Friday, June 1, 2012

Romano: Talk About Trop Matters

Fresh off his National Headliner Award, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano makes the case why the Stadium Saga - devoid of any real developments the last few years - is worthy of continued media coverage.
The season is almost one-third complete, and the Rays are back on familiar ground. They are near the top in victories and near the bottom in attendance.
The Cleveland Indians, like the Rays, have been in first place for much of the season. And, like the Rays, they have been bringing up the rear in attendance.

Why isn't there more carping about Cleveland's fans?

Because from 1996-2002, the Indians drew as well as any team in the majors. They once set an MLB record with 455 consecutive sellouts (since eclipsed by Boston).

In other words, Cleveland is a proven big-league market. It has a universally acclaimed stadium in a perfect location. So if the Indians have had trouble drawing in recent seasons, it is seen as cyclical instead of chronic.
I don't know if I agree with Romano's logic, since Cleveland's struggles since 2009 (they're averaging almost 1,000 fewer fans per game than the Rays) show that fans often stop coming once the "new stadium smell" wears off.

Romano says Tampa's problem is that is has never proven it can support baseball, as he continues:
Just understand the problem is not a figment of the imagination. And it is not a matter of people unjustly picking on Tampa Bay.

There is some pretty damning evidence that this market has a serious problem when it comes to drawing fans. In some ways, as serious as anything baseball has seen.
In a point I've made several times before, it just hasn't yet been proven there is a "problem" in Tampa Bay. The Rays won't open their books and Forbes estimates they're one of the most profitable teams in baseball.

Sure, the Rays don't draw as many fans as most of their opponents, but just a couple of decades ago, 21,000 fans a game was considered good.

So before you jump on Tampa Bay for failing to sustain its MLB team, realize neither the league nor the team have proven the region isn't supporting the Rays adequately now.

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