Monday, December 29, 2014

Attendance Review: 2007 Clearwater Threshers

Welcome to our second attendance review of the Clearwater Threshers. This post continues our series of looking back at trends in Tampa Bay area fan behavior since 2007. Today we look at the home attendance of the 2007 Clearwater Threshers.

Overview: The Clearwater Threshers began play in the Florida State League in 1985. The Threshers moved to Bright House Field in 2004. Bright House Field is also the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2013, the population of Clearwater was 109,703.

Clearwater Threshers 2007:

Home Games: 72

Total attendance: 166,359 (up 4.58% from 2006: 159,067)

Per Game Average: 2,483 (up 6.16% from 2006: 2,339)

Highest attended games: 8,906 on Tues, July 3rd vs Tampa

Lowest attended game: 1,163 on Sat, June 23 vs Jupiter

Lowest point of average attendance: April 13, Game 6 (2,307)

Double headers: 5 (April 11, May 12, Aug 15, Aug 31, Sep 1)

Cancellations: 0

Notable rehab assignments: Freddy Garcia, Antonio Bastardo, Tom Gordon

Other notable appearances: None

(red shading = below annual average of 2,483)


By Month:

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

By Day of the Week:

Threshers attendance increased 43% on the weekends compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 2,057
  • Fri-Sun average attendance: 2,949
  • Increase: 43.3%

The following graph depicts the average attendance by day.

The following chart shows how often each day outdrew the day prior.

By Opponent:

By Starting Pitcher:

This chart depicts how attendance reacted from one starter to the next. If a pitcher is a great draw, the percentage between he and the prior starter should be higher.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Attendance Review: 2013 Dunedin Blue Jays

Welcome to our 8th attendance review post on the Dunedin Blue Jays, minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. This post continues our series of looking back at trends in Tampa Bay area fan behavior since 2007.


The Dunedin Blue Jays began play in the Florida State League in 1987. After three seasons playing at Grant Field, the Dunedin Blue Jays moved to Florida Exchange Stadium in 1990. Florida Exchange Stadium is also the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays. The current population of Dunedin is 35,444.

Dunedin Blue Jays 2013:

Home Games: 68

Total attendance: 50,695 (down 4.51% from 2012: 53,091)

Average: 768 (down 7.47% from 2012: 830)

Highest attended game: 4,173 on Thursday, July 4th vs Clearwater

Lowest attended game: 206 on Sunday, July 7th vs Daytona

Low point of average attendance: Game 66, Aug 29th (753)

Double headers: 1 (Aug 13)

Cancellations: 1

Notable rehab assignments: Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, Josh Johnson, JA Happ, Darren Oliver

Other notable appearances: None

(red highlight = below annual average of 768)


By Month:

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

By Day:

Blue Jays attendance decreased 10% on the weekend compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 806
  • Fri-Sun average attendance: 726
  • Difference: -10%

The following graph depicts the average attendance by day.

The following chart looks at how often daily attendance increases when compared to the day prior.

By Opponent:

By Starting Pitcher:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Could City Council decision effect Rays attendance in 2015?

I am of the belief that a minimum level of fans will see baseball no matter what. No matter how bad the team is, no matter how bad ownership is, no matter how bad traffic is. A certain amount of hardcore fans will go.

Even in Montreal, when ownership, MLB, and other factors combined to submarine the once-respectable Expos, the team still drew 642,745 fans in 2001. Locally, when the Devil Rays were at their absolute worst, they still drew 1,058,695 in 2003. Even if we discount every fan who attended games versus the Red Sox and Yankees (364,330), there were still 694,365 fans in Tampa Bay who were willing to see the worst team with the worst ownership in the worst stadium in Major League Baseball.

Earlier this season, the ESPN Magazine Ultimate Team Rankings rated the 122 owners in the major four sports on honesty and loyalty to core players and local community. While the Miami Marlins, led by Jeffrey Loria, were 122nd, the Tampa Bay Rays placed 90th. The Tampa Bay Lightning were 18th.

If this poll was re-taken today, the Lightning would definitely be higher, the Marlins might be higher, and the Rays would probably be much lower. Not only have the Rays executed a drastic offseason personnel plan, but nothing has gone the team's way off the field either.

It is very possible the faith of the fanbase has been shaken. And that could affect attendance in 2015.

In 2002, the Charlotte Hornets fanbase was so riled up by its dislike of then-owner George Shinn, fans avoided Hornets games by the thousands. According to an Orlando Sentinel article,
"The dislike, the hatred, for George in this town right now is incredible," said Lynn Wheeler, a Hornets fan and city-council member who has supported him repeatedly in the past. "That's what this is all about. The people here still love the team, but the dislike for George is a stronger emotion. I don't agree with it, but I see it every day. And it's probably going to cost us all in the long run.''

Shinn and the Hornets are awaiting NBA approval on their application to relocate, citing a $1 million-a-month deficit and irreconcilable differences with the city, which repeatedly has turned down his demand for a new arena, and turned on his team to emphasize their distrust.

Could that happen to Stu Sternberg and the Rays? It is possible. Although with Shinn, the local animosity was personal. Blame for the Rays situation falls not only on the team, but also on the St. Pete City Council members who rejected the team's proposal to look at other locations in Tampa Bay in exchange for monetary compensation.

To the Rays advantage, baseball season is still months away. Their PR people have time to spin their perspective and their marketing team has time to pitch their message for the new season. They have time to get fans excited.

Faith in ownership is a factor in attendance. To what extent, it is tough to say. Fans don't take an ownership approval poll before buying tickets. But even if the team struggles, the ballpark experience isn't great, and the stadium remains isolated from the center of the region, if enough fans keep their dollars in their wallets, or spend their baseball money on other venues, it will be easy to sense their disapproval.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Could new Cuban relations have an impact on Tampa Bay baseball?

