Friday, April 23, 2010

Seats Available

In the early weeks of the 2010 season, four teams have already set record lows in attendance: Baltimore 9,129 (4/12), Cleveland 10,071 (4/14), Seattle 14,528 (4/19), and Washington 11,623 (4/19). Toronto also recorded their lowest attendance since moving to the Rogers Centre 22 years ago, with a measly 10,314 fans attending a game on April 19th. As you can see, three of these record low games occurred on one day, which was what originally made me take notice of this trend. Further research will show that although Major League Baseball attendance is up this year, that figure is mostly skewed by the Twins' new ballpark - which has already sold out over 50 games - and of course teams like the Red Sox and Cubs that sell out every game. The entire Rays-Orioles series last week took in fewer fans (33,000+) than for a typical game at Fenway, the ballpark with the smallest capacity in baseball. Aside from a small handful of teams, almost every team in the majors is down at least 5% in attendance from 2009.

So what can we take away from this? For one thing, it is April, so I'm not panicking too much. It's also interesting to note that the other three teams in the AL East besides Boston and New York all draw well below the league average. The Rays are currently tied for the best record in baseball right now, and the Jays have been far from slouches so far in '10. Could it be because of the old, artificial-turf parks they play in? Maybe. It could just be that fans in Toronto, Baltimore, and Tampa are just sick of losing to the big market teams. I'm not one of those baseball fans that likes to complain about the lack of a salary cap, but it's just something to think about.

For many years, the Brewers only drew large crowds when the Cubs were in town, and now they are well on their way to surpassing 3,000,000 fans for a 3rd straight season. I think more of these teams that don't draw just need to look to the Brewers for how to run a small to mid-market team. Sure, new stadiums and promotions are great, but the novelty wears off - you have to put a consistent product on the field through a well-stocked farm system to stay competitive in this league, and to draw fans on a regular basis. League contraction, moving teams, divisional realignment, and fixing revenue sharing are all just bandaids for the real problem - there are way too many terrible upper managements and scouting departments in baseball. It's easy for a bystander to yell at Orioles fans for being fair-weather, or to call the Astros terrible, but the blame should be placed almost solely on the GM and his scouts. It's understandable that winning for a smaller market team will go in cycles, but the years of suffering that some cities have had to endure is beyond ridiculous. It would be nice if the Pirates would draw a crowd once in awhile so they would actually be allowed to show a panorama of that beautiful ballpark on TV, instead of me just having to text Erik "seats available behind home plate at PNC Park."

Brewers 8-7, -2.0 (3 v. Cubs, 3 v. Pirates)
Reds 7-9, -3.5 (3 v. Padres, 3 @ Astros)
Twins 11-5,
+2.0 (3 @ Royals, 3 @ Tigers)

Erik - 3
Peter - 3

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