Baseball is back. It’s what fans have been craving after dealing with a pandemic and social injustice issues for the last few months. It’s the break from reality fans have been waiting for. Major League Baseball was the first of the four major sports to make a return since sports were cut off in mid-March. Baseball has also had a major problem with attendance steadily declining for the last five years. The sport had a great opportunity to make people forget about the real world for a bit. The Tampa Bay Rays certainly didn’t help baseball’s problem with their opening-day tweet.
Baseball’s attendance problem
For Major League Baseball, attendance has been a serious problem in the last several years. According to The Baseball Cube, Major League Baseball attendance dropped for the fifth straight season in 2019. The total attendance last year was 68,494,845, which was the lowest since the 2003 season.
For the second straight season, MLB attendance failed to reach 70 million. Attendance will clearly drop for the sixth straight season as zero fans are allowed to attend games because of the pandemic. Instead, things have turned Twilight Zone-like as several franchises are putting cutouts of fans in the stands and pumping in crowd noise.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been the biggest draw in baseball. For the seventh straight season, the Dodgers were tops in attendance. A year ago, the Dodgers brought in 3,974,309 fans and their numbers have increased since 2016. On the flip side, the Miami Marlins were embarrassingly low at 811,302 fans in 2019 and were at 811,104 in 2018.
Tampa Bay Rays struggling big time
It might be easy to see why the Miami Marlins have finished dead last in attendance in the last two seasons. The product on the field isn’t that good. They were far and away the worst team in the National League with a 57-105 record. The Pittsburgh Pirates were the closest team with the fewest wins with 69.
The Tampa Bay Rays, however, have been extremely competitive on the field. Last season, the team won 96 games and earned a postseason berth. In 2018, the Rays won 90 games. The Rays, however, have struggled mightily at the gate. Since 2012, the Rays have finished last in attendance five seasons.
Things have gotten so bad in Tampa, the Rays even flirted with playing some of their home games in Montreal. According to USA Today, the Rays sold 5,000 tickets to five June home games for $5 last season – for a team that was close to winning 100 games. In July last year, the Rays sold $2 tickets for a three-game July series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Tampa Bay’s tweet won’t solve any problems
On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays were opening their 2020 season. It’s tough to gauge how much hype there is for Rays baseball, but the team clearly didn’t think there was much. Instead of trying to pump up whatever fans they have, they came out with a political statement. The team tweeted, “Today is Opening Day, which means it’s a great day to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor.”
Political tweets and political stances have regularly become intertwined with professional sports. Teams and players are using their platform to raise awareness for their beliefs. It’s become the norm and it’s a good way to create dialogue. For the Tampa Bay Rays, however, it’s probably not the brightest move. It can’t do anything but hurt baseball’s already dwindling interest.
Many baseball fans have given Tampa’s tweet a thumbs-up. Many have ripped the team for its Twitter post. A baseball fan who believes politics should stay out of sports is likely to be irritated by the message and could possibly stop watching. It’s very unlikely, however, that a non-baseball fan will begin heading to the games to watch the Rays play because they liked the tweet. That message will do more harm than good and it’s not a smart move by a baseball team, especially one like the Tampa Bay Rays.