Like other sports leagues, Major League Baseball is at least considering the possibility of having to play games in front of empty stadiums in response to the coronavirus outbreak. As Evan Longoria reminds us, the Tampa Bay Rays may already be used to that.
Longoria, who spent the first 10 years of his career with the Rays, was asked on Tuesday about the possibility of MLB not allowing fans to attend games in order prevent the spread of coronavirus. The third baseman took a swipe at the Rays before saying he hopes it does not come to that.
Evan Longoria, former Tampa Bay Ray, on the prospect of playing in empty ballparks: “I mean, I played in some nearly empty ballprks…” But in sincerity, he added he really hopes it doesn’t come to that.
It’s no secret that the Rays struggle to get fans to attend games. They rank at or near the bottom of baseball in attendance every year, and they averaged less than 15,000 fans per home game last year despite winning 96 games and reaching the postseason. This is a franchise that has explored the idea of playing half of their home games out of the country, so Longoria has a point.
Some will say Longoria’s joke was in poor taste, as the coronavirus outbreak has become a serious concern worldwide. However, we highly doubt Longoria’s intention was to make light of the situation. He was stating a fact, after all.
For the second consecutive year, MLB teams seem to be taking somewhat of a stand against shelling out massive contracts for the game’s biggest stars. Evan Longoria is the latest to speak out about the approach teams have been using in free agency.
With Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and other star players seemingly not all those close to signing deals, Longoria took to Instagram on Friday to blast the way teams have used analytical tools to “devalue players.” He included photos of Machado, Harper, Dallas Keuechel and Craig Kimbrel.
“We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame,” Longoria wrote. “It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.”
There have been reports that Harper has been offered somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million, so you can’t really criticize teams for not giving him the $350 million he is seeking. Still, it seems like there are not many legitimate suitors for the game’s top free agents, as teams are opting to trim payroll and remain below the luxury tax. Machado’s market could be evidence of that, as he has reportedly not been offered anything close to the money he is seeking.
The MLB Players Association unloaded on teams last year for their refusal to spend money, but it does not seem like a whole lot has changed. You can understand why players like Longoria are concerned about the trend.
“Honestly, and this is maybe not something I should say, but my gut tells me that the best decision might be to move the team,” said Longoria. “I say that only because I look at the example of the Miami Marlins, and [a new stadium] didn’t really solve their attendance issues. So from purely an attendance standpoint, somewhere else might be better.
“It pains me to say that, but players want to play in a place where you have consistent support,” he added. “It’s a selfish thing to say probably as a player, but, I don’t know, does anyone really want to play in front of 10,000 a night?”
Longoria, 32, spent the first ten seasons of his career in Tampa Bay and made three All-Star teams there on top of winning three Gold Glove Awards. But he was traded to the Giants last December in a fairly unceremonious departure.
“There are a lot of dedicated Rays fans … and obviously it’d be a shame for those people to lose the team,” he added. “But you just hope there’s consistent fan support, and it historically hasn’t been there. I don’t know that it’s the easiest case to lobby to build a new stadium in the area. It’s not a slam dunk.”
Indeed, the Rays, who were established as a team in 1998, have finished dead last in the MLB in average attendance for six straight seasons and counting from 2012 to 2017. While they have “improved” to 28th in the league so far this season, every single year since ESPN started tracking attendance in 2001 has seen them end up in the bottom-ten. As for Longoria, this is not the first time that he has spoken critically about his ex-team since being traded either.
Evan Longoria on the Rays moves, including dumping Corey Dickerson: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. …I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Dickerson was due roughly $6 million in 2018 after hitting .282 with 27 home runs and making the All-Star team last season.
This isn’t the first time Longoria has been critical of the Rays for making moves like this. It must be disheartening to see a team dropping their payroll below $70 million when MLB’s revenues are at an all-time high. Given Longoria’s rich history and attachment to the franchise, you can understand why he’d be sad about it, too.
Evan Longoria is on his way to San Francisco after being traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to the Giants on Wednesday. But before he puts on a Giants jersey for the first time, Longoria wanted to say thank you and goodbye to the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans. He did so with an Instagram post:
Longoria was drafted by the Rays No. 3 overall in 2006 and didn’t take long to become a franchise cornerstone. He won Rookie of the Year in 2008 and was an All-Star during his first three seasons. He helped the team to its first and only World Series appearance in 2008, and then to their only three other playoff appearances after that.
Longoria is owed $81 million through 2023. The Giants are banking on him being able to live up to his contract over the next several years.
Longoria has been with the Rays since 2008, despite the team often selling off its best assets and refusing to sign players to lucrative contracts. The third baseman is owed $86 million through 2022 (including a $5 million buyout), and has a $13 million team option for 2023. One reason the Rays may have decided to trade him now is because he would have achieved 10/5 status early in the 2018 season if he remained in Tampa. Once a player achieves that, he has the right to veto any trade.
Longoria hit .261 with 20 home runs and 86 RBI last season. He’s a career .270 hitter and three-time Gold Glove winner.
The Tampa Bay Rays may be ready to finally part with franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria.
The MLB Winter Meetings will take place Sunday-Thursday in Orlando, and reporter Jon Morosi says he expects Longoria to be mentioned in trade talks.
Evan Longoria is certain to be mentioned as a trade candidate in the coming week. When that happens, remember this: He leads @MLB with 798 games played over the last 5 seasons. He hasn’t spent a day on the DL during that span. @MLBNetwork
Though many players have come and gone throughout the Rays’ history, Longoria is the one player they committed to. He has been with Tampa Bay since 2008.
Longoria is owed $86 million through 2022 (including a $5 million buyout), and has a $13 million team option for 2023. One reason they may be motivated to trade him now is because he will achieve 10/5 status early in the 2018 season if he remains with the Rays. 10/5 status means you have played 10 seasons in the bigs and five with the same team. Once you achieve that, you have the right to veto a trade.
In addition to Longoria, the Rays could deal other players this offseason, including Alex Colome. The Cardinals could be interested in Longoria.
It’s generally accepted by players that baseball is a business, and sometimes teams will make tough decisions that their players don’t completely approve of.
Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria knows that too, but nearly a month later, he’s still not over the deal his team made that sent second baseman Logan Forsythe to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I actually like where we are,” Longoria said, via ESPN’s Jayson Stark. “I don’t know that I’ll ever get over losing Logan, because we got real close and he became one of the clubhouse leaders. So when you take that away, it feels like there’s a much bigger void.”
That’s not what Rays fans will want to hear. Does Longoria think Tampa Bay can contend without Forsythe?
“I do. I do. It’s just a different situation,” Longoria said. “There was so much shuffling. The loss of Logan can’t be overlooked because it kind of casts a cloud. But at the same time, when you look at it in totality, I think that … at the end of the day, we’ve bettered ourselves a little bit.
“You know, I can’t say that we got much better, with losing Logan. But I think that if you take him away and then you insert the pieces that we have, I like it. I think that we’ve positioned ourselves to be right there again.”
Even the compliments sound backhanded. Longoria said the same things at the time of the trade, but most probably figured he’d move on and get over it eventually. That doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen, and while Longoria is a good teammate, that’s not exactly ideal news for Tampa Bay.