Longoria & Price complaints about fans shows they're all too human

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And underlying both columnists pieces is that that Longoria should pipe down because people don't want to hear from a millionaire complaining about people who make far, far less.

But it just shows that for all of the money that goes with professional sports these days, it's still about the fans to a degree.  They are not irrelevant, and it means something to the team that on a night in which they can clinch a championship, to see that most of the community doesn't find it worthy to trek out to the park to observe it live.

And please, enough with the "we've got great TV ratings" argument.  Yes, that shows that people like to watch good entertainment, which the Rays are if you're into the baseball thing, but only at a total convenience to the fans.

It's the same mentality that people have these days preferring to screen movies via DVD or on pay per view, vs. actually getting into a car and driving somewhere to see it with other people.  It's something we used to do all the time, but now, we don't have to.

Look, it's Baltimore on a Monday night in late September.  Any other season, and 12,000 fans in the stands isn't that shocking.  But when  you're about to go to the playoffs, of course it's disappointing.  And it's been that way all year long

Longoria says that it wasn't even like this in 2008, and he's right.  What's the difference? Those die-hard Rays fans had waited so long for success, they had to be there to see it happen.  Now, they're about to finish their consecutive regular season, and 2nd appearance in the post-season in three years.  It's not novel anymore.

Some fans think the issue would be different if a ballpark would be in Tampa.  And who knows, maybe they're right?

But though it's easy to take shots at these players, they have more credibility than anyone else in complaining.  Who wants to hear another politician or businessman weigh in on this?  They've played for six months, and have a chance of winning a World Series in a few weeks.

Look, this is not the first time a successful baseball team has struggled at the box office.  I grew up in San Francisco, and as a little kid saw the Oakland A's win three straight World Series in the early 1970s, and draw horribly.  I saw the San Francisco Giants in 1997 win the Western Division in the National League, and get the kind of attendance numbers the Rays are getting now also in September.

The Giants finally started drawing really well when they did create their new beautiful ballpark that sits on the Embarcadero next to San Francisco Bay (and paid for it themselves).  The A's? They rank even worse than the Rays in attendance, and are desperate to get a new stadium somewhere in the Bay Area.

The Rays and their stadium situation will need to be addressed in the coming years.  We'll see what happens with that.  But in late September, after an incredible season, Longoria and Price have every right to feel bummed out at the lack of support, as politically incorrect as it may be to hear during one of the worst recessions in this country's recent history.

The world that lives and breaths Tampa Bay Rays baseball has been shook up over the past 24 hours.  That's because of comments made by two of their biggest stars, third baseman Evan Longoria and starting pitcher David Price yesterday, lamenting the continuing weak attendance at home games at Tropicana Field this year.

Price simply tweeted "Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands....embarrassing."(An hour later he sent out two different tweets, one in which apologized if he offended anyone, tweeting," I did not think it was gonna turn into this," and then re-tweeting a comment from a fan who wrote that "David Price has learned the power of Twitter").

Longoria was much more extensive in his remarks, saying

"… You'd pretty much like to think that a team in a playoff hunt, with an opportunity to clinch, that you could at least get 30,000 in here to cheer you on."

"We play 155 games of really good baseball, and it's kind of like, what else do we have to do to get fans into this place? I mean, it's actually embarrassing to us."

"It's disheartening,  It's something I've been wanting to say for a long time. It's not a jab at the fans. It's not a kick below the belt, but it's something we'd like to see. Obviously we want to bring a championship to Tampa. We'd like more than 12-to-15,000 to know about it."

The establishment press weighed in Tuesday, in the form of John Romano at the St. Pete Times and Martin Fennelly at the Tampa Tribune, essentially taking Longoria to task for his complaints.

Romano wrote that although Longoria was understandably frustrated, he called it "poor judgement," on the part of the all-star third baseman insulting the folks who pay his salary.  Romano writes:

No matter how well-intentioned and heartfelt their words might be, they will fall on deaf ears for large parts of this community. For, when you step back from the emotion of the moment, what you have is wealthy men playing in a publicly financed stadium and wondering why more people aren't paying to watch them go to work.

And, no matter how reasonable the point, it's always going to sound tacky.

Romano goes on to write about all of the factors that have led to the Rays' lame attendance record this season, in which they are battling not only the New York Yankees for the American League East Division championship, but also the Philadelphia Phillies and the Minnesota Twins for the best record in all of Major League Baseball.

Fennelly, in his usual witty style, slightly chastises the Southern California native for his bad timing, as the Rays laid an egg Monday night in being  shut out by the Orioles.

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