"Another thing I want to say," Longoria said, completely unprompted. "We only had like 15,000 fans out there. In 2008, when we clinched, this place was packed. We played 155 games this season and it's kind of like what else do you have to do to draw fans in this place. It's actually embarrassing for us."
And there was David Price, on Twitter:
Had a chance to clinch a post season spot tonight with about 10,000 fans in the stands....embarrassing
Longoria was careful to note that he wasn't trying to take a shot at the fan base. Price, meanwhile, issued something of an apology shortly thereafter, saying that he didn't mean to offend anyone. But the damage was done. Longoria drew attention, and Price's remarks sparked an immediate, overwhelming Twitter response. His initial message was retweeted by hundreds, if not thousands of people, and the Rays' attendance and Price's remarks were all anyone in baseball circles could talk about for a number of hours.
I'm not going to use this space to discuss the appropriateness of what Longoria and Price had to say. One could make a strong case that, while their message might've been right on, they were the wrong messengers. One could also make a strong case to the contrary.
I'm also not going to use this space to explain why Tampa Bay routinely suffers from such low attendance. Needless to say, there are a number of reasons - some of them poor, but many of them legitimate. That was not a stadium designed to attract as many fans as possible.
Rather, I just want to quickly touch on the consequences of all this. What Longoria and Price had to say caused a whole to-do. Stories are everywhere now. Twitter. Blogs. NBC. ESPN. Their remarks were controversial, and as is typically the case when something controversial is said by someone with visibility or fame, there has been widespread fallout. Everybody wants to say his piece. Everybody wants to agree with the celebrity, or disagree, and make his argument emphatic. So often, with controversy, the gray area is lost, and it becomes a battle of black versus white.
The controversy, then, takes on a life of its own and brings attention to the players and teams that the organizations don't want. Consider the Rays. The Rays are in first place in the AL East, ahead of the Yankees and one win or one Boston loss away from clinching a spot in the playoffs. These are exciting times for an exciting organization. Do you think their executives really want the world to be discussing their attendance problems right now? Marketing and public relations are big, big deals for baseball teams. All this talk about how the Rays can't draw fans isn't good for their marketing or public relations.
So, generally speaking, whenever a player says something remotely controversial, it'll come back to the team, and the team won't be happy. The team will then ask the player to watch what he says in the future, and the player - having presumably learned his lesson - will go on to be more careful.
Just look at the message that David Price retweeted from another user late last night.
Aaaaaaand @davidprice14 learns the power of twitter.
Price learned something yesterday. Longoria, too. They learned something about the power of the spoken or written word, and the team will make damn sure the lesson sinks in, if it hasn't already. The Rays won't want a repeat of this. So Price and Longoria - and probably their teammates, too - will take more care not to grant such an opportunity.
And so the end result becomes less interesting player quotations, and less interesting Twitter feeds. You'll recall that Oakland A's starter Brett Anderson posted a borderline controversial picture on Twitter a little while back. The A's then asked him to take it down, and, presto, Brett Anderson isn't on Twitter anymore. That was a window we had into a player's actual personality, and the window's been closed. The player revealed too much.
That sucks. What sucks about it is that it's our own fault. It's our own fault for making these things such a big deal. But it also sucks that it's unavoidable. This is just how people are. You can't control the masses. Certainly not on the internet. People will always make a big deal of anything controversial said by anyone famous. And so the majority of famous people - or at least athletes, who work for organizations - will try not to say anything controversial.
Athletes end up more guarded and less honest, which is too bad, because we love when they're honest. We love when they speak their minds. But because we make such a big deal out of everything they say, they speak their minds less often, if they speak their minds at all, as neither they nor the organization don't want to deal with all the attention. So we get less of what we want, mostly because of our own doing.
Nobody likes when athletes speak in clichés, but those clichés - they aren't going away. While there will always be certain exceptions, by and large, players will err towards being boring over being honest, because honesty has a chance to offend, and image is just too important. David Price and Evan Longoria were honest and emotional yesterday. They'll likely be less honest and emotional in the future, and that's both safe, and a real damn shame.
Let's get to these rankings. These are important rankings.
30. Seattle Mariners
SBN Blog: Lookout Landing
2010 record: 60-96
Last week's rank: 29
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 29
The Mariners have nine position players with a ‘baseball age' this season of 26 or younger. Those nine players have come to the plate 1,641 times, batting .210 with 32 home runs. The only three OPS figures on the team north of .700 have been posted by a 34 year old, a 36 year old, and a 37 year old. That Justin Smoak hit a home run on Monday would've been good news for anyone, but for the Mariners, it was practically a miracle.
