In some ways, the Rays have themselves to blame.
They have their success on the field to blame.
We don't think baseball has a Tampa Bay problem because the Rays remain competitive, year after year.
But there is a problem, and every now and then the Rays remind us there's a problem.
Owner Stu Sternberg did it again Thursday.
"Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area." Sternberg told the Hillsborough County Commission, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
It's hard to argue with that statement. The Rays have been one of baseball's best teams since 2008. The Rays have also been near the bottom of the MLB attendance rankings since 2008.
Last year, with a team that wasn't eliminated until the final days of the season, the Rays finished dead last in attendance.
The Rays have tried to get a new stadium built, with so far no success. They've long contended -- Sternberg said it again Thursday -- that in addition to being a subpar facility, Tropicana Field isn't well located geographically.
But it's hard for them to exert much true leverage. Relocation isn't much of an option, because cities elsewhere aren't looking to build new stadiums (as the Tampa Bay area did even before getting the Rays).
And as Sternberg admitted, contraction "is not a front-burner issue, or even a back-burner issue."
But given the numbers and given the history, it's hard for anyone to feel great about the long-term future of baseball in that area (or in Florida in general). There are plenty of people who wonder if even a new stadium will help (as plenty of people wondered in Miami).
Sternberg's comments Thursday were strong. But it's hard to consider them surprising.