Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Florida: A Baseball State of Mind?

More Sophia Petrillo action! Woohoo!

Picture it: Pro Player Stadium Dolphin Stadium Dolphins Stadium Land Shark Stadium Sun Life Stadium, 2003.

It was October in the state of Florida, and although it was cold where the opposing games in New York were played at that time, it was nice and warm where the Marlins played during the 2003 World Series. Since the Fish played in a football arena, attendance tipped the scales during each postseason game at an astounding 65,000+ each time. A Cinderella [Wild Card] team, the Marlins had their ups and downs during postseason, but rallied each time to finally take down the New York Yankees in six games.

Let's fast forward: Tropicana Field, 2008.

After about ten years filled with embarassment and losing seasons, the Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays made a stunning run. Frankly, nobody saw it coming. After an amazing season, the Rays went from worst to first and played in their first Fall Classic. Each of their home game attendances danced around the 40,000 mark, and the cowbell and mohawk were immortalized during that postseason. Despite losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games, fan hopes remained high, and the team has remained strong in the standings ever since.

Here we are in 2010. The Marlins haven't been in the postseason since their World Series win in '03, and the Rays are still in heavy contention in the AL East. However, something is a little different...

"Where is everybody?"

The cases for each team vary in particular aspects, and lately it has become a hot topic, especially in Tampa Bay's department. The Rays are one of the best teams in baseball, but why have they only had attendance marks of about 11,000 lately? Wow, people, you're putting the cart before the horse here. Shouldn't we all be thinking outside of the box? What financial state is our country in right now? Exactly--it's not doing so hot. Let's also mention this: Tropicana Field is well...kind of old and falling apart. (Just like me! Whee!) There's no big attraction to it like there is at ballparks like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park or Camden Yards (the only reason why the place is still open, in my opinion). The way I see it, it resembles a pinball machine where the ball bounces around in the dome and hits assorted players and fans like they're bumpers and lights. When the ball hits certain catwalks and beams up at the dome, it determine whether the ball is "out of play" or a "ground rule double" or what have you. To this day I've been waiting for a multiball at that ballpark, and unfortunately for me it hasn't happened yet.
I digress.
The point I'm trying to reach is that the attendance will eventually inch back up again. Let's be honest, my friends. It's September now, the AL East is a tight race between the Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox, and it's almost definite that the Rays will see postseason; this will result in a surge in ticket sales and more cowbells. Wouldn't it also make sense that more people will be vacationing in this area during this time period too? Hello! Bigger income--coming your way!
In conclusion with the Rays: Joe Maddon, why are you so worried? You obviously have never heard of this particular saying, especially when your team is doing so well. Heed my words: DON'T PANIC.

Alright, now let's talk about this same issue with the Florida (soon to be "Miami") Marlins. Like I've mentioned previously, the Marlins haven't been in the October picture since their win in 2003, and since then their attendance has been dwindling. I'm telling you--for those who don't follow this team at all--the organization has been pulling out all of the stops. They have "Mermaids" now. You're welcome for the photo, men. They even do that "bring your dog to the ballpark" night and if your dog doesn't like company around, then God help you. The organization is hoping that with the new stadium opening in 2012 (which is when the team will be referred to as the "Miami Marlins"), the attendance will surge again. From an eyeball's perspective, this isn't as bad as it truly looks. First of all, they play in a football stadium. There are a lot of seats there. Sure, it would be a godsend for baseball-heavy cities like New York, LA, Boston, or Philadelphia, but in a small state that has a great deal of attractions like their [oil-free] beaches and Disney World, their seating chart needs to be downsized in order to accomodate for people's possible lack-of-interest in baseball in that general. Will the organization be sorry if the Marlins make a huge jump next year in the standings, resulting in a big rush in ticket sales? Maybe. You never really know. Just because the state of Florida is big enough for two NFL teams (the Dolphins and the Bucs) doesn't necessarily mean it's big enough and popular enough for two MLB teams. You have to either fix your business strategy or just do away with the team altogether. You know what? Scratch that last one. We can't afford to lose teams that cheaply. Shoot, I still feel bad for Montreal.

In conclusion, there shouldn't be any worry at this point for the Marlins and the Rays. Of course, they're still relatively young baseball teams (the Marlins were founded in 1993 and the [Devil] Rays were founded in 1998) and there's still a lot of work to be done as far as management and promotion goes. Their postseason runs did give them a boost when it was most necessary, but now they have to feed off of the embers that remain and get the fans back in the seats. Do they need to take drastic action to make this happen? No, but they can at least look a little friendlier to them and promote the team efficiently regardless of their records this season and in previous seasons. Like I said before, don't panic. There will definitely be something that will fall into someone's lap at a given opportunity.
Let's sing along! Always look on the briiiight side of life! (Whistles)


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