SBN Blog: Bucs Dugout
2010 record: 55-101
Last week's rank: 30
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 30
The Pirates are a near lock for the #1 pick in the 2010 draft, but as winners of seven of their last ten games you can make a case that they're not actually baseball's worst team at the moment. They're 11-13 in September, and if they can find a way to win five of their last six (in St. Louis and Florida) they'd have their first winning month since June of 2009.
SBN Blog: Camden Chat
2010 record: 62-94
Last week's rank: 24
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 26
The O's have taken a sudden turn for the worse, with a three-game winning streak leading into a four-game losing streak before Monday's win over the Rays. Scoring only three runs a game over their last five and finding only one quality start in the same stretch (Brian Matusz' dominant performance against the Rays), about the only thing that has gone right for the Orioles this last week is the bullpen.
SBN Blog: Royals Review
2010 record: 64-92
Last week's rank: 27
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 28
The Royals lost three of four in Cleveland, making a last-place finish likely. This is a bit of a role reversal for the Royals, who used late surges in 2008 & 2009 to claim fourth place titles. Jason Kendall hasn't played since August 30th due to injury... and he's still second amongst AL catchers in innings caught, which is frankly amazing. Ned Yost is a wonderful groomer of young talent.
SBN Blog: AZ Snakepit
2010 record: 64-92
Last week's rank: 28
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 22
Arizona effectively ended Colorado's hopes, sweeping them in three at Chase Field, and then took the series against the Dodgers, to finish their 2010 home games on a good note. Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton could both be done for the season, but Daniel Hudson continues his great start in the desert. He has 11 quality starts in 11 attempts for the D-backs, sporting a 1.69 ERA, and came within one out of his first career complete-game against Los Angeles on Saturday.
SBN Blog: Let's Go Tribe!
2010 record: 66-91
Last week's rank: 25
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 25
The Indians have essentially been a minor league outfit this season, so it's a little impressive that they've managed to avoid losing 100 games. So other than not being an abject failure was anything accomplished? That's difficult to say. Carlos Santana was very good, then he suffered a major injury. Fausto Carmona has quietly been league-average this season, which is something. Also, kudos to Mark Grudzielanek. He randomly came back this season at age 40. In 119 plate appearances, he did not record an extra-base hit. May we spell his name one final time: Grudzielanek.
SBN Blog: Federal Baseball
2010 record: 67-90
Last week's rank: 26
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 21
After faking competence for a few early months, the Nats reasserted themselves among the dregs of the National League by letting the Phillies clinch against them in an 8-0 drubbing. The more things change...
23. Houston Astros
SBN Blog: The Crawfish Boxes
2010 record: 74-82
Last week's rank: 21
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 27
Behold the unpredictable nature of baseball: the Astros took two of three at home from the Reds to improve to 28-17 since August 1...then went 2-5 against the Nationals and Pirates to doom their chances of getting back to .500. The Astros will most likely be the opposing team when the Reds clinch the division this week, which will be a cruel reminder that they haven't won the NL Central since doing it four times in five years from 1997-2001.
22. Chicago Cubs
SBN Blog: Bleed Cubbie Blue
2010 record: 71-85
Last week's rank: 22
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 24
Sometimes in chaos, a pattern emerges: After winning just 67 games in 2002, the Cubs averaged 85.3 wins over the next three seasons. Then they went 66-96 in 2006, and averaged 88.3 wins from 2007-2009. By that pattern, 2010's down year (entering play Tuesday in fifth place) could be the precursor for another solid three-year run from 2011-2013. At least Carlos Zambrano seems to be back on track: after throwing seven shutout innings Monday, he has a 1.07 ERA over his last nine starts.
SBN Blog: True Blue LA
2010 record: 76-81
Last week's rank: 20
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 18
"I'm having a hard time remembering such a disappointing Dodger season," sighs True Blue LA, in particular fingering "the total failure of Kemp, Loney, and Broxton in the 2nd half." With five games left, Los Angeles has 19 fewer wins than in 2009, likely owning the biggest drop in the National League. Their offense scored only 16 runs last week, losing series to both San Diego and Arizona, and one senses the end can't come quickly enough in Chavez Ravine.
SBN Blog: Brew Crew Ball
2010 record: 73-82
Last week's rank: 23
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 19
After getting rained out Monday, the Brewers will cram a seven-game road trip into the season's final six days, including one last shot at revenge against the Reds. The Brewers are 2-9 against the Reds this season, and haven't won fewer than five games against a divisional opponent since going 3-13 against the Cardinals in 2003.
