Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Tommy Pham issued a stinging assessment Thursday of his team's attendance woes, telling SiriusXM that a new stadium or even relocation might be needed to draw more fans.
"Do I think something has to happen, whether it be a new ballpark, maybe a new city? I think so," Pham said. "Because if you have a team that's going to be winning 90-plus games, competing in [the American League East], and you don't have any fan support, that's a huge problem."
Pham spent 12 years in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization, making his major league debut in 2014, before he was traded to the Rays in July.
He put up the best numbers of his career in Tampa Bay, hitting .343 in 39 games, but the 30-year-old said his time in Florida has been less than enjoyable.
"It sucks going from playing in front of a great fan base to a team with really no fan base at all," Pham said on SiriusXM from the Dominican Republic, where he is playing winter ball. "St. Louis, they're one of the few teams to where day in and day out they have 40,000 fans at every game.
"That's something that I miss, because even here in the Dominican they have a strong fan base for the team I'm playing for. Their fans are very supportive, they're loud. And the Rays? They just don't have that."
The Rays' attendance fell 7.9 percent last season to an average of 14,259 fans. They drew better than only the Miami Marlins, and the season marked only the second time since 2012 that the Rays have not been bottom of the league in average fans per game.
Tampa Bay hasn't averaged better than 20,000 fans since 2010, when it drew 23,025. Meanwhile, St. Louis has drawn at least 40,000 since 2012. The Cardinals had ranked second in attendance behind the Los Angeles Dodgers every year since 2013 before slipping to third last season behind the New York Yankees.
The Rays recently ended negotiations with Hillsborough County to build a new $900 million stadium in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa. Their lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg runs through 2027.
One of the Rays' more prominent fans, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, found it hard to disagree with Pham's evaluation.
"These words hurt by ?[Pham] especially as a lifetime season-ticket holder for ??@RaysBaseball?," Vitale wrote on Twitter. "No doubt his words [are] TRUE & that makes it hurt even more!"