Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Joe Maddon and the Departure of a Franchise Face

Very few franchises are defined by their manager. Managers are more or less second-guessed dugout dwellers whose job it is to write the lineup card and push the right bullpen buttons.

Joe Maddon was more than that. Like Casey Stengel for the 1962 Mets, Maddon was the face of the Devil Rays from the day he was hired before the 2006 season. His trademark glasses, wine drinking, and involvement in the community endeared him to the fan base more than almost any of the players on the roster.

But now that face is gone. Now there will be another face in the Rays dugout calling the shots and outsmarting umpires.

In the nine years he managed the Rays, Joe Maddon created a team and a culture based on intelligence, teamwork, and winning. After sifting through the parts in 2006 and 2007, Maddon’s no-longer-Devil Rays had newfound confidence and attitude coming into 2008. They hadn’t proved it on the field, but in their minds, they believed. Once the season started, that attitude, along with emerging rookies and some key acquisitions made by the Sabermetric Keebler Elves in the front office, started turning into wins.

An extra-inning win over the Red Sox on April 25th.

A walk-off home run by Evan Longoria on May 9th.

A seven-game winning streak in July.

The first winning record clinched on August 29th.

First division championship clinched on September 23rd.

It wasn’t supposed to happen that fast. The Rays were supposed to grow slowly, add a few more pieces and creep into contention. While the team was young, Joe Maddon was the stable force providing the guiding hand and leading them to the promise land. Although they lost the World Series in 2008, Joe Maddon was secure in his place as the best Rays manager in franchise history.

In only his third year at the helm.

The following years brought more of the same. More wins, more confidence, and more flirting with the impossible. As long as they stayed the course and believed in the process, they would contend, Maddon promised. Despite the coming and going of other franchise faces.

In 2009, Scott Kazmir to Anaheim.

In 2011, Carl Crawford to Boston.

All-stars and popular players, each.

Doomsday predictions followed.

But Maddon kept the course. The process was followed. Ben Zobrist emerged as an all-star and leader. Evan Longoria became a family man, restaurateur, and franchise cornerstone. David Price won the Cy Young Award and a fan following.

Miracles happened and heroes emerged. But they wouldn’t have had the opportunity without Maddon’s leadership and commandeering.

Meanwhile, Maddon bicycled Bayshore and fed folks on Thanksmas. He was a community staple and fan favorite, especially for the adult demographic who felt too old to swoon over players half their age. Maddon had grown-up appeal.

He was just another Tampa resident. Albeit one who managed one of 30 Major League Baseball teams.

Following the 2012 season, James Shields was traded to Kansas City.

The Rays machine kept churning, securing the wild card and making the playoffs.

Unfortunately, 2014 happened and changed everything. What once worked, failed to. Things that shone bright failed to glisten. The same levers were pulled, but instead of jackpot, the Rays walked away busted. Even after bringing in a Seminole magic man.

Of course, we can’t underestimate the loss of Don Zimmer. Death has a way of leaving an irreplaceable hole. Maddon’s most trusted confidant was no longer watching by his side; he was watching from heaven above. While his presence was still felt, Zim could no longer provide guidance.

Roster moves are expected, but coaches aren’t supposed to join the great team in the sky a month into the season. I think Zimmer’s departure played a bigger part in the Rays 2014 season and the postseason fallout than is made public.

Perhaps in a way, Maddon wanted a reset. He wanted to move to a place where he wouldn’t be reminded of his lost friend and adviser. Perhaps the Rays dugout was too emotional to stay in and the memories too powerful for him to focus.

Just a theory.

But back to our story.

Despite the down year, there were highlights and hopes for brighter days ahead.

On July 31, the Rays dealt another yet another franchise face. But while David Price took his car, his twitter followers, and his little dog too to Detroit, Drew Smyly, with the guidance of Maddon and his coaching staff, pitched like an ace. He joined Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi as a formidable four that gave the Rays and their fan base hope.

Add the return of Matt Moore and the Rays knew they had nothing to fear. After one off-year, they would have five aces and Maddon still at the helm. Joe would push the right buttons to make each hard-fought run count.