SBN Blog: Halos Heaven
2010 record: 76-80
Last week's rank: 17
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 23
Weekly Brandon Wood Update: Brandon Wood went to bed the night of September 15th with a .395 OPS on the year. He has since started ten consecutive games, and in those ten consecutive games, he's gone 3-33 with 13 strikeouts. His OPS currently sits at .389. His OPS has gotten worse. Peter Bourjos has an OPS of .584 and he's laughing his ass off right now.
18. Florida Marlins
SBN Blog: Fish Stripes
2010 record: 77-79
Last week's rank: 18
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 13
17. New York Mets
SBN Blog: Amazin' Avenue
2010 record: 76-79
Last week's rank: 19
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 20
Another crappy season has passed for the underachieving Mets, but not all is bad. Ike Davis has the highest WAR for a Mets' rookie (3.1), since Wins Above Replacement became a statistic. Josh Thole posted the highest OBP by a Mets' catcher since the Piazza Era. R.A. Dickey is giving ace-level starts with virtually no monetary commitment or injury risk. Carlos Beltran is hitting again, making his probable offseason departure more lucrative. And soon the Mets may have a new GM and manager, who can try and put a winning team around these guys.
SBN Blog: Athletics Nation
2010 record: 77-79
Last week's rank: 15
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 16
Chris Carter didn't pick up his first Major League hit until his 36th Major League plate appearance. All of a sudden, he's 7 for his last 19 with a home run and two walks. Other things I didn't realize: the A's are currently third in baseball in stolen bases - second in efficiency - and Daric Barton is barely 25. The A's have become a very different team over the years, but Barton and his league-leading 108 walks is a nice reminder of how things used to be.
SBN Blog: South Side Sox
2010 record: 83-73
Last week's rank: 16
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 17
Alex (nee Alexis) Rios enjoyed a nice start to his 2010 season, and early on did much to carry the Chicago offense along with Paul Konerko. More recently however, Rios has scuffled, hitting just .263/.303/.385 in his last 85 games. Yes, that time period is cherry-picked to look as bad as possible, but we're still talking about 85 games of non-production. It's quite likely that Rios will again post a sub-.800 OPS in 2010, just like he's done every season since 2007. While his glove is still a positive, it's also likely declining. It might be time, once again, to reconsider the wisdom of Kenny Williams taking on his contract.
14. Colorado Rockies
SBN Blog: Purple Row
2010 record: 83-73
Last week's rank: 7
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 8
Baseball-Reference.com's WAR rates Ubaldo Jimenez as the best pitcher in the division, while Troy Tulowitzki missed 33 games and is still the #2 position player. Their only sub-.500 month was an 11-12 April, but it looks like Colorado won't make the postseason. They've lost seven of the last eight, though only one by a margin of more than two runs, despite Tulowitzki's month for the ages. His line is .314/.369/.833 - that's a 1.203 OPS, with fifteen home-runs and forty driven in.
SBN Blog: Viva El Birdos
2010 record: 81-75
Last week's rank: 12
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 11
The Cardinals need one more win to clinch their tenth winning season in the last eleven years, but one more loss (or a Reds win) will knock them out of the playoffs for the third time in four years. It's weird to think of 7.2 wins above replacement (according to FanGraphs) as a down season, but it really is for Albert Pujols: it's his lowest total since 2002, and the second lowest of his ten major league seasons.
12. Detroit Tigers
SBN Blog: Bless You Boys
2010 record: 80-76
Last week's rank: 13
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 12
Remember when Rick Porcello was an exciting young prospect? By the end of 2009, he actually wasn't that super, and that's continued into 2010. To date, Porcello has made 57 career Major League starts and has a 4.46 ERA in a pitcher's park. His inability to get strikeouts in 2009 was a problem, and in 2010 his strikeout rate went down. At present, Detroit doesn't have a huge amount of upside as a squad for 2011, but they can be next year's Chicago if Porcello takes a step forward.
SBN Blog: Bluebird Banter
2010 record: 81-75
Last week's rank: 14
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 5
Who woke up the Jays? A 6-1 week has Toronto at 81 wins with six games still left to go. Sure, their wins came over Seattle and Baltimore, but they also beat the Yankees on Monday, Jose Bautista reached and then surpassed 50 homers, the rotation looks like one of the future's best, and Vernon Wells still hasn't disappeared on them. Next thing you know, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill might actually record hits on the same day!