While Jeff Vinik was revealing his master plan for the Channelside area - a plan that includes hockey but not baseball - the national news was discussing the thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba, ending an over 50-year stalemate.

That Tampa's economic centers are ready to reap the benefits of increased opportunities with Cuba has been reported often over the last several years. After yesterday's news, there are even more people writing about the possibilities of new trade and new business opportunities.

According to the Tampa Bay Times,
Before the embargo, Cuba was Tampa Bay's biggest trading partner. Arthur Savage, president of longtime family shipping business A.R. Savage, envisions it mushrooming into a major trade partner again if this new era of normalization leads toward ending a decades-long embargo.

At the most basic level, that should result in more jobs and more income to the Tampa Bay area.

Increased relations with Cuba could also have an impact on baseball, not only in Tampa, but in Florida as a whole. As I wrote back in August, there is a long history of Cuban baseball in Tampa, from the early days of the Ybor City Cigar Teams to recent exhibitions between the University of Tampa and a Havana squad.

As people, goods, and ideas move from Tampa to Cuba, there is a possibility so too could baseball fandom. Although Cuba has its own baseball infrastructure, new telecommunications endeavors could mean new MLB fans. While the Marlins and Dodgers currently have the biggest MLB superstars of Cuban descent (Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig, respectively) the Rays would have a unique opportunity to win hearts and minds.

A new Rays stadium in or around Ybor City with an emphasis on Tampa's Cuban roots could go a long way. So too could hosting a Cuban Heritage Night with appearances by Cuban baseball players living in Tampa. Hosting exhibitions with Cuban teams could also help.

Of course, in years to come, MLB and Minor League Baseball could look to capitalize on the untapped Cuban market. While the first step would be to normalize amateur signing processes and remove human trafficking of athletes such as the aforementioned Puig, further steps could mean the return of Minor League Baseball and perhaps even Spring Training to Cuba.

Minor League Baseball traveling from Tampa to Havana is not unprecedented. According to,
Havana finally got minor league baseball in 1946 with the formation of the Class C Florida International League. In addition to the Cuban entry, the circuit consisted of teams in Tampa, Miami, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach and Lakeland.

The Havana club played in the FL International League until 1950, when it moved to the International League.

Spring Training in Cuba is not without precedent. According to, the New York Giants trained in Cuba in 1937; the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1941, 1942, and 1947; and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953.

Could a current team move their spring training and Florida State League affiliate to Havana? Depending on how normal relations become, I think so. I think the Yankees would jump on the opportunity. They have the money and the global brand presence. And if the Rays move to Tampa and play the territorial rights card, having their own spring training country would fit the Yankees style of thinking big.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dunedin and Blue Jays work towards a new stadium and agreement

While the Tampa Bay Rays stole the spotlight the last few weeks with their new manager and possibilities of relocation, another Tampa Bay area baseball club took a step towards their own long-term plans.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, new Dunedin mayor Julie Ward Bujalski met with officials of the Toronto Blue Jays to discuss the needs of the team and their chances of staying in Dunedin. The biggest hurdle for the team, according to the Times, is the need to either renovate Florida Auto Exchange Stadium or build a new stadium.

According to the Toronto Star, the Blue Jays have the option to extend their agreement with the City of Dunedin for two 5-year periods after 2017.

Unlike the Rays stadium ordeal, developments between the Blue Jays and the City of Dunedin will all be done behind closed doors.
In September 2013, the Jays sent a letter asking city officials to keep mum, citing a Florida law that threatens anyone who reveals the business plans of a private company that requests confidentiality with a misdemeanor.

It will be interesting to see how much public money will be going to cater to the Blue Jays, especially considering the Blue Jays low attendance levels.
As of August, Dunedin officials said they had been waiting about five months for the Jays to submit in writing a list of desired facility upgrades and cost estimate that the city can use to seek financial assistance from the county and state.

No doubt there are other facilities throughout the state clamoring for the same public dollars.

Despite the Blue Jays exploring other options and other Florida locations, the City of Dunedin remains supportive of the Blue Jays.
Bujalski said she and local baseball officials are planning festivities to celebrate the Jays' March 3 spring training opener. She said the chamber of commerce is gathering a delegation to once again travel to Toronto to show support during the team's first home game in April.

The Toronto Star also reports Dunedin has also become a favorite of retiring Blue Jays fans.
the Toronto fan base is likely very happy to be staying in the Tampa Bay area. Many long-time Jays fans purchased real estate in Dunedin, Palm Harbor or Clearwater years ago

Dunedin is one of the smallest cities in America with Minor League Baseball with a population of approximately 35,000.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Estimating Rays attendance if they move to Tampa

In light of the pending decision to possibly let the Rays look for locations for a new stadium in Hillsborough County, one of the biggest questions is "Will it matter?". Specifically, assuming TV and radio ratings stay the same, will a new ballpark have a significant effect on long-term attendance?

(We have look at long-term attendance because many studies have identified a "honeymoon effect", in which the allure of a new stadium spikes attendance, even if the team's on-the-field quality is poor. A new stadium has attraction value for its first few years.)

Bobby Lewis of tried to make the case that following a honeymoon effect, attendance to Rays home games might return to Tropicana Field levels. Lewis cited examples in Washington, Minnesota, and Miami as reasons for his case.

I disagree. Besides the fact that every market is unique and each faces its own challenges and situations, there is statistical reason to believe the Rays will do better in more central location.

In order to understand how the Rays might do in a new location, we have to look at how other sports teams do in that location. For example, if the Rays move to a location near Channelside or between Channelside and Ybor, they would be drawing from the same population base as the Tampa Bay Lightning. The population radii would be similar and travel to each stadium would be similar.

