Evan Longoria played for the Tampa Bay Rays from 2008-17, after being drafted by them with third overall pick of the 2006 MLB drraft. The San Francisco Giants’ third baseman was a three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner for Tampa Bay. He’s the franchise all-time leader in a number of statistical categories, such as home runs, total bases, runs batted in, and games played (1,435).
Longoria has been the greatest player in the Rays’ 20-year history.
So the following comments on the future of baseball in Tampa Bay really carry a lot of weight coming from Longoria.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Longoria said that the “best decision may be to move the team.”
“Honestly, and this is maybe not something I should say, but my gut tells me that the best decision might be to move the team,” Evan Longoria said Thursday.
The Rays have planned to build a new stadium, and their hope is that getting out of the dump that is Tropicana Field (located in St. Petersburg) will fix their attendance issues. But as Longoria pointed out, the Marlins’ attendance issues remain despite moving into Marlins Park (opened in 2012).
“I say that only because I look at the example of the Miami Marlins, and (a new stadium) didn’t really solve their attendance issues. So from purely an attendance standpoint, somewhere else might be better.”
And then this very honest quote: “It’s a selfish thing to say probably as a player, but, I don’t know, does anyone really want to play in front of 10,000 a night?
“It pains me to say that, but players want to play in a place where you have consistent support,” Longoria said. “It’s a selfish thing to say probably as a player, but, I don’t know, does anyone really want to play in front of 10,000 a night? I don’t know. I’m glad I won’t have to hear the backlash again this time (for making comments about attendance, as when he played there).
“There are a lot of dedicated Rays fans … and obviously it would be a shame for those people to lose the team. But you just hope there is consistent fan support, and it historically hasn’t been there. I don’t know that it’s the easiest case to lobby to build a new stadium in the area. It’s not a slam dunk.”
Sheesh. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for baseball in Tampa Bay from the longtime face of the Rays’ franchise.
And let’s face it: he’s absolutely correct.
However, it seems unlikely that the Rays will move anytime soon. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently said that he would like to see league expand to 32 teams, so if the Rays moved, we’re talking three new MLB cities. But if the Tampa Bay attendance issues remain with a new ballpark (as they probably will), it’s easy to see this topic being revisited not too far down the road.