Dismal attendance clouds Sunshine State baseball teams

"It has always been an unwritten law that if you win, the people will come. Winning, above all else, satisfies the answer to why baseball players make so much money. Winning is that fine cuisine for your hunger on why it costs hundreds of dollars to take your family out to the ball game.

"It just so happens that in a few major league cities, winning, and even more importantly, contending in heated pennant races is not enough to draw even a semi- packed stadium. At the head are the American League leading Tampa Bay Rays. The Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres all find themselves in similar positions. The Rays are 22nd in attendance and, with an opportunity to clinch a postseason berth, found themselves entertaining only 12,500 fans.

"The Rays’ David Price, Evan Longoria and Carlos Peña vocalized that it was an "embarrassment," and rightfully so. It is an embarrassment that people don’t go to see a winner. We all know they make millions. But we complain when they aren’t winning and use the fact that they aren’t winning as an excuse to get to the games.

"In response to the attendance on Wednesday, Sept. 29, the Rays front office is giving away 20,000 tickets to the Rays-Orioles game. 20,000 free tickets (let that set in). It is great for the fans, but let’s look at the bigger picture here.

"This isn’t about the Rays contending; it is a simple fact that Florida and baseball just do not belong. Since the Florida Marlins inaugural season in 1993, they have finished in the top half of the National League attendance just three times. That Included a second to last finish in 2003, when they won the World Series. The Rays have only finished in the top half of the American League once (1998. 7th place out of 14). This year the Rays are in first place in the American League, but only ninth place out of 14 in attendance. In 2008, when the Rays made a run to the World Series, they were ranked just 12th place out of 14.

"The problem will never be fully resolved until both the Marlins and Rays are moved out of the Sunshine State. Florida simply is not just a baseball state. It is great for spring training, but after that get, the game out of the state. Teams should be moved to places like Charlotte or Las Vegas. But until that happens, we will continue to watch contenders play in front of dismal crowds. Maybe old Bud Selig will get something right before his time as MLB Commissioner is up. Then again, maybe I can fly.

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