Currently, population radius and travel to the stadium are the biggest points people use in argument against Tropicana Field. According to the argument, these factors, combined with time length of the event, cause people to stay home instead of attend a Rays game. After working 9-to-5, they opt not to travel to the ballpark. Instead, they opt to go on the weekends.

(Average time of the event: MLB - slightly over 3 hours / NHL - 2 hours and 20 minutes)

Here is a breakdown of the Rays attendance during the week and on the weekends since 2007. For giggles, I also included the percentage of games versus Boston and New York played on the weekend.

A few things we see here:

First and foremost, since 2007, the Rays have drawn over 38% more people for weekend games than on weekday games. Only in 2008 was their weekend/weekday difference below 20%. In 2007 and 2014, the Rays drew over 50% more people for weekend games than weekday games.

Second, while the Rays average attendance on the weekends hasn't changed much since 2011, average weekday attendance has steadily dropped, from 17K in 2011 to 14K in 2014.

Here is a breakout of the Lightning attendance on weekdays and weekends since the 2007-2008 season.

Although their capacity is much smaller (only 19,204 compared to over 30,000 for Tropicana Field), the Lightning difference in weekend/weekday attendance is drastically smaller. Since the 2007-2008 season, the average weekday game draws 95% of the attendance of the average weekend game.

Even more shocking is the Lightning average weekday attendance has been above the Rays average weekday attendance every year since 2011. The Lightning have averaged over 18K on weekdays each year while the Rays haven't topped the 18K weekday average since 2010.

Since most polls claim MLB is more popular than the NHL in Tampa Bay, how else to explain this but location, location, location.

If the Rays were to move to Tampa in a location near Amalie Arena, we can estimate attendance during the week would be equal to the Lightning, if not more. Of course, demographic and income studies could clarify this, and I intend to get to those eventually.

But using the MLB average of a 20% increase in weekend attendance, and estimating MLB attendance based on the highest Tampa Bay NHL attendance, we can give the Rays a very safe, very preliminary estimated attendance.

(Note: We cannot assume due to a new Rays stadium location that weekday attendance would be 95% of weekend attendance as it is for the Lightning. In 2014, only 5 teams had a less than 5% weekend/weekday difference: the Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, Angels, and the Dodgers. Of these teams, only the Cardinals had a 30-minute population radius under 2 million.

There is no feasible way baseball passion in the Tampa Bay area will mirror baseball passion in St. Louis. Tampa Bay sports demographics are far too fragmented to create a Cardinals-like fanbase. So the 5% difference is beyond reach.)

If the Rays can draw 19,000 per weekday to a new downtown Tampa location, and if they achieve only the MLB average of a 20% increase on weekends, then:

19,000 x 43 games = 817,000

19,000 x 20% = 22,800

22,800 x 38 = 866,400

Total attendance = 1,683,400

As mentioned, this is a very low estimate. But it would move the Rays to 28th in 2014 MLB attendance.

If we use the Rays 2007-2014 weekend/weekday average increase of 38%, Rays attendance looks a bit better.

19,000 x 43 = 817,000

19,000 x 38% = 26,220

26,220 x 38 = 996,360

Total attendance: 1,813,360

This total would move the Rays to 26th in 2014 MLB attendance. Again, this is also a very conservative number that does not calculate for demographics, regional income, and corporate support, and barely accounts for the difference in popularity between Major League Baseball and the NHL.

But there is clear and justifiable reason to believe attendance will increase if a new Rays stadium is in the vicinity of Amalie Arena.

The question now is: Is that increase worth the cost of moving?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Future of Baseball in St Petersburg

There are plaques lining Central Avenue, a main thoroughfare in St. Petersburg, that tell of the city's baseball history.

The St Petersburg Saints played their first game in 1902.

The Philadelphia Phillies spring trained in St. Petersburg from 1915-1918.

The Saints joined the Florida State League in 1920.

There are neighborhood practice fields named after Miller Huggins and Casey Stengel, managers of the Yankees when they trained in St. Petersburg from 1924-1942, 1946-1950, and 1952-1960.

The largest private collection of autographed baseballs in the world is in St. Petersburg.

The city was flirted with and then fought to bring Major League Baseball to the area.

Minor League Baseball ended in St. Petersburg in 2000, when the Devil Rays decided to move their affiliate to Bakersfield, California.

In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays moved their Spring Training from St. Petersburg to Port Charlotte.

Earlier this year, Al Lang Stadium, home to baseball since 1946, was sold off to soccer.

Soon, the Rays might enter a deal that would mark the end of professional baseball in St. Petersburg.

What would Al Lang think?

(I've shared this video before, but it's one of my favorite videos on youtube.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rays, Tampa, and MLB Territorial Rule 52

Pending approval by the City of St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Rays have been given permission to look for new ballpark locations outside of St. Petersburg. For years, the organization hoped for the ability to look across the bay in Tampa and other locations. Now, pending approval, they might have that chance.

Here is where things could get very interesting:

If the Rays do move to Tampa, or anywhere more central to the Tampa Bay population, their "home territory" changes. According to the SoxProspects Wiki,
  • Each MLB and MiL team shall have protected territorial rights over a specific geographic area called a home territory.
  • The home territories are outlined in Attachment 52 to the ML Rules
  • Home territories of minor league clubs may be owned and granted by the leagues.
  • No team may play home games within 15 miles from the boundary of the home territory of another team, unless specifically expected.

Bullet 4 is interesting, especially considering there is a Minor League team in Tampa. Let's look at the current 15-mile radius of Steinbrenner Field (map created on

The red dot in the lower left is the current location of Tropicana Field. Notice it is not in Steinbrenner Field's 15-mile radius. But move the Rays anywhere in Tampa and there is a conflict.

