Which one of these four baseball teams is the odd-one out: Pirates, A's, Nationals, Rays. Well, obviously, it's Tampa Bay - not just the only one of the four going to the playoffs, but the only one to have a winning season in 2010. However, probably more surprisingly, they''re also the only one of the four franchises to see their home attendance drop this year - even as they have been locked in an AL East struggle with the Yankees.
At the time of writing, all the other post-season teams have seen crowds increase by at least 500 per game. The Twins and Rangers are far in excess of that. The former have obviously benefited from Target Field, but even so, with four games left, they've already set a new franchise season record, and cracked three million for the first time since 1988. Texas are also well up, more than 4,400 per game.
The Rays... Not so much. Indeed, 228 fewer people per game have turned out to see Tampa Bay in action, to the point where the team gave away 20,000 tickets for the team's final home-game today. 33 times this season, the official crowd at Tropicana Field has been below twenty thousand, reaching its nadir on a Wednesday night in April, when 10,691 showed up for a game against Oakland.
The reason for this reluctance to support what's undeniably a good product seems mostly to be economic. "In Tampa-St. Pete, the recession is enormous. Unemployment is 12.3 percent and housing values are down 22 percent from their peak. It's unrealistic to expect people to spend their unemployment checks to come out to the ballpark," said business pundit Vince Gennaro.
But after a bad start, attendance overall this season for baseball is almost flat. Halfway through the last week, attendance per game is down just 49 people compared to the same period in 2010 It seems that not all economies are created equal, even with the incentive of the post-season.