Even after Andrew Friedman departed for the bright lights of Hollywood, Rays fans reassured themselves all was ok. After all, most of the levers that needed to be pulled and the buttons that needed to be pushed were under team control for years to come. The window hadn’t closed. And Maddon was still here, despite rumors he might migrate to the City of Angels with Friedman.

Joe was the franchise. He was the process personified. He was “The Extra 2%” incarnate.

Then Friday happened.

Maddon walked away and with him the captain, skipper, general, leader, and manager of on-field operations for the Tampa Bay Rays. Bayshore Boulevard’s most popular resident was taking a job somewhere else.

That’s tough to digest. By Opening Day 2015, we will still might not like it, but we will have to come to grips with our new manager. That’s the benefit of offseason moves. You have months to accept it. Unlike losing a coach and an ace during the season while the story is still being written, Opening Day 2015 gives us a new slate to write on. A story not yet written. A tale that could include miracles and comebacks and joy and jubilation.

So what of Joe Maddon’s legacy?

The Rays should eventually retire Maddon’s number. That’s a no-brainer. But it shouldn’t happen anytime soon. Perhaps when he calls it quits for good. Maybe the season following his last, the Rays can invite him back to whatever stadium they are playing in and hold a ceremony raising number 70 to the rafters. Maddon’s might be the first “true Rays” number retired. Unless Crawford hangs up his spikes first.

Maddon will go down as one of the first people to put the Rays on the map. For a franchise built on erroneous fallacies in regards to the fan base and the stadium, Maddon made the on-field situation work, no matter the budget constraints. He was a shrewd strategist, a master motivator, and colorful character. He gave the Rays wins, he gave them confidence, but most importantly, he gave them personality.

He will be missed.

But time marches on, all managers eventually leave, and teams do win again.

And the next time Joe Maddon enters Tropicana Field, I’ll give him a standing ovation for what he did here, but then I hope the Rays sweep his team out of town.

Attendance Review: 2010 Dunedin Blue Jays

Welcome to our 5th 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 2010:

Home Games: 69

Total attendance:  36,892 (up 3.39% from 2009: 35,683)

Average: 576 (down 1.54% from 2009: 585)

Highest attended game: 1,696 on Saturday, April 24th vs Clearwater

Lowest attended game: 221 on Tuesday, June 29th vs Clearwater

Low point of average attendance: Game 61, August 19th (561)

Double headers: 6 (Apr 19, May 30, Jun 22, Aug 6, Aug 8, Aug 26)

Cancellations: 0

Notable rehab assignments: None

Other notable appearances: None

(red highlight = below annual average of 586)


(Note: the blank space in the middle of June indicates the Florida State League all-star break.)

By Month:

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

By Day:

Blue Jays attendance increased 20% on the weekends compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 557
  • Sat-Sun average attendance: 692
  • Difference: +20%

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, October 27, 2014

Debunking the latest appearance of the Montreal Boogeyman

I had to move a family member this weekend and didn't spend much time online. I hoped nothing would happen. Of course, I was wrong.

Friday afternoon, shortly after Joe Maddon walked away from the Rays, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News wrote a piece about the future of the Rays. It was nothing short of an ignorant slam piece. Madden said the Rays will "return to losing baseball and irrelevance", without looking at the roster and acknowledging the talent still intact.

But even more damning was Madden's comments on the Rays future in the Tampa Bay region. Madden claims "sources" feel the Rays will inevitably move from Tampa Bay to Montreal. Madden even says Rays owner Stu Sternberg has met with people from Montreal to discuss the team moving.

Like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, the Montreal Boogeyman has returned. And just in time for Halloween.

Since Madden's article, several Tampa Bay-centric voices provided more level-headed analysis.

Noah Pransky of Shadow of the Stadium said Montreal is being used as only leverage to poke and motivate the Tampa Bay area into action for a new stadium.
The more fearmongering about the Rays moving to Montreal, the more willing Tampa Bay's elected officials will be to open up the tax coffers.

DRaysBay.com, looked at the potential for increased Tampa Bay area TV revenue.
TV contracts are everything, from a financial perspective, and the Rays' new contract in 2017 could multiply that source of revenue by four or five times from it's current base of $20M. If you let that coincide with the $100M available and TIF money and there's high incentive for the city of Tampa to swoop in before it's too late.

