Are the Rays relevant in Tampa Bay?

As the Tampa Bay Rays wind down spring training and get ready for the 2018 season, there are still a lot of question marks surrounding this team.

Will anyone show up at Tropicana Field this season to watch the Rays? The Rays are last in attendance this spring averaging around 3500 per home game in Port Charlotte. This ranks last in the AL in spring training attendance. Here is another interesting stat I ran across. Since the 2010-11 season in the NHL, the Lightning have averaged more fans per game than the Rays.

The Rays were able to draw 1.2 million last year at the trop for an average of 15,477 per game which was last in MLB. With the Trading away of the marquee players and the salary dump that the Rays front office have done over the winter, the Rays will be lucky to draw 1 million fans.

It is no surprise that MLB sued the Rays along with four other MLB teams for essentially not putting the revenue sharing money back into the product on the field and not making a good faith effort to put a winning product on the field.

ESPN HOF broadcaster Dick Vitale was especially harsh in his criticism of the Rays but kind of summed up what a majority of Rays fans are thinking in an interview with The Tampa Bay Times. “If you don’t want to own a team and give the fans a chance (to see competitive baseball), sell the team. There’ll be a buyer in a heartbeat.”

Vitale went on to say “The Rays ownership and front office have gutted this team and very few players remain that the fans can identify with.“ Evan Longoria gone to the Giants. Steven Souza gone. Jake Ordorizzi traded to Minnesota. Alex Cobb not re-signed when his contract expired. In the past, the Rays have parted ways with all-star David Price and James Shields.

The Rays have what I would call two marquee players on the roster. Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier. Archer may be gone at some point this season. Alex Colome the All-Star reliever may also be traded mid-season along with Wilson Ramos as the salary purge has not yet been completed.

Vitale added “If you want to play with the big boys, you have to have good players,” he said. “You have to give your fans a fighting chance. They have to be excited to come to the park and feel excitement, enthusiasm and energy. You can’t feel that at the ballpark when you go to the Trop. The point now has reached an embarrassment. It’s reached a humiliating state. When we lose the people we’ve been losing, it’s absolutely mind-boggling. You want to compete.”

Usually when the calendar rolls from late February into March, there is an excitement in the air that the baseball season is right around the corner. Not this year. There is absolutely no buzz at all regarding this Rays team.

I hope I am wrong. I hope this Rays team exceeds expectations. I guess I am hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

—The Rays announced the Chris Archer will start the season opener against Boston on March 29th. The third game of season will be a bullpen day, when Kevin Cash will use the bullpenfrom start to finish as the Rays will go with a four man rotation until mid-May.

—Mallex Smith has been out with a hamstring injury since March 8th, He says he will be ready for the regular season.

Brad Miller was back in the lineup this weekend after being out since the start of training camp with a broken toe. Miller has been hit hard by the injury bug since being traded to the Rays. He is expected to start at 2B for the Rays this season