What does Rule 52 says about overlapping Territorial Rights? (Again, from the SoxProspects wiki.)
  • An overlap exists if boundaries overlap or are within 15 miles of one another.
  • Overlap between MLB and MiL team – (1) neither club’s ballpark may be within 15 miles of the boundary of another home territory; and (2) home territories may not be shared without consent of the MLB club unless the ballpark is 50+ mile from the MLB club’s boundaries.
  • Overlap between MiL teams – governed by the Minor League Association

"Consent of the MLB club".

According to Doug Pappas, chairman of the Society of American Baseball Research's Business of Baseball Committee,
Rule 52 allows a major league club to block any other major or minor league clubs from playing within 15 miles of its territory without permission.

Would the Rays give permission to the Yankees to continue playing Minor League baseball and Spring Training in the Rays home territory?

Currently, the Yankees current lease on Steinbrenner Field extends to 2027. As I mentioned in a September post,
if the City of Tampa clears area for the Rays to move across the bridge, would they let the Yankees go? Would the Rays make moving the Yankees a condition in moving to Tampa? Would the Yankees willingly move?

Or would the Tampa Sports Authority try to have their cake and eat it too, balancing both the top drawing Spring Training team and a Major League team who, by the way, are division rivals? Would they keep the Rays in a crowded market?

I think it would disingenuous for the Tampa Sports Authority to want the Rays and the Yankees to call Tampa home. Would the TSA even have a say in the matter if the Rays exercised Rule 52?

If the Rays find a location, and if a new stadium is built, would their claim depend on how many years remain on the Steinbrenner Field lease? Would the Rays let the Yankees stay in Tampa until they get a new park built? Where would the Yankees move to (Orlando? Vero Beach? Ocala?)?

Things are about to get very interesting in the Tampa baseball market.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Rays Front Office Employee Learns about St Pete

According the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Rays employee Stephon Thomas recently finished the Leadership St Pete program. Hosted by the St Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce,
The program is a six-month experience designed to promote and enhance community leadership, according to a statement from the Chamber. Participants get an in-depth introduction to social, economic, business and political issues in the St. Petersburg area.

Thomas works in the Rays office of Development and Business Affairs. He is the Manager of Business Operations for the team.

Like their community charity work, the development of the Rays Card and membership, and the marketing of their new manager as a local product, the enrollment of a Rays employee in a half-year St Pete Chamber of Commerce program is evidence the organization is trying to deepen its bonds with the local community.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

New Rays Stadium Locations Explored by Tampa Bay Times

I don't get into the stadium talk too much on this site. There is a reason for that. Noah Pransky's Shadow of the Stadium blog has been covering the issue for years and he is much more knowledgeable on the subject than I could ever be.

However, that said, I did want to share a recent Tampa Bay Times article on the stadium situation that I found particularly interesting. Times writers Stephen Nohlgren, Richard Danielson and Jamal Thalji teamed up to write a long feature on where in Tampa a new baseball stadium might fit and where the construction of a stadium stands a chance. Remember: just because you can fit a stadium somewhere, doesn't mean the legal hoops can be jumped or that the owner of that parcel would want it there.

While Nohlgren, Danielson, and Thalji cover space and legality, they don't talk at all about cost. I am sure that would be an article for another day.

And I am sure Shadow of the Stadium will have his own responses to the article. But I highly recommend reading, if only to get a good idea of the situation.

Options for a Rays Stadium in Tampa - Tampa Bay Times

Friday, December 5, 2014

Rays announce Kevin Cash as new manager

On Friday afternoon, the Rays announced that Kevin Cash as their new manager. The team decided on Cash over Don Wakamatsu.

Last week, we looked at how the Rays might be able to market their new manager and how he could replace Joe Maddon as a presence in the community. Of the three candidates at the time, Cash had the best potential. Besides his high baseball acumen, Cash's Tampa baseball roots run deep.

Just by taking the helm, Cash continues a legacy of Tampa managers. According to Bill Chastain of
He also becomes the sixth Tampa-born manager in Major League history, and the second for the Rays, joining Lou Piniella (whom Cash played for in 2005), Hall of Famers Al Lopez and Tony La Russa, Dave Miley and John Hart.

That's a lot of baseball brains from the Tampa Bay area.

I don't expect Cash to be a full-time mascot and community representative. That's not his job. Nor will he have the same type of allure for the wine-and-cheese, Bayshore Blvd demographic that Joe Maddon had. But Cash provides a lot marketing potential, both in the "homecoming" narrative now and in the future with local connections and outreach.

Seeing how the Rays use that to their advantage will be interesting. Will they allow Cash to be public for a few months and then reel him back in to get him started on his managerial education? I would assume there will be a lot of behind-the-scenes mentoring and learning the organization going on.

Over the last few years, the Rays have emphasized deepening the bonds with the community and their fanbase, whether though community service or through Rays Card memberships and benefits. The hiring of Kevin Cash, besides bringing in one of the best young leaders in baseball, continues that theme.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rays concessions relationship gives another black eye

A few days ago, the Tampa Bay Times wrote about a rehab center/homeless shelter that provides people with work but may not be paying them for their labor. The Tampa Bay Times claims the workers provided by New Beginnings worked at several sports facilities in Tampa Bay as well as at the Daytona 500.
While his other work-for-shelter businesses have floundered, Atchison can count on one steady source of income: sporting events. Atchison declined to say how much money New Beginnings makes working games, but acknowledged it's a "substantial portion of our budget."

Since the article first ran, New Beginnings seems to be facing increased scrutiny. According to a follow-up article, investigators are preparing to examine the organization.