Finally, the Rays themselves opined through Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune:

But instead of saying the Montreal Boogyman is just a tale to scare kids and keep fans up all night worrying - which is true, by the way - lets attack the actual premise on which Madden bases his Boogeyman story.

According to Madden, Tampa Bay is an "economically depressed" area. But yet he gives zero proof. None.

Yes, Tampa Bay was hurt by the recession of 2008-2010. The whole nation was. And yes, the recession coincided with the Rays emergence into AL East contenders. But let's look at the economics of the Tampa Bay area in 2014 (data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics).

Labor force is more than 1 million more people than it was in 2004. (Click to enlarge.)

Employment is higher than it has ever been, eclipsing its previous 2007 high.

The unemployment rate is half of what it was in 2010 and back to mid-2008 levels.

But let's not go by my analysis, let's see what others have to say.

Tampa Bay Times, November 2013:
After the Great Recession ended in 2009, Tampa Bay was slow to bounce back. In fact, the bay area's economic recovery ranked among the weakest in the country in 2010 and 2011, according to the Brookings Institution.

Since then it has been another story. Tampa Bay is now the biggest job generator among Florida metros, adding nearly 42,000 jobs between September 2012 and September 2013, the most recent figures available.

Tampa Bay Business Journal, May 2014
The Tampa Bay economy is set to climb more quickly than that of the rest of the United States this year and next year

Tampa Bay Times, June 2014:
Tampa Bay's economy was the ninth fastest-growing among the 100 largest metros nationwide last year, and that momentum is expected to continue for several years.

You can trust the people whose job it is to write about the Tampa Bay economy, or you can trust a New York Daily News sportswriter.

On the subject of attendance, Madden closes his piece on the Rays with a quote from an unnamed MLB official:
“Say what you will about Montreal, but the Expos drew well over two million fans four times there in their heyday, while the Rays did that only once, their first year."

While the Expos attendance eclipsed 2 million fans in 1979, 1980, 1982, and 1983, the Expos were the only baseball team in Montreal. Since 2010, the Tampa Bay area has hosted the Rays and four minor league teams as well as the spring training schedules of four teams.

Since 2008, the Rays and the Minor League teams in the area have exceeded 2 million fans four times: 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. They have also been within 5% of 2 million fans three additional times: 2011, 2013, and 2014. (Click to enlarge.)

If we include Spring Training, Tampa Bay baseball attendance has been above 2 million every year since 2006. (Click to enlarge.)

For those who say MiLB ball is cheaper, that's true. But Spring Training is not. Of course, Spring Training contains a high amount of tourists. But we can add the local dollars spent attending Spring Training to dollars spent attending Minor League Baseball. That raises the total amount of local dollars spent on baseball in the Tampa Bay market and attendance is still over 2 million four of the last seven years.

Can Tampa Bay support Major League Baseball?


Until the next time an uninformed sportswriter digs you up from the grave, rest in peace, Montreal Boogeyman.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thoughts on the Rays Post-Maddon Marketing and Message

The dust has settled, Joe Maddon is history, and the manager's seat for the Tampa Bay Rays is now vacant.

While the pundits and prognosticators pontificate on where Maddon might go or who might steer the Rays ship, I want to look at the business side of the Rays.

Joe Maddon was a face of the franchise. He was the leader who, despite personnel turnover, guided the Rays to franchise records. He was a community favorite and easily recognizable. That is tough to replace. Most managers are not like Joe Maddon, either on the field or off it.

So now what?

First and foremost, I want to congratulate the Rays front office for not mentioning attendance when talking about Maddon departure. They made that mistake when Andrew Friedman left and I commented on it. This time, they did not throw the fans under the bus. Bravo to that.

While the Rays will hire a new manager and that new manager might do as good of a job as Maddon, selling hope and expectation will be the Rays biggest marketing hurdle this offseason. Season ticket agents will have a tough time convincing fans of the potential of the team without Maddon and Andrew Friedman. They had a tough enough mission after the David Price trade. Thankfully, Drew Smyly did a better job for the Rays than David Price did pitching for the Tigers.

