Selig: Rays attendance "inexcusable," "disappointing"
UPDATE, 3:38: Players union chief Michael Weiner also addressed the situation, but acknowledged there wasn't much the players can do. Hiis comments are also below.
UPDATE, 3:10: Full text of Selig's comments now posted below. The Rays current average is 20,582. Also, it should be pointed out the Rays are up over the same point last season, drawing 885,060 for 43 games this season compared to 828,578 last year, and average of 19,269.
BREAKING: Commissioner Bud Selig praised the Rays for their success on the field but termed their low attendance "inexcusable" and "disappointing." He said he was "concerned" but that there is no timetable for any action or update on the stadium situation. He cited how the MLB average is in the low 30,000 range while the Rays are about 19,000. Selig also said he will always defer to team owners to know what is best for the situation and he will continue his "discussions" with principal owner Stuart Sternberg.
Full text of Selig's response to my question at today's q-and-a session with members of the BBWAA at the All-Star Game:
"What I've said to you in the past, I'll say to you again, and I've said this to Stu quite a bit. I've been through a lot of these things over the last 20 years, actually the last 40 years, and I understand that, but, look, they've run a great operation, they're a very competitive organization, they have very competitive teams. As I study the attendance every day, looking where they are, to see that they're No. 29, I think it is, in attendance is not, is, it's inexcusable. Nobody can defend that.
"This is a very competitive baseball team. I know they've had a lot of injuries, so on and so forth, and they've missing (Evan) Longoria and all that is true. But the average major-league attendance is between 31,000 and 32,000 and if my memory is serving me well this morning, it's about 19,000 something, Tampa's attendance. Now if they were a club in last place every year the last five years you'd say, well, look, after all, you are what you are and you've got to do better.
"It's disappointing. And I know that people down there, some people, will be offended. Not the fans, not the people who go every day and I know they have great intensity, the people there. As all of you know, 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.''
Comments from union chief Michael Weiner:
"We want every team to be successful. Not every team can win the World Series every year or win the division, but we want every team to be successful both on the field and on the bottom line. We may have our differences with some of the methods that Tampa employs as far as union versus management, but you have to have respect for what they've done with a consistently competitive team they have put on the field and the way they've gone about doing their business. And I know that some of the players understandably have expressed some frustration. They enjoy playing there, they enjoy playing for Joe (Maddon), they enjoy playing with their teammates and they competition of playing in the American League East. They've never run from it, which to their credit is a reflection of leadership. .. But in the end they have a contract with the Tampa Bay Rays, they play in a certain facility, they play in a certain location, metropolitan area, and those guys are going to play as hard as they can.''