Baseball Playoffs, Stadiums And Attendance

The National League playoffs are set.  The two teams with “home field advantage” took gas in that final game with the home field advantage.  The Cardinals scored early and often beating the Braves 13-1.  The Dodgers lost to the Nationals in the late innings ending a season that saw them win a franchise record 106 games.

I had no idea who would be the NL pennant winner this year, and I had no “favorite team” in the fight.  I thought the Braves were a better team than the Cardinals by a small margin – – but the Cards showed me on the field that I was wrong.

The Nationals had been in a Game 5 situation 3 times in the past and had lost in all those situations.  Not this time…

There is a report this morning out of Philly that Gabe Kapler has been fired as the Phillies’ manager.  He has been there 2 years and his record is 161-163; it is fair to say that his record defines mediocrity.

Sticking with baseball stuff, Commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be turning up the heat on the politicos in Oakland.  The A’s have finally identified a site to build a new stadium in the Bay Area – down in the port region.  For the owner to finance that construction – with some MLB help – he says he needs the revenue that would be generated from a real estate development deal at the site of the current stadium – the Oakland Coliseum.  The owner of the A’s wants to buy the 50% share of the land/stadium tract from Alameda Count which wants out of the business of owning/running a stadium.  Sounds simple, right?  Here is the problem:

  • The City of Oakland also wants to buy the 50% interest in the site – – but the City of Oakland does not have the funds on hand to close the deal.  The A’s owner has offered $85M for the site.
  • So, the City of Oakland has filed a suit against Alameda County to block the sale to the A’s owner claiming that State law requires publicly owned land to be under consideration for affordable housing before being sold to private interests and Alameda County did not do that.

Rob Manfred weighed in here supposedly telling the Oakland mayor that if the suit is not dropped so that the Coliseum development and the new stadium construction can proceed together as a “package deal”, then the A’s just might have to move to Las Vegas.  [Aside:  There is no major league quality stadium in Las Vegas now, but there is high probability, that hurdle could be crossed.]  For more details on this matter, here is a link.

The Oakland pols are in a bind here.  The city has already lost the Warriors to a new home in San Francisco and the city has already lost the Raiders to Las Vegas.  For years, the city has made it clear that it was not going to spend public funds on a new stadium for the A’s.  Now, MLB has threatened to take the team out of the Bay Area entirely if the city does not stop trying to throw a monkey wrench into the works of the A’s finding a new venue.  [Aside:  With the demise of Shea Stadium a while back, the A’s have had to play in the worst MLB venue of all.  What the Oakland Coliseum needs is the wrecking ball.]

Your move, Madame Mayor…

There is another baseball item worth a moment’s consideration today.  MLB saw a small decline in live gate attendance for the 2019 regular season; 68.5M folks found their way to MLB games this season as compared to 69.7M fans in 2018.  To put this in perspective, the high-water mark for MLB regular season attendance was way back in 2007 when 79.5M fans went through the turnstiles.  Some individual team stats regarding attendance are interesting:

  • 16 of the 30 teams showed an increase in attendance over 2018.  [Aside:That is technically correct but consider that one team showing an increase – the Miami Marlins – increased by 2 fans per game.]
  • The Phillies – is this “The Bryce Harper Effect?” – had the largest increase in attendance year-over-year drawing 569,267 more fans in 2019 than in 2018.
  • Two teams – the Mariners and the Blue Jays – saw home attendance drop by more than 500,000 fans this year.
  • Three teams that made the playoffs – the Astros, Yankees and Nats – all saw attendance go down in 2019.  The Nats showed the largest decline of the three having 269,823 fewer fans show up for their games.
  • The Dodgers set a franchise record for attendance in 2019 drawing 3,974,309 people to Dodgers Stadium.  Four other teams – the Cardinals, Yankees, Cubs and Angels – drew more than 3,000,000 fans in 2019.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, the Marlins drew fewer than 1,000,000 fans for the second year in a row attracting only 811,302 patient souls to the ballpark.

It seems that the big factor in the decline this year is a drop in season ticket sales and game package sales.  On the other hand, single game sales showed an increase.  This is not necessarily a crisis for MLB; 68.5M fans in attendance is not a trivial number.  Moreover, minor league baseball attendance showed a significant increase over 2018.  In 2019 minor league attendance was 41M fans and that is a 2.6% increase over 2018.

Finally, having mentioned stadium matters above, let me close with this observation from Brad Rock, formerly with the Deseret News:

“Dodger Stadium is undergoing a $100 million renovation.

“Plans include a new entertainment plaza, a beer garden, improved seating and two sports bars.

“Dodger Dogs will continue unchanged for another 1,000 years or so, before being retired to right field with their own monument.”

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