Of course, concession employees are not Rays employees. As Cork Gaines pointed out,
The concessions are run by another company, Center Plate and they claim they were unaware that the homeless men were not being paid. If they didn’t know, it is almost certain that the Rays were unaware also.

Despite their distance, the Rays released a statement regarding their relationship. According to the Tampa Bay Times,
"We have spoken with Centerplate and voiced our concerns," the Rays statement said. "They have advised us that they are conducting an internal review of this organization and should reach a decision soon. We are confident they will handle this matter appropriately."

This isn't the first time the Rays have been on the defense regarding Centerplate operations. Last summer, Centerplate CEO Desmond Hague was removed from his position after a video of him kicking a dog surfaced. A few years earlier, Tropicana Field concessions were cited for multiple violations.

Back in 2010, the Rays refused to comment on Centerplate's actions. Now, they are in front of the issue. That's a good sign.

We will see how the Rays and other sports teams in the area continue to respond to this situation.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Attendance Review: 2012 Dunedin Blue Jays

Welcome to our 7th attendance review post on the Dunedin Blue Jays, minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. This post continues our series of looking back at trends in Tampa Bay area fan behavior since 2007.


The Dunedin Blue Jays began play in the Florida State League in 1987. After three seasons playing at Grant Field, the Dunedin Blue Jays moved to Florida Exchange Stadium in 1990. Florida Exchange Stadium is also the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays. The current population of Dunedin is 35,444.

Dunedin Blue Jays 2012:

Home Games: 70

Total attendance: 53,091  (up 23% from 2011: 43,148)

Average: 830 (up 27% from 2011: 654)

Highest attended game: 4,653 on Wednesday, July 4th vs Daytona

Lowest attended game: 406 on Sunday, August 5th vs Daytona

Low point of average attendance: Game 16, May 9th (678)

Double headers: 3 (Jun 25, Aug 28, Aug 29)

Cancellations: 2

Notable rehab assignments: Vladimir Guerrero (May 27 - May 30)

Other notable appearances: None

(red highlight = below annual average of 830)


By Month:

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

By Day:

Blue Jays attendance increased 3% on the weekend compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 824
  • Sat-Sun average attendance: 867
  • Difference: +3%

The following graph depicts the average attendance by day.

The following chart looks at how often daily attendance increases when compared to the day prior.

By Opponent:

By Starting Pitcher:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Marketability of the Rays managerial candidates

Over the last month, the Rays have been a very public search for a new manager. As mentioned by Cork Gaines, this publicness has given us a little bit of insight into how the Rays are thinking - what's important to the front office and what direction they are going.

Recently, we have seen the Rays put a lot of emphasis on building ties with the local community and fanbase. Many times over the past year, they have promoted their volunteer work, built playgrounds, pushed ticket package membership awards, and most recently, made sure they continue Joe Maddon's Thanksmas tradition.

Years ago, the Rays front office thought winning was the best way to build a fanbase. Of course, winning helps, but winning hearts and minds is equally important, if not moreso. Especially in an area with a sports demographic as diverse as Tampa Bay. The Rays have to provide incentive to be Rays fans. A bond with the community helps immensely.

There is reason to believe the Rays emphasis on community is also leaking into their managerial search.

Let's look at each of remaining candidates (pictures taken from the Rays twitter account):

Don Wakamatsu:

Kevin Cash:

Raul Ibanez:

We all know Don Wakamatsu has the most managerial experience of the three. He is the only one with any time as a manager. But Wakamatsu's profile is missing something. There is no mention of community. His profile only mentions baseball-related facts.

Of course, many might say that doesn't matter. What matters is what happens on the field. But besides guiding a winner, Joe Maddon was a big presence in the community. The Rays are probably looking for the same quality in their next manager. Someone to be a face of the franchise.

Which brings us to Cash and Ibanez.

As his profile says, Cash is not only a Tampa native, but a Tampa high school grad and a Florida State University alumnus. The profile doesn't mention Cash also represented Tampa in the Little League World Series in 1989, and according to a Tampa Bay Times article from 2005, his wife is from Gainesville and they owned a home in Tampa. Cash's local ties run deep. Marketing him to the local community would be easy.

While he would need time to learn how to manage and I don't expect him to be more mascot than manager, once he gets in the groove, expect to see Cash make many appearances in the area. He could kick off Little League Opening Day, appear at his old high school, and with thousands of FSU alumni in Tampa Bay, FSU Day/Night at Tropicana Field becomes a bigger event. As well, Cash could become a big part of the Tampa Baseball Museum, which is due to open in the next year.

(Disclaimer: I am one of the thousands of FSU alumni.)

Although he doesn't have Cash's direct Tampa roots, hiring Ibanez provides interesting, although different, marketing options. According to an article from January, while in Seattle, Ibanez was involved with:
  • The annual Mariners Care Cystic Fibrosis Golf Tournament
  • The Page Ahead Children's Literacy Program, which works to make books available to at-risk children throughout the state of Washington
  • Refuse to Abuse, the Mariners' partnership with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • The Make-A-Wish Foundation
  • Boys & Girls Clubs
  • Seattle Children's Hospital
  • Treehouse
  • Covenant House Pennsylvania
  • Project H.O.M.E.

Additionally, while not Tampa specific, Ibanez grew up in Florida, and attended high school and college in Miami. Ibanez's parents are also from Cuba and Tampa's Cuban baseball influence runs deep. Marketing Ibanez to Tampa's Cuban community would be easy. A few months ago, I mentioned the Rays should do more to reach out to Tampa's Cuban community. Hiring Ibanez achieves that reach.