Smyly for Price is easy to talk around. And sure, Price is gone, but why not buy tickets to see Cobb, Archer, and Odorizzi? All three are potential all-star aces.

That's an easy sell.

But selling the Rays in the post-Maddon era will be more of a challenge. The wrong manager might push the wrong buttons and capsize the franchise. No one wants to buy season tickets to watch a sinking ship. Even a 3-game flex pack would be tough to sell if fans don't have a good feel for the new skipper.

But while familiar candidates such as Dave Martinez or Charlie Montoya might ease season ticket buyer trepidation, neither will be as marketable as Maddon was. Neither will grace billboards flexing his muscles reminding fans to buy flex packs.

We need to look at how marketing will fill the Joe Maddon hole. Maddon was known in the community. Not only was he the manager, he looked like a baseball manager. Due to his young age, Dave Martinez might have a tough job being as marketable, if he is chosen to take the helm. Other managerial candidates might be even bigger unknowns.

The Rays marketing staff needs to look at the q-scores of players and other entities to fill the gap. Do they use Raymond more? Would he attract adults? What about a DJ Kitty billboard? Would that work? A Ben Zobrist billboard might work well. I don't think Evan Longoria sends the right message to the adult fanbase and Wil Myers just isn't ready yet.

Perhaps the Rays could sell a group concept this year. Maybe they could market their pitching staff as the highlight of the team. Maybe they could incorporate a five or four aces theme on the billboards, with each starting pitcher being a card suite, with little Rays logos instead of clubs, spades, hearts, or diamonds.

Moving beyond billboards, the Rays also need faces in the community to replace Maddon's impact. Initial word is they will still be doing the Thanksmas events started by Maddon and his wife in 2006. The most logical choice to replace Maddon at Thanksmas would be Ben Zobrist and his wife, Julianna. Bringing in Evan Longoria and his wife also might help to open Longo up to a more grown-up demographic.

Another challenge will be the crafting of the season slogan for 2015. Last year, they used "Rays Up" and before that, "Welcome Home". Each season has a slogan.

The slogan for 2015 is quite possibly the most important slogan in franchise history. It needs to convey optimism. It needs to ring in the ears of the fans and reassure them the franchise is on the right track, not only on the field, but in the community.

Might I suggest "This Is Our Team"?

"This Is Our Team" conveys a sense of unity, that no matter what happened during the offseason, this is the team we have. It is acceptance but also a sense of team pride, a sense of us against the world. That's for the players and the franchise. The message needs to be sold right and emphasized right, but I think the team and the front office can do it.

No more talk that the front office is not confident they can be successful. No talk that the team is not confident. They have been so before and they will be again. Fake it if you have to. I want to see Vines and YouTube clips and commercials of players and front office personnel saying "This Is Our Team" loud and clear. I want to see a sense of camaraderie.

"This Is Our Team" also conveys civic pride and the Rays desperately need that. They need to create incentive for people to root for them. Tying the Rays to Bay area pride is huge. Sort of a "We Are Tampa Bay"-type message.They need to reinforce the idea that "real" Tampa Bay residents root for the Rays. The message should be clear: Tampa Bay residents shouldn't root for the Yankees, the Red Sox, or any other team. They should root for the Rays.

That might be risky with ongoing stadium negotiations (the last thing the team needs is a headline that reads "Rays leaving the Bay" while a billboard reads "We Are Tampa Bay"), but I think it is worth the risk.

Fans need to buy into the Rays message of optimism. They need to be sold that this is still a good team. The team needs to sell the message and sell it loudly.

I'll have more ideas throughout the offseason, but these are some initial thoughts. There is no doubt the post-Madden era is going to be more challenging for the Rays, both on the field and off it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Thoughts on Rays Index estimate of the Rays new TV contract

Friend of the site Cork Gaines posted a very interesting chart on Rays Index yesterday estimated how much the Rays might make on their next TV contract. With the current contract expiring in 2016, thoughts of renegotiation are far away.

