On the heels of one of the worst written items on the Rays attendance we've ever read, we get another slap in the face this afternoon. Not an insult, but a reality.
The beloved owner Stu Sternberg has a hard piece of truth for us to process:
#Rays Sternberg surprised to be last in attendance, said it will affect future budgeting, but also expects that a wild-card game wud sellout— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) September 24, 2013
The issues plaguing the Rays attendance are myriad. Ridiculous commute for most everyone in Tampa Bay, especially on week days to and from the stadium, economics, preferences. Despite the quality of play and plenty of giveaways, this season the Rays have sunk to Devil Rays levels.
And so the insults are hurled, and we have to defend, but the reality is simple: Less tickets sold, less money available.
To be fair, the Rays consistently rank among the best in television rankings (RATINGS?), but what does that matter? Having one of the best TV ratings in baseball doesn't translate into cash in the Rays pockets, and the impact is greatly delayed when you're locked into a pre-boom television contract.
A lesser payroll next year may be something the Rays have to contend with. I don't think this will prevent the Rays from keeping the likes of David Price on the roster -- he'll only be traded if the price is right (sorry) -- but it may be the difference in them picking up David DeJesus's $6.5M option, or signing a free agent like Kelly Johnson again when a prospect (read: Tim Beckham) is available.
There will be attendance fueled conversations, and some will be valid.
But many won't.
So let's clarify the early narrative now: the Rays will sell out a wildcard playoff game.
That's not a concern.
The topic of attendance will become nauseating as we move into postseason play (assuming they get there), and it's best we embrace that reality when the Rays sell out the Trop and the pundits wonder where people have been.
Don't let it build anger and resentment -- the attendance struggles exist, embrace it -- instead, let's use those moments to create legitimate points of conversation.
There's a need for a new stadium, and the Rays will be dealing with a cash strapped payroll.
However, the Rays will sell postseason tickets, the Rays are not moving to (pick a city), the Rays have an excellent and educated fanbase, and some beat writer's New England bias can take a hike unless they're willing to discuss the legitimate causes and consequences of low attendance figures.
Let's all be real, attendance articles are coming.
Might as well get ready.