While the Red Sox's late-season slide down the standings has thrown Boston into a panic, the team who is in hot pursuit — the Tampa Bay Rays — has only annoyed the residents of Tampa-St. Petersburg with their continued relevance.
"People here don't like sports too much," said general manager Andrew Friedman. "As evidence, see the attendance of any local sports team through all of history. So it's annoying to people when a team sticks around long after it's welcome."
After losing Carl Crawford and others from last year's team, the Rays were expected to finish far behind the Yankees and Red Sox in the A.L. East.
"It's the most excited I've been for a Rays season in years," said season ticket-holder Dave Randall, who owns a 2-game season ticket package. "They were going to stink and Tampa wouldn't be pressured by the national media and baseball fans in other cities to, you know, like, pay attention to the team and stuff. But now all of that is ruined."
Trailing the Red Sox by just two games, Tampa closes its season with a 6-game homestand.
"So annoying," said Devin Skinner, who lives across the street from Tropicana Field. "Let me guess, they expect us to go to these games, right? And there are how many? Six? No, thank you. Six baseball games in six days sounds incredibly boring."
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria says he is hoping no one feels guilted into supporting the team.
"It's a huge advantage for us to have no one at the stadium," said Longoria. "We're playing games of major significance, but the opponent gets the sense it's a pointless spring training game due to the crowd. And I'll be honest, most of us on the team get pretty nervous if more than 5,000 people show up. I hate when people watch me play baseball. That's why I signed a long-term contract to play here. Tampa is the most-desired team for free agents who are scared of crowds."