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.