After selling out Game 3 to the tune of 32,828 fans, only 28,299 showed up for what turned out to be Texas' ALDS-clinching 4-3 victory.
"We replicated last year and our numbers were down," Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg said. "The (television) ratings were down. The rubber has got to hit the road at some point. We're four years into winning. We're getting to the point where we don't control our own destiny. This is untenable as a model."
Tampa Bay has reached the playoffs three times in the past four years, including two AL East titles and a World Series appearance in 2008. But despite the success, declining attendance has become an ongoing trend at the domed Tropicana Field, where the Rays play their home games.
"When I came in here in '05 and '06, I saw the stars, and I was confident that we could put a winning product on the field -- and I was told by you guys and others that all we needed was a winning team," said Sternberg, who assumed principle control of the franchise in 2005. "Well, we won. We won. We won. And we won. And it didn't do it."
Last September, Rays star third baseman Evan Longoria pleaded with fans to raise attendance and support the team.
"We've been playing great baseball all year. Since I've been here in (2006), the fans have wanted a good baseball team. They've wanted to watch a contender," Longoria told reporters at the time. "And for us to play good baseball for three years now, and for us to be in a spot to clinch again and go to the playoffs, we're all confused as to why it's only 15,000 to 20,000 in the building."
Sternberg's criticism comes after the Rays reached the postseason despite an epic offseason purge that chopped the team's 2010 payroll of $71.9 million to $ 41.9 on Opening Day this season, the second-lowest in baseball.
Local civic leaders are currently exploring options for a new stadium, but the effort is in the preliminary phases.
"You can look at us and potentially Oakland as the only teams in that respect," Sternberg said, referring to the only team who drew fewer fans than Tampa this season, the Oakland A's. "And Oakland by hook and crook will have a situation clearer well before we will, and we will be the last man standing. Or in this case, lying down."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.