The Tampa Bay Rays are exploring an unprecedented way to rescue their franchise from a lack of fan interest, and one former MLB player has a great point about why the idea seems unlikely to work.
On Thursday, the Rays received permission from MLB to pursue an arrangement in which they would play half of their games in Tampa and the other half in Montreal. Brad Ziegler, a former relief pitcher who played 11 MLB seasons, quickly pointed out how much of an “absolute nightmare” that would be for Rays players.
Ziegler makes a good point. The majority of Rays players probably wouldn’t “live” in both cities, so they would essentially be playing 40 or so more away games than players on any other team. That is one of the reasons Bob Nightengale of USA Today says the plan will never come to fruition.
The Rays have been trying to get approval for a new stadium in Tampa, but the embarrassing attendance they have had at games this year illustrates why they can’t get the money. Part of the two-city proposal is that they would play the first half of their home games in Tampa and the second half in Montreal, and that would eliminate the need for a roof enclosure on a new Tampa stadium. Still, the chances of it ever happening seem very slim.
The Tampa Bay Rays have drawn some shockingly low attendance numbers this season, and they are reportedly looking to go to extreme measures in an attempt to remedy that issue.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Rays have received permission from Major League Baseball to pursue an arrangement where they would play half of their home games in Tampa Bay and the other half in Montreal. The plan would be to play their early-season home games in Tampa and the remainder of the year north of the border.
The proposed plan calls for the Rays to play games at new stadiums in both Tampa and Montreal. By playing in Florida in the early part of the season, the idea is that the new stadium would not require a roof enclosure and the cost to build it would be more reasonable.
The Expos were the last team to call Montreal home before they moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Nationals in 2005. Several powerful people in the city, including former Expos owner Charles Bronfman’s son, support the idea of bringing baseball back to Montreal. Stephen Bronfman is said to have expressed interest in purchasing a minority stake in the Rays earlier this year.
Despite their 43-31 record this season, the Rays have an average attendance of just 14,546. The attendance has been so low that the team even had to address it publicly at one point. Time will tell if calling two cities home is the solution to the problems that have been ongoing in Tampa.
Thursday night’s game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg went into a delay due to a power outage.
The game was in the bottom of the fourth inning and Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs was facing Travis d’Arnaud with one out, nobody on, and an 0-2 count. The TV feed on Fox Sports West abruptly cut off as the game went into a delay. Here’s what it looked like in the stadium as cell phones lit up the Trop:
Lights turned on in the stadium about 20-30 minutes later and the managers met to discuss how things would proceed. The game picked back up about 30-35 minutes after the delay, right where it left off. Skaggs returned to pitch for the Angels despite the delay and retired d’Arnaud and Willy Adames to end the inning.
The outage was due to a storm in the area, and power was affected throughout the St. Petersburg area. This is not unusual as even the national championship game in college basketball this year was affected by an outage.
The Tampa Bay Rays took extreme measures to try and slow down the hot-hitting Jorge Polanco.
Polanco doubled to each gap early in the Minnesota Twins’ 5-3 win over the Rays on Friday night. In between the doubles, he tried to bunt for a hit but was thrown out. After seeing Polanco double to each gap, the Rays tried a new strategy later in the game against him.
Tampa Bay went with four outfielders and just three infielders, putting one infielder on the left side of the field.
Polanco struck out in the at-bat, so something worked. He was intentionally walked in the ninth and finished the game 2-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI.
On the season, the 25-year-old is batting .338 with 14 doubles, five triples and nine home runs this season.
Tampa Bay has some extra incentive these days to put runs on the board.
Andrew Mearns of Cut4 relayed on Friday a funny pact that Rays first base coach Ozzie Timmons has with the team — for every run that they score, Timmons has to do ten pushups at the end of the inning.
The pact has apparently been in place since last season, but it has really taken off in recent days with the Rays scoring 41 runs over their last six games (all victories). Thursday’s win over the Minnesota Twins was particularly taxing for Timmons with Tampa plating 14 runs in total.
