Welcome to the most depressing pennant race ever


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The beauty of baseball is often times the opportunity to show up on the most hum-drum of days and find yourself with something you've never seen before. For instance, watching Mookie Betts throw a baseball 305 feet through the air to third base in the sixth inning of the Red Sox' 7-4 loss to the Rays Monday night was a prime example.

What Tropicana Field delivered, however, was something that would have seemed nearly unfathomable in this day and age of professional sports.

With one week to play in the regular season and the Rays smack-dab in the middle of a neck-and-neck race for a postseason berth, the hosts were cheered on by ... 

Tonight's attendance: 8,779 pic.twitter.com/7p82uiqS0Q

— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) September 24, 2019

Of all the hits taken throughout the 2019 season, having to live in this existence should have been one of Major League Baseball's biggest slaps in the face.

This was simply ridiculous.

Take a walk through the stands during what is supposed to be the tensest of tense portions of the 162-game season and you have to wonder how this can be. The people working throughout the Flint Memorial Auditorium, I mean Tropicana Field, are over-the-top nice. 

The barren gift shop was inhabited by two welcoming women trying to push some souvenir baseballs. The guy at the 50-50 raffle stand was fighting the unwinnable war. The elevator operators? The friendliest in the American League, not even close.

What tonight's 50-50 raffle lacks in money is made up in enthusiasm https://t.co/TFRrUNJjHV pic.twitter.com/zsJ0gcxiej

— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) September 24, 2019

But, this they can't help ...

Pennant fever! pic.twitter.com/3D6SXgbe1r

— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) September 24, 2019

This isn't anything new. The Rays haven't averaged over 20,000 people a game since 2010, having now totaled under 15,000 fans in each of the last two seasons. 

It's a team that is stuck in a stadium which has a lease that runs through 2027, residing on the other side of a bridge nobody from Tampa wants to cross. There is likely no new stadium coming, with the football team in line to get the area's next professional sports makeover. That brief run of Joe Maddon-induced cowbells came and went, leaving a very good product with more apathy than ever.

The Red Sox drew more than 16,000 people for a 12-minute day game in August. The team that they're 11 1/2 games in back of was letting what sounded like a Casio keyboard dictate the environment.

There is no solution. It is what it is. And what it was Monday night was depressing.