ST. PETERSBURG — Tyler Glasnow has the Rays’ attendance problems at Tropicana Field figured out.
What has been an issue for most of their 24 seasons, has been gaining importance as the 2027 end of the Tropicana Field lease nears, was spotlighted in recent days by record lows for Rays games, boiled down to one simple sentence from the pitcher as to why fans don’t make it to the domed stadium in downtown St. Petersburg:
“It’s a lot of one-way streets.”
We kid, a bit, in highlighting that part of his answer. But Glasnow, a four-year Ray now recovering from Tommy John surgery, did suggest, as many fans do on social media, that the location of the Trop, rather than in a more centralized spot in Tampa, is a big part of the problem.
He also said that the team’s promotional efforts and game-day presentation are lacking. “I don’t think their No. 1 priority is exactly marketing,” he said.
Whether you want to hear it or not, attendance is a big issue regarding the future of the franchise.
The 2027 end of the use agreement for the Trop is not that far off, especially given the time it takes to build a new stadium, making a decision likely by early 2023.
Team officials insist a split-season sharing plan with Montreal — no matter how seemingly problematic — is the only viable option and their sole focus.
And between the lack of any actual stadium plan and attendance — especially for a team with the best record in the American League, several of the game’s top rookies (Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco, Shane McClanahan, and the (expensive) addition of potential Hall of Famer Nelson Cruz — there isn’t much of argument to stay full time. Monday’s crowd of 5,460 was the lowest for a Rays game at the Trop (with the COVID-19 capacity limits in place earlier this season), then was “topped” by Tuesday’s 4,795.
However you view the business aspects, politics and Rays ownership, the lack of support is too bad for the players, who are challenged to create energy on those quiet nights at home and occasionally make thinly veiled comments on road trips about the excitement created by the crowds.
When asked about attendance, most uniformed folks stay out of it, saying only that they appreciate the fans they do have and enjoy the larger crowds when they show up (the season high is 22,275 vs. White Sox on Saturday).
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But the free-spirited Glasnow, taking his turn as co-host of Jomboy Media’s The Chris Rotation Podcast, spoke openly, though a bit convolutedly, about the issue.
Among his points:
Location: The Trop is “hard to get to. … With it being in the location it is, and most young people live in Tampa. Nobody wants to come over the bridge and sit in traffic for three hours — or not that long. But by Amalie (Arena, the home of the Lightning) in Tampa, there’s a really good market and a lot of young people there. And if we were around there, I guarantee the games would be jumping. And by the Bucs’ stadium in Tampa, it’s just easier to get around over there. But St. Pete, that bridge, and just in the area around it, it’s a lot of one-way streets, it’s really a tough place to go in and out of.”
Marketing: “I’m sure they’ve tried a lot of stuff. But ... I don’t know how much they do to, like, make it a show. You go in and there’s not a lot of in-between innings stuff. The speakers are blown out, you can’t really hear a lot of stuff. It’s the little things.”
TV: “Our TV market is great though. We have above-average viewership. So there are fans. I just think the experience, people don’t want to go and sit at the game, I guess. That’s all I can think of. I really don’t know.”
Glasnow on Glasnow
The talented right-hander also discussed his contract situation, as the Rays will have to decide whether to pay him roughly $6 million to rehab in 2022, and then another $6 million to pitch, with somewhat limited innings, in 2023 before becoming a free agent.
Glasnow said he didn’t think the Rays would cut ties (by non-tendering him a 2022 contract), noting (threatening?): “I could sign in division (with Yankees, Red Sox or Blue Jays).” The Rays also could be proactive and trade him.
Glasnow, who is back in St. Petersburg to rehab, did note that “for the most part” players in his situation sign multi-year deals, and that there are “a bunch of different avenues.” He said he has talked with his agent and with Rays general manager Erik Neander about the situation but understands there likely won’t be any decisions until the offseason.
Eight Tuesday minor-league games — including High A Lake County at Dayton — had more fans than Tuesday’s Trop gathering of 4,795. ... Another historic accomplishment by Brett Phillips, from STATS and Jayson Stark of The Athletic: The first player ever to have three grand slams and an inside-the-park homer in a 30-day span. The previous mark: 36 days, 1929, by a guy named Babe Ruth. … With Wander Franco and Taylor Walls considered graduated to the majors, right-hander Shane Baz is the Rays’ new No. 1 prospect (and No. 20 overall) per mlbpipeline.com, with Vidal Brujan second and Xavier Edwards No. 3. ... Related: the Rays dropped from first to seventh in Baseball America’s midseason organizational rankings. ... Right-hander Shawn Armstrong had a wait a day to be called up from Triple-A. When the Rays contacted him on Monday’s off-day to see if he could make a flight in 90 or so minutes, he was at his in-laws’ home (picking up a crib for his 4-month-old son) about 90 or so minutes from the Raleigh-Durham airport. Chris Ellis and Louis Head were called up. ... Yoshi Tsustugo has made it back to the big leagues, signing with the Pirates after getting his requested release from the Dodgers’ Triple-A team. ... Since the Rays, desperate for catching help, gave Travis d’Arnaud a chance to play in May 2019 and he starred for them, he signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Braves and just inked a two-year, $16 million extension. ... One key to the Yankees’ recent run: Former Rays infielder. and Bronx native, Andrew Velazquez.
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