I'll come out with it from the start: I'm 110% behind Longo and Price.
For starters, there are a lot of great Rays fans, the "fan base," but we're a geographically dispersed group. I watched CC, Upton, Longo, Price, etc. come up through the minors. I'm not a Rays fan because I live in that area, I'm a Rays fan for REALLY different reasons. I have had to get pretty extreme to keep watching the Rays from way up here in ND, but that's life. In fact I have the Rays-Os on right now.
For me the rest of it breaks down as follows.
1) Jeff Passan over at Yahoo has a great piece on FL simply being football territory, but that's only half the story. Aside from spring training there is NO MLB tradition in the area. NONE. The Tampa area as we know it is relatively new compared to, say, New York, Boston, or Chicago, where baseball runs deep in the veins of the fans of losing teams and winning teams alike. Those people show up, win or lose, because their grandparents did likewise. It's a tradition, period. This is the same problem the Braves have had going back to the mid-90's when everyone jumped on fans down there. A significant number of folks in both Tampa and Atlanta are from somewhere else and have other loyalties. People that are fans of the game (as opposed to just a team/city) are a lot more likely to transfer loyalties or at least root, root for the home team and bring up their progeny to do likewise. Which brings me to....
2) Yep, look at the stands pretty much everywhere. Fewer and fewer kids. Baseball is hemorrhaging young fans to other sports and has been for a while. There are a lot of reasons for that, but let's face the present: if you are going to take your kids to a ball game you want that to be special. If you can only get to a game occasionally you want good/great tickets. In a lot of places that'll set you back over $200 for a family of 4 and no one has had a hotdog or bought a bobblehead yet. It becomes a lot cheaper if it's just a guys' night out with my friends. I mean, for $100 one can get a great seat and snozzled, making it cheaper to leave the kids at home. Which leads me to...
3) The economy. It stinks. In that area it's even worse. People are hurting and simply can't afford it, period.
4) The Rays were never SUPPOSED to afford it. The Rays were put in Tampa so the recently deceased G. Steinbrenner could watch the Yankees in person in FL. With the unbalanced schedule, having an extra doormat in the AL East all but assured the big boys (NY, Boston) would be right there to take up two playoff spots year in, year out. Think I'm wrong? Again, NO legitimate, sane business man or economist would recommend putting a team down there in that location in that stadium. NO ONE. And yet here we are. Only the Rays slowly built their way to respectability and are now one of the top dogs, which is bad for the big boys' revenue. When the Rays were lesser, so to speak, no one cared. Now that they are awesome all of these baseball people keep asking why no one comes. It's like asking why it doesn't rain when there are no clouds.
Anyway, I can understand Price and Longo's frustration. In short guys there just aren't that many folks down there who are fans, and even some of us fans can't afford it. That said, we ARE with you. I'm watching you kick ass all the way up here near the Canadian border like I was watching you when I was living in Mexico. Now clinch the playoff berth, assure the division and home-field advantage, and let's get back to the Series!