Attendance Woes

The Miami Marlins drew 25,423 souls to Marlins Park on Opening Day.  The fact that the stadium was less than 70% full on Opening Day has proven already to be an ominous foreshadowing of attendance for this year.  As of this morning, the Marlins have played 10 home games and the total attendance for those games has been 105,424.  Since Opening day, the Marlins are averaging 8,889 fans per game; for one night game, the Marlins drew only 5,900 fans to the stadium.  Not surprisingly, the Marlins have the lowest average attendance for their home games so far this year.

This was the case last year too.  After 10 home dates in 2018, the Marlins home attendance was last in the major leagues at 12,622; this year’s overall average – including the throng on Opening Day – is only 10,542 meaning that the lowest draw in MLB from last year is averaging 1,520 fewer fans per game this year.

The knee-jerk explanation for this nonchalance on the part of Miami fans is that the team traded away all its good players and are putting a second-rate product on the field.  While that is certainly accurate when compared to the “big spending teams” in MLB, it surprised me to learn that the Marlins do not have the lowest payroll in MLB for this year.  In fact, three teams are paying their rosters less than the Marlins are shelling out:

  • Marlins – – $74.7M
  • Pirates – – $71.9M
  • Blue Jays – – $64.7M
  • Rays – – $52.3M

The Blue Jays provide an interesting comparison here.  The Jays are spending less on their roster than are the Marlins; the Jays have also played 10 home games so far this year; the Jays have about the same chance to win their division as do the Marlins.  And, the Jays are drawing almost double the average attendance of the Marlins:

  • Jays home attendance = 19,724
  • Marlins home attendance = 10,542

Given the large Cuban ex-pat population, I would have suspected that MLB would be a big draw in Miami; that has not been the case for at least a couple of decades now.  MLB has always been reluctant to approve the movement of its franchises absent some dire circumstances; I think those conditions may be showing themselves in Miami.  Here is the core reason that the owners in MLB should take the Marlins’ situation seriously:

  • While it may be the case that teams with miserable attendance can still show positive cash flow – not necessarily positive earnings – for any given year, it is important to owners that each franchise continues to sell for more than the current owner paid for it.  At least part of the allure of owning a baseball team is that everyone who has owned one in the past has sold it at a profit.  Less than 2 years ago, the Marlins sold for $1.2B.  It would not be a good thing if the team could not command that price if they hit the market any time soon.

The collapse of the AAF prior to the completion of its inaugural season should provide a sports historian with interesting material for a book somewhere down the line.  Until such time as someone provides us with such a recounting, consider these comments from three sportswriters around the country:

“The Alliance of American Football has a chance of failing in its first season, according a league owner.

“But no worries, there’s always another offshoot league on the way. The Legends Football League — formerly known as the Lingerie Football League — kicks off its new season Friday. Meanwhile, XFL2 is set to start in 2020.

“Not interested?

“Maybe that’s the reason the NFL is so popular.

“You have to wait until football season for it to arrive.”  [Brad Rock, Deseret News]

And …

Failing alone: The tanking of the Alliance of American Football is more evidence that spring/summer gridiron leagues need the NFL’s clout and generosity to survive, much as the WNBA is propped up by NBA owners.”  [Bob Molinaro, Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]

And …

“Sugar daddy Tom Dundon pulled the plug on the fledgling Alliance of American Football after just eight weeks.

“Or as AAF historians prefer to spin it, the final sack in AAF history.”  [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]

Finally, syndicated columnist, Norman Chad had this remark about the declining level of civility in the way fans interact with athletes:

“If Vatican City were in New Jersey, the Pope likely would get heckled during Easter Mass.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………