Rays not only good team with poor attendance
A regular reader and e-mailer of Two Cents wrote me this morning to ask a pretty astute question. Why, he asked, are the Rays the only team criticized nationally about their low attendance numbers when another first-place team, the Cincinnati Reds, also are struggling at the gates? The reader pointed out how the first-place Reds drew only 12,060 Monday night at home against the Diamondbacks. The Reds are 20th overall in attendance, averaging 25,618. The Rays are 23rd overall, averaging 22,739.
The Reds aren't the only good team with attendance questions. The San Diego Padres are having a season similar to the one the Rays had in 2008 when they came out of nowhere to win the division, yet the Padres are 19th in attendance, averaging 26,038 fans. Then think about this: both the Reds and Padres are playing in swanky and relatively new ballparks. The Padres' PETCO Park opened in 2004, while Cincy's Great American Ballpark opened in 2003. Drawing poorly in September is nothing new for the Reds, even when they've had good teams as you can read about here on Yahoo Sports' Big League Stew blog.
Yet the national media seems to focus on the Rays' attendance, while almost never mentioning teams such as the Reds or Padres. And no one was pointing out that the Braves, only a game behind the Phillies in the NL East, drew a mere 18,647 for Monday night's game against the Nationals. (To be fair, the Braves are averaging 30,232 fans a game, which is 15th in the majors.)
So why do the Rays get picked on? Well, for starters, the Rays have always had attendance problems. It's not like this season is the exception to the rule. Low attendance is the rule. Plus, don't think Rays' ownership pushing for a new ballpark by pointing out its own attendance problems doesn't play a role. When ownership is talking about it and the manager is talking about as Joe Maddon did over the weekend, then the national media is going to pick up on it, too.