ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays had a chance to clinch the second playoff berth in franchise history Monday night and had the fourth-smallest crowd of the season with 12,446 at Tropicana Field.
And All-Star Evan Longoria had enough, calling the small gathering on the big night "embarrassing" and "disheartening."
The attendance issue has been bothering Longoria — the team's most nationally known player — for a while, and he decided to speak out.
"We go out there and play hard for 162 games," Longoria said, "and for the fans to show the kind of support they're showing right now, you kind of wonder what else you have to do as a player."
Longoria wasn't the only Rays star to feel that way.
David Price expressed his feeling on his Twitter page with this post: "Had a chance to clinch a postseason spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands … embarrassing."
Longoria said the lack of support — the Rays are averaging 22,913, 22nd most in the majors — had been a topic among the players until they got tired of talking about it.
"It's kind of become something that's really not talked about anymore because we just kind of expect it," he said. "But it's really not something we want to come to expect; we want to be able to go out there and know there's going to be 30- to 35,000. Especially at a time like this. That's the biggest thing for me.
"The middle of the year when we're not playing very well and we haven't had a track record of playing very well, then that's kind of acceptable I guess because of the way the Tampa Bay franchise has been.
"But at this point of the year, you'd expect some fans to come out."
Longoria cited how the Rays drew significantly larger crowds during the 2008 stretch run and how much of a boost that provided, and he said he didn't want his comments to come across as "a low blow" about the fans but an appeal to "rally the troops" for larger crowds, at least for the postseason.
"I don't think there's any more time for rationalizations. We figured if we have a chance at the beginning of September then maybe the fans will come, and now it's the end of September and it's almost October and we're still kind of looking up in the seats going, 'Where is everybody?' " Longoria said.
"Obviously we want to bring a championship to Tampa. And we'd like more than 12,000 to 15,000 to know about it."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.