Now riddle me this. I listen to every game, every day on the radio. I listen so often that I learned the radio ditty before each broadcast on guitar. Am I a bad, nay "crappy" fan because I'm not in the stadium?

Nick N. said...

Now riddle me this. I listen to every game, every day on the radio. I listen so often that I learned the radio ditty before each broadcast on guitar. Am I a bad, nay "crappy" fan because I'm not in the stadium?

A particularly poignant question in these economic times, particularly considering that Tampa has been struck harder than most.

CA said...

Another point is that nobody knew that the game in question was a potential playoff clincher until a day before the game. People in the Tampa area didn't really have a chance to make plans ahead of time to see the "could clinch tonight!" game, nor did the Rays have time to market it. So the attendance probably consisted of the season ticket base (which is small) and whatever usual Monday walkup crowd could make it (also small, given the Monday night game in a not-very-accessible ballpark in a bad economy). I suppose part of the blame falls on the Rays for not marketing their product well enough, but ultimately there are a number of reasons why attendance wasn't high at that game. I doubt that fan apathy about a playoff spot is a main one, as Price seemed to be implying.

Anonymous said...

You interpret the 'embarrassment' as toward the 12k fans in attendance. This is false. The 'embarrassment' is toward the 30k empty seats. If you polled those 12k after hearing the comments, I'd bet money a strong majority would feel the same as those players and take no offense to the comments.

Any way you slice it, drawing under 20k for rays-yanks in sept with division on the line is unacceptable, from both a fan and business standpoint. Putting your head in the sand and saying 'I would have loved to have 12k fans when I was in little league' is convenient way to excuse the fanbase and ignore the problem.

Corey said...

Just look to the NFL for further proof of Tampa's embarrassing fanbase. The NFL has now sent cease-and-desist letters to eight area bars who were usurping local blackouts by showing internet feeds in the bars. Nobody is showing up for Bucs games either, and they are subsequently blacked out. Some teams just have a poor fanbase coupled with a poor market. Florida, and Tampa in particular, is one of those places.

KEN said...

"...a baseball stadium that is hours away from the most densely populated areas."

What? Hours? That's just plain false.