A few random thoughts:

The biggest admitted flaw in Cork's study is that he looked only at other teams' ratings for 2014. I would be curious to see their five year ratings, especially in markets much bigger than Tampa Bay. According to another chart Cork published, the Rays have only been over 100,000 households per game once, in 2010. The Phillies did that last year, and they haven't had a team record over .500 since 2011. The Philadelphia market is more double the size of Tampa Bay (6 million vs 2.9 million), so potentially many more people could be watching the Phillies if they were better?

What do I mean by this? I think the Rays household viewing potential is 80-85,000. Which means there isn't much room for growth barring a drastic increase in the fanbase. Would Sun Sports accept paying 4x more for a fanbase with limited growth?

If we look at other teams with similar TV market size (Detroit, Arizona, Seattle, Minnesota, Miami, Denver), the top TV revenue team is the Mariners with $115 million. Overall, however, the Rays are not in a good neighborhood. While there is much more correlation between ratings and TV rights revenue, this might go against them in negotiations. After all, households watching the game can't exceed TV market size.

According to their 2014 ratings, the Mariners had an average of 110,000 households watching an 87-75 team. Again, the Rays have only topped 100,000 households once, in 2010. The Tampa Bay baseball market is far too fragmented for the Rays to reach the Mariners level of households. While the Facebook/NY Times fan study claims King County, Washington as 57% Mariners, and 7% Yankees and Sox (very similar to the 56/9/7 of Pinellas County, the area of predominantly Mariners fans is much greater than the area of Florida that is predominantly Rays fans.

Perhaps a deal worth 75% of the Mariners revenue is fair. That would be $86.25 million per year, well within Cork's estimate.

But not so fast ...

Here is a thought: could the Rays new contract actually shrink their TV market size? What if local cable providers balk at carrying both Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida? Especially those outside of the Tampa Bay area, such as perhaps the Florida's east coast or southwest. What if cable providers opt to only carry the Marlins games and not the Rays?

Right now, most Florida cable providers carry both Fox Sports affiliates. But is it a package deal? Do they have to carry both? What if the price of carrying Sun Sports goes too high for cable providers outside of the Rays major fanbase areas?

I am no expert by any means, and these are just random thoughts. I agree with Cork that the Rays TV revenue is due for a large increase, and that's a great thing. And TV is one of the reasons Major League Baseball is not giving up in the Tampa Bay area anytime soon.

But if you know any of the answers to the questions I posed above, feel free to chime in. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Attendance Review: 2014 Bradenton Marauders

Welcome to our fifth 2014 attendance review and our first attendance review post on the Bradenton Marauders, minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


The Bradenton Marauders began play in 2010. The Pittsburgh Pirates moved the former Sarasota Reds to Bradenton, where the Pirates have trained since 1969. The Bradenton Marauders play their home games in McKechnie Field, a stadium built in 1923. The Marauders were the first minor league team in Bradenton since 1926. The current population of Bradenton is 50,672.

Bradenton Marauders 2014:

Home Games: 70

Total attendance: 104,584 (down 4.8% from 2013: 109,845)

Average: 1,609 (down 10.24% from 2013: 1,772)

Highest attended game: 5,223 on Monday, June 23rd vs Palm Beach

Lowest attended game: 600 on Monday, Aug 25th vs Fort Myers

Low point of average attendance: Game 7, April 18th (1,128)

Double headers: 5 (May 3, May 15, July 17, Aug 7, Aug 31)

Cancellations: 0

Notable rehab assignments: None

Other notable appearances: None

(red highlight = below annual average of 1,609)


By Month:

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

Notice how similar attendance is per month from May to August. Could this be possibly due to the stability of season tickets or corporate sales?

By Day:

Bradenton Marauders attendance increased 14% on the weekends compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 1,548
  • Sat-Sun average attendance: 1,790
  • Difference: +14%

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.

By Promotion:

Other one-time events included Star Wars Night, a visit by the Pittsburgh Pirates mascot, the annual "Condiment Duel", and Summer Camp Day.

The following chart shows how well promotions did compared to the prior day’s attendance.