The Rays now have the third-best record in baseball at 35-19, which means that at this rate we can likely expect Timmons to be looking like Ed Hochuli by the end of the season.
The Tampa Bay Rays have never been able to draw respectable attendance numbers no matter how good their performance is on the field, but that trend appears to be getting worse by the year. Attendance got so low this week, in fact, that the team felt the need to address it.
Despite their impressive 34-19 record, the Rays hit a new low in attendance when they drew less than 6,000 fans for Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. On Wednesday, team president Brian Auld issued an optimistic statement about fans rallying around the Rays.
The Rays have always had fairly strong TV ratings, but they just can’t seem to get fans to the ballpark. Some say that is because a lot of Rays supporters have too long of a drive to Tropicana Field, but you could say that about plenty of pro sports franchises.
With the Rays being a legitimate playoff contender and still not attracting fans at home games or when they’re on the road (remember this game?), you have to wonder how long the team can survive in Tampa.
The Tampa Bay Rays may be among the best teams in the American League, but their attendance figures continue to be a sore spot.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin reported that the team’s attendance of 5,786 fans for Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays was the lowest ever for a Rays game at Tropicana Field.
Here’s what a crowd of just under six thousand fans looks like:
Unfortunately, this has been a theme at many of their games. There was a sparse crowd for one of their games two weeks ago at Miami.
The local TV ratings for the Rays are said to be fairly high, but one big reason for the lack of attendance is the logistics. Tropicana Field is located in St. Petersburg across the bay. In contrast, Amalie Arena, where the Lightning play, is in Tampa. The Trop is 20-plus miles away and at least a half-hour away from Amalie Arena. The Lightning, amid a historic season, sold out their games and averaged over 19,000 fans per game. That’s around 30 percent more than the 14,578 fans the Rays are averaging per home game. They also have been in the top 10 in NHL attendance the past seven seasons. Stadium location matters, and The Trop is not well located for many fans in that area.
The in-season free agent market looks to be on the verge of picking up in Major League Baseball.
According to Ken Rosenthal and Josh Tolentino of The Athletic, the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees are both still interested in left-handed starter Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel, along with closer Craig Kimbrel, is expected to sign sometime after midnight ET on June 2, at which point neither player will have draft pick compensation attached to them any longer.
The Rays may see Kimbrel as being a more important addition than Keuchel, but are still interested in both. The Yankees are looking at Keuchel in light of their glut of injuries, but only have just under $20 million to spend on him and any potential future moves if they want to remain below the luxury tax threshold.
The Yankees have been consistently linked to Keuchel, and it makes sense given their remarkably high injury total. It seems that the saga, either way, will be over in about a week or so.
The Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays are the two lowest-ranked teams in baseball in home attendance, so you can probably imagine the type of crowd that turned out when they faced each other on Tuesday night. Somehow, it still seemed worse than expected.
The Marlins have averaged just 9,515 fans at home games this year, which is even significantly less than Tampa’s average of 14,540. On Tuesday night, the reported attendance at Marlins park was 6,306. This photo from Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times indicates about 6,000 of them weren’t in their seats:
That’s just sad.
How bad has the Marlins’ attendance been through the years? They were even outdrawn by one college baseball team last year. The Rays haven’t been much better, and it’s clear no one had any interest in Tampa’s 4-0 win on Tuesday night. Derek Jeter is supposed to help change that, but we’re not seeing it.
Despite the fact that a number of teams have had issues at their back of their bullpen this season, free agent closer Craig Kimbrel is still very much available. One team that has looked pretty strong late in games may well look to get even stronger with him.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Bay Rays remain in touch with Kimbrel, though there’s no indication that anything appears close.
Interestingly, this comes even as the Rays sit in first place in the AL East with two dominant bullpen arms. Diego Castillo has a 1.71 ERA, while teammate Jose Alvarado is even lower at 1.13.
Adding Kimbrel would obviously make the Tampa Bay bullpen a huge point of strength. Other teams have been in contact with the free agent closer, but the Rays may be his best shot at making the playoffs as things stand.