Szymborski: The Rays are dollar-poor, savvy-rich

From Dan Szymborski at FanGraphs on January 2, 2020:

There is only one truly poor team in Major League Baseball, and 29 others that just cosplay as Dickensian street urchins. When the Chicago Cubs weep about how there’s just no money in this baseball thing, it’s impossible to take their statements at face value. When the Tampa Bay Rays do it, I take it a lot more seriously.

“Build it, and nobody will come.” Unlike their cross-state rivals, the Miami Marlins, the Rays have been able to build teams that win consistently. They drew moderately well in their debut season, but a decade of losing, in large part due to an incompetent Chuck LaMar-led front office, got things off to a rocky start. Winning 97 games and an AL pennant in 2008 couldn’t raise the team’s attendance to two million, and winning at least 90 games in five of six years appeared to do nearly nothing to bring fans to the ballpark. Tampa Bay drew fewer fans in 2018 and 2019 than they did in their 68-94, last-place 2016, the team’s worst year since they exorcised the Devil from their nickname.

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Originally published: January 2, 2020. Last Updated: January 2, 2020.