By Day/Night, Weekday/Weekend Splits:

We will have further breakdowns of these attendance numbers and how they relate to long-term trends in upcoming posts.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Attendance Review: 2014 Tampa Yankees

Welcome to our fourth 2014 attendance review and our 8th attendance review post on the Tampa Yankees, minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees.


The Tampa Yankees began play in 1994. After two seasons playing at the University of South Florida, the Tampa Yankees moved to Legends Field, a stadium built across the street from Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Legends Field was renamed Steinbrenner Field in 2008. The current population of Tampa is 352,957.

Tampa Yankees 2014:

Home Games: 70

Total attendance: 111,521 (down 6.1% from 2013: 118,770)

Average: 1,640 (down 10.24% from 2013: 1,827)

Highest attended game: 7,340 on Wednesday, May 21st vs Jupiter

Lowest attended game: 834 on Tuesday, May 27th vs Bradenton

Low point of average attendance: Game 18, May 7th (1,292)

Double headers: 2 (June 12, Aug 6)

Cancellations: 0

Notable rehab assignments: CC Sabathia

Other notable appearances: None

(red highlight = below annual average of 1,640)


(Note: the blank space in the middle of June indicates the Florida State League all-star break.)

By Month:

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

By Day:

Tampa Yankees attendance increased 28% on the weekends compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 1,418
  • Sat-Sun average attendance: 1,969
  • Difference: +28%

The following graph depicts the average attendance by day.

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

Saturdays were a good draw, outdrawing the game prior 80% of the time. The popularity of Saturday games led to a small percentage of Sundays outdrawing Saturdays. Surprisingly, 43% of Mondays outdrew the game 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.

By Promotion:

Other one-time events included Star Wars Night, Mascot's Birthday, and local college night, etc.

The following chart shows how well promotions did compared to the prior day’s attendance.

Like many minor league teams, Tampa Yankees attendance swayed a lot due to promotions. Every weekday game had a basic promotion such as 2-for-1 Tuesdays, Military Mondays, etc. But other promotions boosted attendance significantly.

Fireworks nights were a big draw as were local school days. The food truck rally was also very successful, drawing 4,945 fans on a Saturday night, 1,800 more than the average Saturday.

By Day/Night, Weekday/Weekend Splits:

We will have further breakdowns of these attendance numbers and how they relate to long-term trends in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thoughts on Andrew Friedman and bad comments by Stu Sternberg

For those who might not have heard, Andrew Friedman, the Rays Executive of Baseball Operations, left the team to take a position with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

According a team press release:
Current Rays President Matt Silverman will now serve as president of baseball operations, and Rays Senior Vice President of Business Operations Brian Auld has been named team president

From a baseball perspective, this is a big deal. Friedman has been with the team for nearly 10 years and is one of the most highly respected front office people in the game. While the Rays have many other smart sabermetric Keebler elves who will pick up the slack, Friedman's loss will be felt.

From the aspects of the game I cover - attendance, economics, and marketing - the Friedman loss won't make that much of a difference. Most fans don't concern themselves with the President of Baseball Operations or General Manager or similarly named position. He is just the person who gets the players fans pay to see.

Had Joe Maddon left as some rumors speculated, fan behavior might have been affected. While Friedman and Maddon are both well-respected in their positions, Maddon is much more of a public figure and more of a face for the franchise. Friedman was not very public. He was not seen on Bayshore Blvd. He did not comment after meetings with the mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg. He was just the guy who got the players.

What could make a difference in fan relations are Stu Sternberg comments as quoted by Josh Vitale of SunCoast Sports:
From Day 1 when he came in here, when we all came in here, we knew what challenges we had. Obviously we would have liked to have been further along in that area, but Andrew has lived through that and worked through that as well. But at the end of the day, whatever happens with our attendance and as far as our stadium is concerned, it has an effect on everything that’s done in the organization. We work around it, we work hard and we try to work smart, but when you finish last in attendance or near the bottom consistently, it permeates throughout the organization.”

Sternberg should have left the attendance talk out of the comment. Period. End of sentence. No other comment. Anything else is bad public relations.

While the stadium talk is an obvious swipe at the politicians, attendance talk should have been avoided. Again, Sternberg threw the area population under the bus. It is not a leap to claim "the lack of butts in the seats prevented us from keeping our President of Baseball Operations".

