Bad Baseball News

Last week I wrote about the MLB All-Star Game and noted that in the past it had drawn as many as 16 million viewers.  I said then that the 2022 All-Star Game:

“… will certainly not attract an audience of half that size and may struggle to have an audience a third of that size.”

Well, I was right – – and I was wrong.  The number of viewers this year was indeed less than half of 16 million, but it was comfortably above one-third of 16 million; this year’s audience was reported to be 7.5 million viewers.  That datum made me go looking for regular season attendance figures for MLB to see how those are holding up.  Soon into that process, I realized that neither 2021 nor 2020 could be considered anywhere near “normal years”, so I went back to 2019 to begin looking for ongoing attendance trends.  Spoiler alert:  Things do not look good.

Here are the data on average attendance per game starting in 2015 (because that is as far back as I went) through this point in the 2022 season omitting the COVID-impacted seasons:

  • 2015 – – 30,336 fans per game
  • 2016 – – 30,132
  • 2017 – – 29,923
  • 2018 – – 28,660
  • 2019 – – 28,204
  • 2022 – – 26,226

In math terms, that data plotted on a graph would be described as “monotonically decreasing” meaning that the curve is never flat nor does it ever increase.  But things get worse; if you look at the difference in the decline year over year, the trend is in the wrong direction:

  • Difference 2015 – 2016 = negative-204 fans per game
  • Difference 2016 – 2017 = negative-209 fans per game
  • Difference 2017 – 2018 = negative-1,263 fans per game
  • Difference 2018 – 2019 = negative-456 fans per game
  • Difference 2019 – 2022 = negative-1,978 fans per game.

Compared to 2015, average game attendance for MLB games is down 4,410 fans per game or 13.5%.  Combine those data with the declining TV ratings for things like the All-Star Game and for the World Series – – last year’s rating were abysmal – – and I have to wonder why the price to buy an MLB franchise continues to go up.

But “up” is where they are going; the Nats are for sale and back in March of this year, Forbes estimated the team value at $2B.  Recent history of franchise purchases in various sports says that new buyers pay a premium over the Forbes estimate so let’s just say the team sells for $2.2B.  The current owners paid $450M for the team in 2005; that sale price would represent a gain of $1.75B or a gain of 390%.  The fact that this makes no sense to me is probably part of the reason that I do not have the resources to be a bidder for the Nationals’ franchise in the first place.

Mentioning the Nationals being up for sale reminds me that for Juan Soto to get to LA for the Home Run Derby/All-Star Game, the team refused to charter a plane to take him there so he “had to fly commercial”.  Recall, the timing of the All-Star Game is proximal to the point where Soto turned down the Nationals’ offer of $440M over 15 years.  I don’t know who “leaked” that tidbit, but there is motivation for Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, to have done it.

  • The message is sort of like, “See how those low-balling cheapskates treat my client.”
  • BTW, I’m surprised that he did not add that Soto had to make his reservations close to take-off time and got stuck in a middle seat.

However, before you take sides here, please recall that Juan Soto is currently making $17.1M for the 2022 MLB season and that he has earned about $11M in his previous contracts.  I will go out on a limb here and suggest that he can afford a first-class ticket.

Before I leave the business of game attendance in the dust, I want to share one bit of the fine structure that I ran across in looking for data and trends.  The Oakland A’s have been looking for a way to get a new stadium for about 10 years now – – maybe 15.  To call the Oakland Coliseum an “inadequate facility” would be high architectural praise.  The City of Oakland has poured money into renovations there in the past and is left with the stadium equivalent of the Black Hole of Calcutta; unsurprisingly, they have not fallen all over themselves to throw good money after bad.

However, the attendance figures for the A’s – certainly reflecting the team’s lack of success and lack of retaining good players in addition to the skeezy nature of the park – are scary indeed.

  • A’s average attendance in 2015 = 21,829
  • A’s average attendance in 2019 = 20,626
  • A’s average attendance in 2022 = 8,410

Teams would be happy to have an average attendance of 8,410 fans for their Spring Training games – – but this is the regular season attendance we are looking at.

Finally, since today’s rant has had a “gloom and doom” tinge to it, let me close with something that looks on the brighter side.  It is supposedly an African proverb:

“Do not blame God for having created the lion but thank Him for not giving it wings.”

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



4 thoughts on “Bad Baseball News”

  1. Given that live attendance and TV viewership are both trending down. I wonder how players can justify contracts that are higher than ever. It seems to me that a smaller pie suggests that everyone gets a smaller piece. The conventional wisdom says that Juan Soto was completely justified in turning down almost a half billion of guaranteed money. Seems like a pretty good deal to me if the financial trendline is pointing down. What am I missing?

    1. Gil:

      Your logic is impeccable – – and it also points to the fact that franchise values ought not to be skyrocketing. Except it seems that franchise values continue to go up significantly…

      MAYBE – – just maybe — Scott Boras wants to be the agent who breaks the “half-billion dollar mark” in MLB ???

  2. Monotonically speaking, the Oakland Coliseum has been decreasing in aesthetic allure for decades. And Raider fans loved it.

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