I saw a note last week saying that the Chicago Cubs’ attendance had dropped for the 5th consecutive season and that the fall off from the peak attendance in 2008 totaled 20.4%. The Cubs have not been nearly competitive for the last couple of seasons, so the decline is not surprising. Moreover, they did average 32,626 fans per game this year ranking 12th in MLB in that metric. Yes, attendance dropped in the wake of several years of consecutive bad teams, but the city continues to support the Cubbies.
Such is not the case with several teams that have done rather well this season. Consider:
The Oakland A’s are in the playoffs for the second straight season and they only averaged 22,337 fans per game. That ranks them 23rd out of 30 teams in MLB. I know, the stadium is not all that appealing; and I know, the owner really would prefer to move the team to San José. Nevertheless, the A’s are a good team and deserve better support.
The Cleveland Indians have been in the running for the playoffs all season long – something that could not have been said of recent iterations of the Indians. Moreover, the Indians are going to be in the playoffs. The Indians drew an average of 19,419 fans per game putting them 29th out of 30 MLB teams. This year’s version of the Indians deserved better support than that.
I mention those two teams because they are a prelude to the most outrageous attendance figures of the year. The Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers are tied for the second wild card slot in the AL playoffs this year with 91-71 records; the Rays have been in contention for almost all of the season. Oh, by the way, the Rays have been very good for about six years now so it is not as if the fans in Tampa/St. Pete had to change a longstanding perception this year regarding the competence of the team on the field.
Notwithstanding any of that, the Rays had the lowest average attendance per game in MLB. They only drew 18,646 per game and that number represented a drop in average attendance of just over 600 fans per game as compared to last year. That is the lowest attendance for Rays’ home games since 2007. However, it might be instructive to take a look at the team the Rays put on the field back there in 2007:
In 2007, the Rays lost 96 games. They were never a factor in the playoff race.
Even worse, 2007 was the 10th consecutive season for the Rays in terms of losing 90 or more games. The Rays had been bad for the entirety of their existence at that point; recall that the Rays did not exist until the 1998 season.
So, you have to go back to Rays’ teams of constant and doleful ineptitude to encounter lower attendance for the team than they “enjoyed” this year. The Rays have been over 90 wins for five straight years now and if they make it to the playoffs by beating the Rangers to get in, they will be a playoff team with the lowest total attendance for any team since the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979 when the Pirates only drew 1.44M fans. For 81 home games this year, the Rays drew a total of 1.51M fans.
Do not let anyone change the subject here. The ballpark is not ideally located and the ballpark is not luxurious. Fine, but if fans in the Tamp/St. Pete area give a damn about having the team there, they ought to go out to see them play. If not, MLB should pay off the lease and move the team immediately.
The Rays will have been in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last 6 years if they beat the Rangers to get in as the second wild card team. Here is the list of MLB teams that have been in the playoffs four (or more) times in the last 6 years:
The Yankees – and maybe –
The Rangers if they beat the Rays and make it into the playoffs
If that record of unrewarded success is not embarrassment enough for fans in the Tampa/St. Pete area, consider the Houston Astros for a moment. The Astros lost 111 games this year; that is 11 more than the next worst team, the Miami Marlins who lost 100 games. For the Astros, this is the third consecutive season with more than 100 losses in a season and it is getting worse. The Astros lost 106 games in 2011 and 107 games in 2012 leading up to this year’s 111-loss bedwetting.
The Astros average attendance this year was 20,142. That is 1,496 more fans per game than the Rays drew.
By the way, the Marlins whose fans would probably love to see owner Jeffrey Loria drawn and quartered drew 829 more fans per game than the Rays did.
Speaking of baseball attendance – which relates to the economics of baseball – the story last week was that Robinson Cano would seek a 10-year contract worth $305M in this winter of his free agency. Cano subsequently said that he did not know where that figure came from, but it was “the word” out there for a while last week. Here is what Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot had to say about that matter:
“It’s obvious, isn’t it, that no player is worth the $305 million over 10 years that Robinson Cano is asking for, especially if that player is a 30-year-old second baseman. We’ll see if the Yankees or another team (the Dodgers?) come close to meeting Cano’s outlandish demands. If somebody does, it will once again put the lie to the complaint that athletes are responsible for obscene contracts.”
I will agree with Bob Molinaro up to a point here. If any owner/GM coughs up that kind of a contract for a 30-year-old second baseman, he is stone cold nuts. However, if Cano winds up with a deal of that type, the owners/GMs are not totally to blame. That figure can only come about if the player and his agent ask for something that astronomical. To be sure, no one is putting a gun to the head of the owner/GM to agree to the deal, but the player and his agent deserve a piece of the culpability for the existence of such outrageous contracts.
You would think that the A-Rod contract, the Albert Pujols contract and the Josh Hamilton contract would stand out as examples of caveat emptor. However, as we heap scorn on the folks who agreed to those deals, please recall that all three of those players wanted deals of that magnitude…
Finally, here is another comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian –Pilot that will summarize the recently concluded Americas Cup regatta for you:
“All at sea: It was hard enough for me to understand how the America’s Cup races worked even before we were informed that the USA’s epic comeback in San Francisco was orchestrated by an Australian skipper and international crew that included only a single U.S. citizen. Now that’s what you call outsourcing. Congratulations to America’s team… or what passes for it.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………