10. Cincinnati Reds
SBN Blog: Red Reporter
2010 record: 87-69
Last week's rank: 11
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 15
It's been a long and unlikely road, but the Reds are just one win or a Cardinals loss away from their first playoff appearance since 1995 and their third in 31 years. Speaking of long droughts: Baseball-Reference lists Joey Votto as this season's most valuable Red at 6.1 wins above replacement. He's the first Red to crack six wins since Barry Larkin in 1996.
SBN Blog: Over The Monster
2010 record: 87-69
Last week's rank: 9
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 6
The Sox managed to keep the fat lady quiet for perhaps longer than anybody expected, but with a loss to the Yankees on Sunday, even the never-say-die contingent see the writing on the wall. Late-season award pushes by longshots Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are just about the only thing left to keep an eye on in Boston.
SBN Blog: Gaslamp Ball
2010 record: 87-69
Last week's rank: 10
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 7
They just won't go away, but it looks like any road to the post-season needs to go through San Francisco next weekend. San Diego gutted out two one-run wins over Cincinnati, including inflicting the first loss on Reds' warp-speed hurler, Aroldis Chapman. They kicked off a four-game home set against the Cubs with a loss on Monday, and will no doubt already be anticipating their trip to Northern California. But is young phenom Mat Latos done? He sports a gaudy 13.94 ERA over his past three starts.
SBN Blog: Talking Chop
2010 record: 88-69
Last week's rank: 5
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 4
Bobby Cox won't go out winning the N.L. East, at least, as he did for a bazillion straight years in the 90's.
With just a 0.5 game lead on the Padres for the Wild Card and two remaining games against the Marlins, the Braves are oddly in line for pulling a full-on Mets (leading the division >100 games, blowing playoff berth on the last game of the season, versus Marlins). Just kidding! But almost
SBN Blog: Lone Star Ball
2010 record: 87-69
Last week's rank: 6
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 9
You might say the Rangers are lucky, in that both they and the Red Sox are currently 87-69 yet only Texas will be making the playoffs, but the AL West is a weird, weird division, which is somehow allowed to have only four teams, and this is the kind of thing that can happen sometimes. The six games remaining in the Rangers' regular season are as meaningless as games can get. They're not playing for anything, the Mariners aren't playing for anything, and the Angels aren't playing for anything. It's just on Josh Hamilton to get healthy. Honestly, the Rangers might as well forfeit all six. It wouldn't make a difference. It might even help.
SBN Blog: McCovey Chronicles
2010 record: 88-68
Last week's rank: 8
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 14
San Francisco is sitting pretty on top of the division, with six home games to come this week. However, they have to get past three with Arizona before facing San Diego in what could conceivably be a best-of-three playoff for the division. Their pitching streak of 18 straight games allowing three runs or less ended at Coors - on the same day the new humidor regime went into effect. But the team still sports a staggering 1.84 ERA for the month; good job too, since the offense is hitting .230.
SBN Blog: Pinstripe Alley
2010 record: 93-64
Last week's rank: 3
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 2
After a four-game swoon against division rivals Tampa and Boston had some of the more reactionary fans starting to flash back to October 2004, an extra-innings win against Boston seems to have secured a playoff spot for the Bronx Bombers. How far they will go this year remains to be seen, however, with Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira being just about the only Yankees headed in the right direction as the playoffs draw near.
SBN Blog: Twinkie Town
2010 record: 92-64
Last week's rank: 1
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 3
Justin Morneau hasn't played since July 7th, and Ron Gardenhire hasn't exactly been enthusiastic about the possibility of him returning for the playoffs. There's been much discussion in football circles about changing attitudes towards concussions (and the cultural pushback against that change) but it isn't seen as much of a baseball issue. In Morneau's case, we have a former MVP, amidst a career season, missing essentially half a year due to a concussion, and it still doesn't appear to be that major a story. Then again, the Twins have gone 47-24 in his absence, which is simply staggering.
SBN Blog: The Good Phight
2010 record: 94-63
Last week's rank: 2
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 10
Well they did it again, riding an unbelievable September to a fourth straight N.L. East division crown. After losing Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley to injury, it seemed this might finally be the year the Phils watched the playoffs from home. They, obviously, had other ideas and have gone 20-5 (easy math: .800 W%) in September. As an outsider, one can only admire their persistence and seeming ability to be clutch as a team. For the Phillies and their fans, however, it's only only gonna get funner.
SBN Blog: DRays Bay
2010 record: 93-63
Last week's rank: 4
Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 1
The Rays continue to cling to a lead in the A.L. East, but can't seem to get any consistent results down the stretch. They're not just going back and forth between wins and losses, but between blowouts and shutouts. Still, that's kind of what the postseason is all about: getting hot at the right time. This is a team capable of winning it all without breaking a sweat.