Chase Field interior

An undated photo of a crowd at Chase Field. There weren't too many scenes like this during the 2021 season. The Arizona Diamondbacks' attendance was only half of what it was in 2019, the year before the coronavirus restrictions. Even when such restrictions were lifted, the fans stayed away as the B-Backs finished last at 52-110.

The slaughter of the innocents is over and the Arizona Diamondbacks have completed their disastrous 2021 season. Josh Van Meter hit a two-out homer in the bottom of the ninth as they defeated the Colorado Rockies, 5-4, on Oct. 3 in their final game of the season.

The D-Backs finished with a record of 52-110 and tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in Major League Baseball. Along with the Pirates and Rangers, they were one of four teams with 100 or more losses this season.

The D-Backs weren’t supposed to be this bad. Maybe they weren’t.

I say the D-Backs ran away with the title in the National League West, but the title was stolen from them by massive run fraud! I demand a forensic audit of the entire season! Where are Cyber Ninjas when you really need them?

I think I’ve been working too much.

Of course, if you’re a fan of the San Francisco Giants or the Los Angeles Dodgers, you’re asking a different question:  how could they win as many games as they did in the regular season and still be fighting it out for the division title on the last day?

I think that would be a nicer question to try to answer than trying to figure out why the D-Backs were so awful.

The D-Backs’ attendance this season was 1,043,010, or less than half their attendance in 2019. Given their record, that was to be expected. On the other hand, what does one make of the Tampa Bay Rays? They won 100 games and ran away with the American League East, placing far head of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays. Yet, their attendance was 762,000, making them 14th of 15 teams in the American League.

It’s not that Tampa Bay fans don’t care about the Rays. Their television ratings are among the best in the Major Leagues, and their merchandise sells well. However, this interest isn’t translating into fans showing up at Tropicana Field, or, as it’s often called, the Trop.

One big reason this season could be the coronavirus pandemic. Florida has become a “hot spot” for the recent surge in new cases, and is currently third among the states for the total number of cases and fourth for virus-related deaths. It’s understandable why many Floridians would not want to go to a mass event like a ballgame.

However, the attendance woes have been there for years. In 2019, the Rays ranked dead last in the American League with an attendance of 1.17 million.

Greg Kristan offered a possible explanation on his website, The Stadium Reviews. He noted the Trop is located in St. Petersburg, and the only way to reach it from much of the rest of the region is over a handful of bridges. These create massive traffic jams for fans trying to reach the Trop.

Once they get to St. Petersburg, Kristan described the traffic and parking situation around the Trop as a “nightmare.” He suggested the reason Rays’ fans don’t attend the games is they feel the hassles and headaches of the traffic and the parking aren’t worth it.

This sounds something like what happened in Brooklyn, N.Y. in the 1950s. The Brooklyn Dodgers were playing a superior brand of baseball, and they were generating one-quarter of the revenue of the eight-team National League. However, their attendance dropped from 1.8 million in 1947 to just over 1 million in 1955, the year they won the World Series.

Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley realized the problem was accessibility to the ballpark, Ebbets Field. As more and more Brooklynites moved to the Borough of Queens and the suburbs further out on Long Island, they found it increasingly difficult to get to Ebbets Field, which was in an out-of-the way location and had very limited parking.

This and the City of New York’s inaction on his request to build a new ballpark (they wouldn’t tell him yes or no) led O’Malley to relocate the team to Los Angeles in 1958.

Dodger Stadium, which opened in 1962, was specifically built with plenty of parking and easy access from the entire Los Angeles area.

I hope the Rays, working with local governments and the American League, can solve their attendance problems. The fans there clearly support the team. It would be a shame if the team moved somewhere else.

The Rays’ fans deserve better.

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