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MLB commissioner Bud Selig calls Tampa Bay Rays' attendance 'inexcusable,' 'disappointing'

Attendance at Rays games has been a concern for several seasons, and the team and city of St. Petersburg remain in a stalemate over a new stadium.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2010)

Attendance at Rays games has been a concern for several seasons, and the team and city of St. Petersburg remain in a stalemate over a new stadium.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Commissioner Bud Selig didn't have a timetable for any action on the Rays' stadium situation much less a course for resolution. But he did have some (more) harsh words for the Tampa Bay community regarding lack of support for the team.

Selig said Tuesday it was "inexcusable" and "disappointing" that the Rays rank 29th among the 30 teams in attendance and at 20,582 are more than 10,000 below the league average. He said he was "concerned" but wouldn't acknowledge any plan beyond continuing his ongoing "discussions" with Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg.

"They've run a great operation. They're a very competitive organization. They have very competitive teams," Selig said. "To see that they're No. 29, I think it is, in attendance, it's inexcusable. Nobody can defend that.

"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. … 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."

How, or when, that concern manifests into action is the primary issue, especially with the current stalemate between the team and St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster over the potential of a new stadium.

Selig's position has been that Sternberg, like all owners, knows the best course of action for his team and is waiting for direction from him. Sternberg hasn't said much on attendance or the stadium situation recently but has suggested Major League Baseball, and Selig, eventually will get impatient and initiate action.

Tuesday, Sternberg said in an email his only response to Selig's comments was: "We speak often and he has been consistent in his concern for our status.''

Selig made his comments during his annual All-Star question-and-answer session with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Talking to the Tampa Bay Times afterward, he wouldn't reveal much more.

"I've talked to Stu a lot, and Stu and I will continue our discussion," he said. "I'd just rather not comment any further than I did."

Despite ranking 29th, the Rays are experiencing a modest increase in attendance, about 7 percent, over the same point last season, when they averaged 19,269 through 43 dates. At their current pace, they would draw 1,667,142. Over their four previous seasons, they averaged 1,770,284.

Union chief Michael Weiner, who also spoke to the BBWAA, said the players have a stake in the team's success as well and noted, "some of the players understandably have expressed some frustration," but there isn't much they can do.

"In the end, they have a contract with the Tampa Bay Rays," Weiner said. "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."

On other topics:

With the Astros' move to the American League in 2013 requiring interleague play throughout the season, the number of interleague games is likely to increase from 18 to 19 or 20 with all teams in a division playing a similar, though not exact, schedule. Games against natural rivals, such as the Marlins for the Rays, will be cut in some years from six to three or four. .

Selig said the appetite among owners and MLB officials for expansion of instant replay is "very low." Currently, it is used only on home runs.

In-season blood testing for Human growth hormone, performance-enhancing drug, could start as soon as 2013. Currently, it takes place during the offseason and spring training or if there is reasonable cause.

2012 Major League Baseball attendance

TOP 5 AVERAGES

1 Philadelphia Phillies 44,746
2 Texas Rangers 43,607
3 NY Yankees 42,234
4 St. Louis Cardinals 41,854
5 San Francisco Giants 41,636

MLB commissioner Bud Selig calls Tampa Bay Rays' attendance 'inexcusable,' 'disappointing' 07/10/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 8:54am]
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