Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jeter a Hero, Maddon a Zero (Which Is Not Much Less Than the Rays' Attendance)

Yesterday's game against your 2018 Montreal Expos (known, for the moment, as the Tampa Bay Rays) looked like it was going to be one of those games. Where the Yankees got good pitching and it didn't matter because they didn't score enough runs.

Shane Greene pitched 6 innings, allowing just 2 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk, striking out 10. And Shawn Kelley actually pitched a scoreless 7th inning.

But Drew Smyly, whom the Rays got in the David Price deal, was equal to the task, as the only runs he allowed came on a Martin Prado home run in the 2nd inning (his 2nd as a Yankee).

Dellin Betances pitched a scoreless 8th, but the game went to the 9th tied.

But Brett Gardner led off the top of the 9th by beating out a grounder that Rays 2nd baseman Logan Forsythe -- a soap opera character's name if I ever heard one -- threw away, allowing Gardner to get to 2nd.

Then some guy named Derek Jeter singled Gardner home. 3-2 Yankees.

I like this Jeter guy. He could be a big star for the Yankees. Maybe even a Hall-of-Famer.

David Robertson closed the Rays down in the bottom of the 9th. WP: Betances (5-0). SV: Robertson (32). LP: Jack McGee (3-1).

For those of you old enough to remember the late 1970s and early 1980s, as I am: Jack McGee was also the name of the reporter, played by Jack Colvin, who chased The Incredible Hulk, the Lieutenant Girard to Bill Bixby's/Lou Ferrigno's Dr. Kimble: "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

The attendance was 31,042. According to Tropicana Field's official regular-season capacity, that's
91 percent.

The problem is, most of them were Yankee Fans. And Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't like that:

Yeah it's great. It's great that it's sold out. And I understand that the people like Derek Jeter. But you've got to come out and root for the Rays, too, you understand. I mean, I totally understand what's going on. But I'm not going to sit here and defend all of that noise in the Yankees' favor in our ballpark. I'm not going to defend that. So we're going to come out and root for the Rays. We'd appreciate that.

The greatest per-home-game attendance the Rays have ever had was 23,147, in 2009, the year after they won their one and only Pennant. They are now averaging less than 18,000, and that's counting games against the Yankees.

The locals will not support a winning team, never mind the mediocre one they have now. Having a bad stadium in downtown St. Petersburg, instead of in or near downtown Tampa, is no excuse. The San Diego Padres have won 2 Pennants in over 40 years, and used to play in a football stadium out in the suburbs, and they did better at the box office. The Kansas City Royals have done the same (at least they've won 1 World Series), and still play in a ballpark out in the suburbs, and they've nearly always done better. The Texas Rangers took almost 40 years to win their first Pennant, and their stadium is in the middle of nowhere (halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, with poor public transportation), and they did better even before they started winning. The Miami Marlins have a new stadium, fairly close to downtown, and while their attendance is bad, it's not as bad as their cross-State "rivals"; indeed, they did better than the Rays when they were playing in the Dolphins' stadium out in the suburbs. Even when the San Francisco Giants were playing at Candlestick Park, the most hated stadium in baseball history, in the 1990s, they had better attendance.

The excuses that the few Rays fans use to explain their pathetic attendance do not hold up to scrutiny. They need to stop telling me their excuses, and start telling their friends to come to a game with them. Make me look like the idiot, not themselves.

If not for people coming to The Trop and rooting for the Yankees, the Rays would almost have to move. (They should, anyway. The Montreal Olympic Stadium is a less ridiculous ballpark -- and that's saying something.)

The series concludes this afternoon. Hiroki Kuroda starts for the Yankees, Jeremy Hellickson for the Expos -- I mean, the Rays.

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