Why It’s OK for Players to Call Out Fans

Earlier this week, Evan Longoria and David Price stated that they were embarrassed by the weak attendance to their potential playoff-clinching game in Tampa Bay on Monday night. Their comments brought immediate backlash from the baseball media. How could guys making millions of dollars criticize fans for not supporting them, especially in the climate of a recession?! Pundits also cited the ugly facility, the difficulty of getting to the stadium, and the possibility that puppies might be run over by fans driving to the game. Oh, the horror.

What this was, was a rallying of the troops, and it’s exactly what the Rays need. Sporting events benefit from bandwagon effects. People want to go where other people are. If the Rays game is the place to be, then citizens need to know that. The way to make it so is to get someone who is well-liked to say it’s the place to be. I can’t think of better spokesmen than Longoria and Price.

Baseball is a business, and if fans don’t want to pay to see the games, that’s their right. But they have to understand that when you don’t patronize a business, it goes away. Do fans want that? If fans aren’t going to come out, then the owners may decide it’s in their best interest to trade their valuable commodities elsewhere instead of actively seeking improvements on the free-agent market. The owners may even decide it’s not worth staying in town, find a prospective new location where fans will go to the game, buy out the lease, and hit the road. Why stick around if fans won’t even come when the team is doing exactly what fans in many other cities wish their front offices would do?

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has already announced that the Rays will be slashing payroll. The reason for this is that all the investments intended to improve the team were done, not out of kindness, but to make money. As I have found, in most cases winning begets high returns. But this hasn’t been true for the Rays.

If Tampa Bay residents want good baseball to remain, they are going to have to support it. Good fans sometimes need a push, just as good soldiers sometimes need a reminder from a general. That’s all Price and Longoria were offering, and I don’t think there is anything inappropriate about their comments.

3 Responses “Why It’s OK for Players to Call Out Fans”

  1. Matt C says:

    Growing up in North Central Florida most of my life and being a baseball fan it’s initially hard to understand how the Rays are not very successful on filling their stadium. I also spent a lot of time in the Tampa area, specifically St. Pete. This by no means makes me the expert, but it gives the perspective of a long term Florida resident.

    Behind football, baseball is the biggest sport in Central Florida. Baseball will never EVER beat college football in the whole state. Florida vs. FSU, FSU vs Miami, Anyone vs. Miami, Anyone vs. Florida, Anyone vs FSU…it’s what rural Floridians live for. Not even NFL beats this dynamic. My father couldn’t watch the Steelers vs Bucs game because it got blacked out. A STEELRES GAME?!?! Their fans are the Yankees and BoSox fans of the NFL, they travel well! When I lived in Jacksonville we rarely got to see two football games because they couldn’t sellout Jaguar games, not sure if this is the same now.

    Having said all that, its great being able to watch baseball outside on those wonderful Florida spring days and warm summer evenings. You can’t get that in that stadium the Rays play. (Please note that I am biased and refuse to watch baseball in-doors, I don’t care if there is a retractable roof.) But the problem with Floridians is that we enjoy watching sports outside.

    The other problem is the location of the Stadium. It’s about a 30-45 minute drive FROM Tampa, forget about the rest of Central Florida. In talking with a friend about this issue the best option would have been to put the team in the Orlando area. You would be able to pull fans from the Daytona area on the East Coast, fans from North Central Florida (maybe as far north as Gainseville, maybe this is overly optimistic), fans to the South and the fans from the Tampa area. You would also get the fans that travelled to Disney and Universal for their Summer Trips. Fans working their summer trips around when their teams would be playing the Orlando team. St. Pete doesn’t have the ability to draw as many out of state tourists to the area.

    Having defended all the reasons media put forward, it’s insane that the team currently tied for the AL Best’s record can’t put more warm bodies in the stands.

  2. Marc Schneider says:

    Doesn’t this also say something about the Braves? They have somewhat similar problems and the team’s attendence is not spectacular, especially compared to the Phillies. I keep hearing about all the problems involved in getting to the stadium and so forth but it sure seems that Atlanta fans aren’t making a great effort (at least during the week) of going to the games. Some of the “crowds” during the latter stages of the season, which were important games, were downright embarrassing.

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