Again in 2012, the Rays are in the thick of things in the AL East.
Two games back of the New York Yankees in the division and one game back in the Wild Card race, the Rays are on the path to their third straight playoff berth.
They are doing everything right.
During a critical homestand, the Rays won two of three games against both the Yankees and the Texas Rangers. Certain players are turning on the jets late in the season, such as B.J. Upton, who clobbered three home runs on Sunday night and has 14 since the All-Star break.
The Rays have the fifth-best record in the stacked American League at 77-63, which may not sound like much, but is quite impressive.
Oh, right. They also have the worst attendance numbers in baseball.
Tropicana Field has a capacity of 43,772. Now, prepare yourself for this next number.
The Rays' 2012 average home attendance is 19,956, dead last in the majors.
Where are the fans to support a team that has won 90-plus games in three of the last four seasons? Is there any loyalty at all?
Of course, it is a challenge to create a dedicated fanbase with an expansion team, especially when the team reaches 70 wins just once in its first 10 seasons.
Success in recent years has brought on bandwagon fans, but where are they now?
The Rays have always struggled to fill the seats in Tampa. The average attendance is actually up over 1,000 seats from last season. They saw better numbers from 2008-2010, hovering around 23,000 fans per game, but all previous seasons were pitiful.
In an article by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, he asks commissioner Bud Selig about the attendance woes in St. Petersburg.
Selig called it "inexcusable" and "disappointing".
Evan Longoria has been cited in the past for being discouraged by the low attendance rates. In 2010, a relatively good attendance year by the organization's standards, Longoria stated:
We've been playing great baseball all year. Since I've been here in , the fans have wanted a good baseball team. They've wanted to watch a contender. And for us to play good baseball for three years now, and for us to be in a spot to clinch again and go to the playoffs, we're all confused as to why it's only 15,000 to 20,000 in the building.
It's not that ticket prices are out of anyone's price range, either.
In fact, the Fan Cost Index, which calculates how much an average family of four would spend at the ballpark, at Tropicana Field is the fourth-lowest in the majors at 153.30.
Building a new stadium with a lower seating capacity would greatly improve attendance rates and team morale.