The Tampa Bay Rays want a new stadium. In their interpretation, it is mainly the fault of Tropicana Field that the Rays draw so poorly. There are studies underway and surveys to see where a new stadium might be constructed some day; and of course, there are lots of political concerns and issues woven under around and through all of this. As I have said before, I have never been to Tropicana Field although I have driven by it on my way to Steinbrenner Field to see the Yankees play in Spring Training. On that basis, I am not qualified to say if it is the venue or its location that causes the Rays to reside at or near the bottom of MLB in terms of home attendance year after year.
Having said all that, the Rays’ management and the folks who support the idea of building a new playpen for the Rays got a bit of serendipitous news this week. Sports Illustrated had an article ranking 28 MLB ballparks in terms of food safety. Here are two explanatory paragraphs from the opening of the piece:
“Thousands of public inspection records gathered from local health departments in the United States and Canada reveal that food safety varies widely across Major League Baseball’s venues. Inspectors uncovered many concerning practices, from nearly 250 total violations at Dodger Stadium to a single concession stand at Tropicana Field that racked up 25 violations alone. They also found stadiums, like Safeco Field, in stellar condition.
“Sports Illustrated used data from 28 local health departments to compile a comprehensive ranking of ballpark food safety across the league based on the most recent inspection of the stadium. Public records requests to Cleveland’s Progressive Field and Detroit’s Comerica Park went unfulfilled by publication, leaving them off this list.”
Here is what the article had to say about the situation at Tropicana Field – the worst one on the list:
“With staggering 105 critical violations in 2017, Tropicana Field brings up the rear in our rankings. Two food entities (the catering kitchen and the stand outside Section 303) tallied over 20 violations each. Violations ranged from the observed presence of live insects to black mold accumulating inside an ice bin. An employee was observed handling hot dogs and cash without washing hands in between. An ESPN report from seven years ago found that every inspected stand at Tropicana had at least one critical violation. That number has dropped from 100% to about 50%, but the Tampa Bay stadium still leads the way in eye-popping food safety numbers.”
I cannot begin to believe that this report and its timing represents some sort of secret cabal between Sports Illustrated and the forces touting a new stadium for the Rays. However, this is not the sort of report that would make fans in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area more likely to take in a game this season. You can read the entire Sports Illustrated article here and find where your favorite ball park falls on the list. [Spoiler Alert: Safeco Field in Seattle came in at the top of the list.]
Even though the preceding material regarding food at Tropicana Field is not necessarily appetizing, let me take a moment and point out one of the specialty food items available there. This concoction is only available at day games and it is called the Brunch Bloody Mary. Here is the deal:
- Start with a 12-ounce Bloody Mary.
- Add skewers carrying chunks of sausage, bacon, chicken, egg, waffle and donuts.
- Get comfy in your seat as you nap your way through the 5th, 6th and 7th innings…
Staying in the world of MLB, whatever efforts have been made to increase pace of play this year have not worked. The games take forever and they are providing a lot of “non-action”. According to the stat mavens:
- Home Runs happen at a rate of 1.25 per game per team. There is little if any defensive involvement on a home run.
- Strikeouts happen at a rate of 8.24 per game per team. There is little if any defensive involvement on a strikeout – assuming the catcher is minimally competent.
- Walks happen at a rate of 3.26 per game per team. There is no defensive involvement on a walk.
These data show that fans can spend a lot of time sitting on their hands during games that take – on average – more than 3 hours to play. The average game in 2017 takes 3 hours and 5 minutes which is up from 3 hours and 1-minute last year before MLB tried to increase pace of play and shorten games. For reference, the average game 35 years ago in 1982 took 2 hours and 35 minutes. There is no simple solution to the way baseball has evolved and it is not likely to return to the way it was played in 60s, 70s and 80s. Baseball fans are simply going to have to become more involved in looking at various facets of the game between pitches for a simple reason:
- The number of pitches in an average game is also on the increase. This year in a 9-inning game, the average is 297 pitches which is an all-time high.
- Moreover, the average time between pitches is 24.3 seconds. That adds up to a lot of time when everyone on the field is just standing around scratching himself.
Finally, since I started out today talking about food at the ballpark, let me close with an unusual concoction that you can find if you venture out to Progressive Field in Cleveland to see the Indians play. It is called the Killer Kilbane Dog – and no, I do not know how it got that name:
- This is a hot dog that comes topped with peanut butter, relish and Sriracha sauce.
- Pass the Rolaids, please…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………