Well, it’s no wonder why Major League Baseball seems to so curious about trying all these new rules to “improve” the game.
Panic. And over-reaction.
According to Forbes, MLB attendance dropped below seventy million for the first time in fifteen years. Based on official numbers from the league, attendance was 69,625,244 over 2,415 dates, or an average of 28,830 per game.
The industry saw the per-game average attendance drop four percent compared with 2017’s average attendance of 30,042 (on 2,419 dates for a total of 72,670,423).
The total attendance number for 2018 was the league’s first below 70 million since 2003.
Some of that could be blamed on bad early season weather. But that problem is only going to get worse as the season starts earlier and earlier every year to comply with the collective bargaining agreement and players’ demanding more off-days. You can’t drag the season any further into November or you will be playing games in the dead of winter in most markets. They aren’t going to trim the schedule down from 162 games and give up that revenue. They certainly aren’t going to offer more doubleheaders. They aren’t going to add more calendar days to each month (I have tickets for the June 47th game). So all they can do is start games sooner in the year. When it’s the dead of winter for half the teams.
The real reason for the drop in attendance—and Rangers fans saw it last year (see photo above from a mid-season 2018 Rangers game) and will see it first hand this season—is the preponderance of teams tanking. The Rangers GM would prefer to call it “a development phase.” You can call what you just stepped in a pile of development phase but we all now what that really is on the bottom of your shoe.
When you tell your fans that you have no intention of competing, and no intention of fielding a competitive team, of course attendance is going to drop. Imagine the movie studios saying they were done putting stars in their movies and from now on all leading roles will be played by extras. Who would want to come out to the movie theater, or the ballpark, to watch that?
Yet, look at the number of teams that have no intention of winning this season. In the National League, Miami, Pittsburgh, Arizona, and San Francisco have already announced, either verbally or tacitly, they are throwing in the towel for 2019. In the American League, the inept pool is much deeper. Texas, Seattle, Detroit, Kansas City, Chicago, Baltimore, and Toronto have told their fans they are surrendering for the year. Check back in a few seasons.
Some actually said they were. They called it “retooling” or “rebuilding” or “a change in direction” or a “developmental phase.” But when teams do nothing in the off-season to improve, when they ignore the opportunities to add star power to their teams, why would anyone think fans would reciprocate by buying tickets?
“We’re not ready to win now.” Okay, and fans “aren’t ready to go to the ballpark now.” Call us when you’re ready. Lance Lynn fever is not sweeping across Rangers nation. The crazed Asdrubal Cabrera fan does not exist.
Now, extend this sense of fans-be-damned across the ten other teams who have declared this to be a lost season, and what MLB has to ask itself is not where have all the fans gone but why on earth, when nearly half of the league has given up before the first pitch, would there still be this many fan attending games in the first place? After opening day in a dozen franchises, why would anyone bother to show up?
One answer: The game.
They can do everything in their power to ruin it, to dilute it, to make it not worth your while to go, but its magnetic power is too strong.
Baseball’s injuries are all self-inflicted.
I could go on and on, but excuse me while I go watch the remake of “Dirty Harry.” They didn’t want to pay Clint Eastwood so they have Billy Baldwin playing the lead. Wait, there’s not a line at the theater to get in? I wonder why?