Strangely omitted from this discussion is that the Rays don't actually play in Tampa, nor anywhere near the Cuban part of Tampa Bay. They play in St. Petersburg and will continue to do so for the immediate future. But perhaps employing Cash or Ibanez and exploiting their bonds will help win some hearts and minds over the next few years. Then in a few years, maybe, just maybe, if the team gets a new stadium on the other side of the bay, and if either of the two are still employed by the Rays, the organization can fully exploit those bonds.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rays begin selling flex packs for 2015 season

I talked quite a bit about the Rays flex pack initiative last season. 2014 was the first season the Rays began selling the Rays Cards and associated ticket packages. From what we can gather, the flex packs sold quite well - over 20,000 as of May 15. They had sold 10,000 prior to the season as of mid-March.

Since the Rays sold flex packs until 7/13, and they sold approximately 5,000 per month for the first few months of the season, we might be able to estimate they sold another 5,000 between 5/15 and 7/13. That would mean the Rays sold 30,000 flex packs in 2014.

Not bad.

We also know 2/3 of season ticket holders use the Rays Membership cards and 1/10 of all tickets checked in were through the cards. That's a great start. Fans are getting discounts on purchases and the Rays are getting deeper knowledge on their fans' spending habits.

As of yesterday, 2015 flex packs are now available for purchase. It will be interesting to again chart how well the promotion does. Of course, gone is the flexing marketing muscle of David Price and Joe Maddon. Will the Rays use Kevin Kiermeier on the billboards to replace Maddon's smiling visage? What about Wil Myers? Chris Archer? Zobrist? Longoria?

How many new flex pack buyers will there be? How many will renew and merely add games to their old cards?

It would be really interesting if more than area sports team combined to make a joined flex pack. With the Lightning and the Storm also offering versions of flex packs, perhaps a user can put money on the card and use the same membership account number to buy tickets on any team's website. Call it a Team Tampa Bay Card.

This season I would also like to chat with a scalper or scrape data from StubHub to see how ticket cards are affecting the secondary market. With tickets bought on a card and not via a paper ticket, there is no ability to re-sell a ticket. No ability to re-sell means no scalping on StubHub. Right now, every game in the 2015 season has 236 to 224 tickets available on StubHub. Is this less than in years prior? Is that because of the flex packs or is it because of reduced or increased demand for tickets?

These are questions I would assume the Rays marketing team knows the answers to. At least I hope they do.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Change in the Rays Front Office Mentality

Last month, I opined on Rays owner Stu Sternberg's public comments on the environment of the Rays front office. In response to the departure of former front office employee Andrew Friedman, Sternberg said,
The level of confidence wasn’t that great to begin with. Year to year, it’s not that great. Given the hand that we’re dealt and how we go at it, it’s half a miracle that we get done what we get done and get to where we get to. Having said that, if Andrew were here and we weren’t having this phone call today and the Rays were just moving along, I wouldn’t have a lot of confidence that we were going to become a 90-win team next year like we had been for a period of time, either.

My opinion of these comments were that they were terribly timed and that saying the front office isn't confident does not give a warm and fuzzy feeling to a fanbase that is sometimes tepid. Especially with the stadium and relocation clouds swirling overhead.

Fortunately for the fanbase, we get a reading on the Rays front office via an article by Richard Justice on
"New challenges are invigorating, and I feel invigorated," new team president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said. "I think our entire department feels invigorated by this opportunity."


That's a word the fanbase needs to hear. Invigorated is a positive word. Fans want to hear positivity, optimism, hope, and potential. Those are ideas that sell tickets. Fans can rally around the idea that despite the setbacks, the team and the organization is still positive.

Yes, they still play in Tropicana Field. Yes, Tropicana Field is not perfect. Yes, there is hope in that department as well. But the reality is the Trop is home for the next few years at least. It is what they do despite their obstacles that gives hope.

And if the level of confidence drops again, maybe it is time to get some fresh blood in the system. Someone who will set up to the challenges and not get frustrated by realities that aren't going to change any time soon.

Maybe the change that happened was a change that was needed.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Attendance Review: 2011 Dunedin Blue Jays

Welcome to our 6th attendance review post on the Dunedin Blue Jays, minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. This post continues our series of looking back at trends in area fan behavior.


The Dunedin Blue Jays began play in the Florida State League in 1987. After three seasons playing at Grant Field, the Dunedin Blue Jays moved to Florida Exchange Stadium in 1990. Florida Exchange Stadium is also the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays. The current population of Dunedin is 35,444.

Dunedin Blue Jays 2011:

Home Games: 69

Total attendance:  43,148 (up 16.86% from 2010: 36,892)

Average: 654 (up 13.54% from 2010: 576)

Highest attended game: 3,064 on Sunday, April 24th vs Daytona

Lowest attended game: 316 on Wednesday, June 1st vs Palm Beach

Low point of average attendance: Game 7, April 15th (577)

Double headers: 3 (Aug 11, Aug 25, Sep 2)

Cancellations: 0

Notable rehab assignments: Corey Patterson, Scott Posednik, Aaron Hill, Jayson Nix, Alex Rodriguez (TY)

Other notable appearances: None

(red highlight = below annual average of 654)


By Month:

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

By Day:

Blue Jays attendance increased 39% on the weekends compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 547
  • Sat-Sun average attendance: 892
  • Difference: +39%

The following graph depicts the average attendance by day.

The following chart looks at how often daily attendance increases when compared to the day prior.

By Opponent:

By Starting Pitcher:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Comparing Rays Attendance to Tampa Bay Area Minor League Attendance2005-2014

Last week, I looked at trends in Tampa Bay area Minor League attendance since 2005. Since 2005, total Tampa Bay area Minor League attendance has increased 89%, from 249,125 to 471,212. Today, I want to add the Tampa Bay Rays attendance to the mix to see how the two entities relate, if there is any correlation, and find the total amount of people attending baseball in the Tampa Bay area from April to October.

