By: Cory Vest
Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd. For some ball clubs unfortunately, there isn’t a crowd. For years now Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Miami have been bottom of the league in attendance. Cleveland and Chicago, by way of the White Sox, are familiar bottom dwellers as well.
The Tampa Bay Rays are the lowest of the low at the moment. Only 2.5 games behind the Bronx Bombers and the Red Sox for first place, Tampa Bay is currently playing respectable baseball. On average, only 14,930 fans are attending Tropicana Field this year. The average this year is down from last. Last year the Rays finished last in their division and last in the league in attendance. 2016 brought in an average of 15,878. Each year the number of fans paying to watch the Rays take the field has been on the decline. In fact, the Rays have finished last in fan attendance every year since 2011, where they finished 29th, slightly outdoing Oakland.
Above the Rays, sitting in 29th, are the Oakland Athletics. About 18,000 fans walk through the gates in Oakland to cheer on their A’s. The 18,000 puts the Rays’ 14,930 to shame. Oakland has hovered around the low end of the league in attendance for years now, always falling among the bottom 10 teams.
Let’s head back to Florida. The Marlins of Miami have an average of 20,841 trickle into Marlins Park each game. The two teams from Florida combine for an average of 35,771. This still wouldn’t land them in the top spot for attendance. The two fan bases put together would land them slightly above Boston for 8th best in the league.
A common theme seems to be obvious when comparing these three teams. These franchises do not make their way to the tongue when discussing success. Despite this, Oakland made the playoffs in 2014. In 2013 both the A’s and the Rays punched their ticket to the postseason. The A’s made the playoffs in 2012 as well. Tampa Bay went to the postseason in 2011 and 2010.
Why do postseason appearances matter? Even with the two franchises playing playoff worthy ball, the fan base remained anemic. In 2012 the A’s finished 27th in attendance. In 2013, they ranked 23rd and then in 2014 they dropped a spot to 24th. Let’s recap, first place finishes in 2012 and 2013, and then a third consecutive year of making the playoffs in 2014, and the attendance was still lacking.
Fans of the Rays bear resemblance. In 2010 the Rays finished 22nd followed by 29th in 2011. The Rays owned one of the best records in baseball in 2010 and didn’t falter much in 2011; yet still managed to drop in league attendance.
Last year, Cleveland made a miracle run to the World Series. The dry and depleted franchise finally had a shot at being the best in baseball. Such a magical season would have to produce fans in droves, yet Cleveland ranked 28th in the league in attendance. The year following a World Series appearance must have increased fan attendance. Well, Cleveland jumped a whole two spots to 26th. Granted average attendance increased by about 3,000 fans; the franchise still can’t seem to break out of the 20’s.
Constantly topping the charts are the Dodgers and Cardinals. Each franchise brings in 40,000+ fans on average year in and year out. It seems that whatever the A’s, Rays, Marlins, or the Indians do, they won’t be able to sniff the prowess of the boys in blue or the red birds.