Sternberg didn't make that claim when the Rays traded David Price. He didn't say it when Carl Crawford or BJ Upton left. He said softer terms such as "the realities in which we play" or other such phrases. He did not mention attendance.

Sure, Friedman is a friend who has worked alongside the boss for 10 years. Yes, it is an emotional day for the Rays front office. Sure, the Dodgers lured Friedman with piles of money not possible in Tampa Bay. But to associate lack of attendance with Friedman's departure - no matter how true it is - is not smart.

As I mentioned years ago in a blog letter to Stu Sternberg, like a woman, fans respond well to compliments. Hearing from the owner that because not enough fans go to games, operations are negatively affected is like telling your wife her dress actually does makes her look fat. It might be true, but you shouldn’t say it.

Sternberg then continued by saying the Rays performance is a "half a miracle" and that front office confidence is lacking.
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.

He softened his comments by then saying they rely on the process and just play the games, but the damage was already said.

If the front office is not confident the team can win, why should fans have any hope? Why should fans invest their time and money into a team the owner has limited confidence in? Why not spend their money on less emotional and cheaper baseball alternatives?

Advice for Stu Sternberg: heed the words of Don Corleone: "Never tell anyone outside the Family what you are thinking again."

Monday, October 13, 2014

Attendance Review: 2014 Clearwater Threshers

Welcome to our third attendance review of 2014 and our first attendance review of the Clearwater Threshers. Today we look at the home attendance of the 2014 Clearwater Threshers.

Home Games: 70

Total attendance: 195,043 (up 13.31% from 2013: 172,151)

(Note: The Threshers finished 2nd in Florida State League history in total attendance in 2014.)

Per Game Average: 2,787 (up 179 fans per game from 2013: 2,608)

Highest attended games: 9,069 on Thurs, July 3rd vs Dunedin

Lowest attended game: 1,128 on Wed, May 28 vs Fort Myers.

Lowest point of average attendance: June 29, Game 31 (2,724)

Double headers: 0

Cancellations: 0

Notable rehab assignments: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee

Other notable appearances: None

(red shading = below annual average of 2,787)


By Month:

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

By Day of the Week:

Threshers attendance increased only 13% on the weekends compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 2,587
  • Sat-Sun average attendance: 2,982
  • Increase: 13.3%

The following graph depicts the average attendance by day.

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

Led by their $1 Tuesday promotion, over 92% of Tuesday game outdrew the game prior. With such a solid draw on Tuesday, 0% of Wednesdays outdrew Tuesdays. Also, 0% of Sundays outdrew Saturday games.

By Opponent:

By Starting Pitcher:

Most interesting here is the attendance for the rehab starts of Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Of their three combined starts, only one game drew over the Threshers annual average - Hamels's first rehab start - and that by only approximately 60 fans.

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.

Despite Cliff Lee's start drawing less than average, it did draw more than the game before it. Of the pitchers who had 100%, only Brody Colvin pitched more than one game. Other 100% pitchers were the recipients of circumstance or promotion.

By Promotion:

Like many Minor League teams, the Threshers were heavy on promotions. Fireworks were huge, seeing almost double the annual average. The Threshers $1 Tuesday promotion was also very popular. The Threshers post-game concerts, featuring Coolio, Slick Rick, The Black Honkeys, O-Town, and Jamie Lynn Spears, did very well.

The following chart shows how well promotions did compared to the prior day's attendance.

Here we see the success of $1 Tuesdays, Thirsty Thursdays, and Fireworks nights. Surprisingly, the post-game concerts only outdrew the game before it 50% of the time. Jamie Lynn Spears and The Black Honkeys did not draw more than the game before while Coolio & Slick Rick and O-Town did draw more fans than the previous game.

"Other Promotions" include one-time events such as Star Wars Night, Military Appreciation Night, 70s Night, and other miscellaneous promotions.

Day Game / Night Game Splits:

Night games drew very well for the Threshers. Weekend nights at Bright House Field did the best, aided greatly by fireworks night promotions.

We will have further breakdowns of these attendance numbers and how they relate to long-term trends in upcoming posts.