Before I begin, let me address one issue that I know will be brought up. There is a belief that Minor League Baseball is an "inferior good" - that is, demand will go up when income goes down. In the Tampa Bay area, Minor League Baseball is vastly cheaper than Major League Baseball. While the cheapest ticket to a Rays game is $12-$15 dollars, Tampa Bay area Minor League teams charge between $4-$6 for a ticket. Parking at Tropicana Field and the surrounding area can cost anywhere between $5 and $20. Parking at area Minor League stadiums or fields costs $0 to $5.

However, this is an individual event comparison. When looking at the entire season, we have to look at the quantity of games attended. For example, a family of four could attend one Rays game for $60-$100. Or they could attend 2 to 3 Minor League games for the same price.

(Note: Most Minor League teams in the area have regular ticket discounts - sometimes free - and regular concession discounts that increase the appeal for area fans.)

For a family looking just for entertainment and not tied to the emotion of winning or losing, Minor League Baseball more times a year for the same price is a more cost-efficient option and gives them more bang for their buck. This is indisputable.

The following chart shows Rays winning percentage, Rays attendance, Tampa Bay area Minor League attendance, and the Rays percentage of total area attendance for each year from 2005 to 2014.

(Note: Although we are giving a cursory look at the relationship between the Rays attendance and winning percentage, I am assuming no correlation between winning and attendance for Minor League Baseball.)

Click to enlarge.

The following graph depicts the attendance data of the chart.

There is a lot going on here, so let's take it year by year.

2006: Devil Rays attendance increased (despite a worse record) and Minor League attendance also increased. Overall, Tampa Bay area baseball attendance increased over 19%.

2007: Devil Rays won more games, their attendance went up, and Minor League Baseball also increased. Overall, Tampa Bay baseball attendance increased nearly 4%.

2008: The Rays went from worst to first and won their division. As a result of their winning ways and team image, Rays attendance increased over 30%. Throughout the Tampa Bay area, Minor League attendance dropped over 10%. Due to the Rays vast increase, overall Tampa Bay area baseball attendance increased 22.5%.

2009: Rays attendance continued to climb, despite a drop in winning percentage. (Perhaps attributed to the 2008 buzz and afterglow, per Maury Brown of Biz of Baseball). Meanwhile, Tampa Bay area Minor League Baseball attendance decreased nearly 2%. The Rays attendance increase and Minor League decrease gave the Rays their largest percentage of total Tampa Bay baseball attendance (86.29%) in our examined time frame.

2010: The Bradenton Marauders began play in McKechnie Field. Across the Skyway Bridge, the Rays drew approximately 10,000 less people to Tropicana Field despite a better record. Lead by the Marauders, Minor League attendance increased over 21%, and the largest amount of total fans in our examination attended Tampa Bay area baseball, over 2.2 million.

2011: Minor League attendance again increased over 20%, led by another Marauders' attendance surge. The Rays attendance decreased 18% and the Rays' percentage of total attendance dropped over 6%, from 83% to slightly over 77%.

2012: The Rays winning percentage decreased, their attendance increased, and their percentage of total Tampa Bay baseball attendance increased. Tampa Bay Minor League Baseball attendance also increased slightly. Overall, area baseball attendance increased a bit below 2%.

2013: Rays attendance dropped 3%, despite a higher winning percentage. Area Minor League Baseball attendance continued to increase. The Rays percentage of total Tampa Bay attendance decreased almost 1%.

2014: Last season, Rays winning percentage dropped considerably. As well, Rays attendance dropped to its lowest point since 2007. Led by a 13% increase in the Clearwater Threshers' attendance and an 18.4% increase in Dunedin Blue Jays attendance, Tampa Bay area Minor League attendance increased over 4%. The rise in Minor League attendance and decrease in the Rays attendance gave the Rays their lowest percentage of total attendance in our examined time frame.

From 2005 to 2007, four out of five area baseball attendees visited Tropicana Field. From 2008 to 2010, this number increased to five of every six. In 2014, this number was barely three of four.

Minor League presence or popularity is not the only factor affecting Rays attendance. Far from it. There are many other factors to be considered, from economic to demographic to marketing efforts (2006?, 2008?) to considerable swings in their winning percentage (2008?, 2014?). This site will look at all these factors in time. However, based on this study, we can definitely say Tampa Bay area Minor League Baseball has had some impact on the attendance of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Response to Dan Drezner’s "Tampa Bay Rays / President Obama"Comparison

Ever since I started reading blogs, I’ve been a fan of Professor Dan Drezner. Through three or more locations, his blogging on International Affairs and politics has given me some interesting food for thought on numerous occasions. I remember reading his zombie posts before they were a book and reviewed his “International Affairs and Zombies" book on my personal blog.

I even wrote him for career advice.

So it was with great curiosity yesterday that I read his “Meet Barack Obama, the Tampa Bay Rays of Presidents” post on the Washington Post website. In an attempt to describe the 2014 midterm elections, Drezner uses the Rays as an analogy for President Obama. According to Drezner, the Rays were a good team, hence people should have gone to their games and likewise, the US has had some success in recent years, hence people should have cut the President’s party more slack instead of bouncing many of them out of office.

Makes sense on paper.

Unfortunately, there are problems with this analogy. Drezner almost identifies one problem without even knowing it. In the second paragraph of his post, Drezner writes “As a diehard Boston Red Sox fan, I have come to loathe the Rays.”

Drezner is from the New England area and currently teaches at Tufts University. He is a Boston sports fan. I am sure no matter where he lives or teaches, be it at the University of Chicago, the University of Colorado, or anywhere else his career takes him, he will always be a Red Sox fan.

Even if he lived in the Tampa Bay area.

Even if the Rays went 162-0.

No amount of Rays victories would sway Dan Drezner to give up his Boston allegiances, buy Rays season tickets, don a Rays hat, and ring a cowbell. As a matter of fact, if he lived in the Tampa Bay area, Drezner might hate the Rays even more.

To use a Foreign Policy analogy, as a Red Sox fan, Drezner would be an irrational actor in the Tampa Bay area. A rational actor would root for the team that provided the most emotional satisfaction for the lowest cost - in other words, the team that had cheaper tickets and won more games.

(Note: in the seven seasons since 2008, the Rays have had a better record than the Red Sox five times.)

But fans are not rational. If they were, there would be no Chicago Cubs or New York Mets fans.

Unfortunately, US politics has become – or always has been, depending on who you ask – a team-viewed affair. The “Us” vs “Them” narrative is preached by parties and the cable news media (looking at you, Fox and MSNBC). In a perfect world, all voters would look at the facts, and vote on accomplishments or potential, and not along party line.

But that’s not reality. Remember, some fans only vote for their favorite team’s players on their All-Star ballots. If he lived in the Tampa Bay area, Drezner would probably vote for David Ortiz. He might even vote Brock Holt over Evan Longoria.

Beyond the “rational” and “irrational” argument, the foundation Drezner bases his analogy on is not entirely correct. He repeats the well-used idea that winning equals attendance. In some cases, yes, it does. There is evidence to that effect. According to economist J.C. Bradbury,
(A) 0.1 increase in winning percentage (e.g., going from .500 to .600 team) is associated with increasing season attendance by about 170,000 fans per year, or about 2,000 fans per game.

But – and here is the problem - Bradbury and Drezner assume an established fanbase. In 2008, Professor Michael Davis of the Missouri University of Science and Technology studied the link between winning and attendance for several Major League teams. While he found there was a correlation, he stated one huge disclaimer:
(O)ne way in which these teams are not representative is that they were the teams that were able to survive in their markets for a long time. The teams that chose to relocate or were expansion teams might exhibit a different set of behaviors.

In 1998, when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays started play, the Tampa Bay area was not an empty slate for baseball. Much of the population was already biased due to Spring Training, the Florida State League, Super Station broadcasts, or allegiances brought from other markets. Keep in mind, in 2000, 8% of Florida residents were from New York and 8% were from other states in the Northeast. Many of them were baseball fans before they got to Florida.

To use a political analogy, there are strong Republican states and strong Democratic states. Then there are swing states, where personality, results, and marketing have more sway. The idea that the Devil Rays’ presence would automatically create a robust fanbase assumed Tampa Bay was an easily won “swing state” for baseball.

Now, with a mix of a good product and good marketing, the Rays can win the easily swayed fan, but what about the ardent supporter of another philosophy? What about the Tampa Bay resident who passes a non-native philosophy to their children? What about the resident who roots for the Yankees and visits Steinbrenner Field in the heart of Tampa every spring? The Rays could take an ISIS-like approach and destroy or attack “infidels” in their area. Or they could build a coalition of the willing among local businesses, charities, and organizations; deepen the bonds they have with local supporters; and try to win hearts and minds one at a time.

Am I missing anything?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tampa Bay Area Minor League Baseball Attendance Trends 2005-2014

Today we will look at the trends of each Tampa Bay Minor League team over the last 10 years.

Since 2005, attendance for Minor League Baseball in the Tampa Bay area has increased 89%. Total attendance in 2014 was 222,087 fans higher than 2005's total attendance.

After a slight drop in 2008 and 2009, Minor League Baseball in Tampa Bay has soared in popularity. Although a considerable part of the 2010 gain is the addition of the Bradenton Marauders, the rest of the teams in the area have also seen steady increases over the last 10 years. As we will see in later charts, Bradenton attendance not only bumped attendance in 2010, but also in 2011. Since the creation of the Marauders, total area Minor League attendance has increased every year.

Let's look at each team in alphabetical order by city.

Bradenton Marauders 2010-2014

After their incredible increase from 2010 to 2011, Marauders' attendance has been relatively stable from 2011 to 2014. The following graph depicts the Marauders' attendance trend since 2010.

Clearwater Threshers 2005-2014

In 2014, the Threshers had the second highest total attendance in Florida State League history. Their 13% increase from 2013 could be greatly attributed to their increased promotional schedule, with post-game concerts, firework nights, and other promotions. Before 2014, Threshers attendance had seen small gains most years since 2007.

The following graph depicts the Threshers steady attendance gain.

Dunedin Blue Jays 2005-2014

Although the Blue Jays are the lowest attended team in the Tampa Bay area as well as the Florida State League, they have seen a 33% increase in total attendance since 2005. The Blue Jays did very well in 2014 with their 3rd year of double-digit attendance increases in the last 4 years.

The following graph depicts the Dunedin Blue Jays attendance trends from 2005 to 2014.

Tampa Yankees 2005-2014

The Tampa Yankees have also seen incredible attendance growth since 2005. After a drastic drop in attendance in 2008, the team has had attendance gains in 4 of the last 6 years. Since 2011, they have maintained attendance between 110,000 and 120,000.

The following graph depicts the Tampa Yankees attendance trends since 2005.

Minor League Baseball in the Tampa Bay area continues to be well-supported and a steady entertainment option for Tampa Bay residents. In later posts, we will examine the relationships between Tampa Bay area Minor League Baseball attendance and Major League attendance. We will also include Spring Training attendance to see how many people (tourists and all) watch live baseball in the Tampa Bay area in a given year.