Shrinking attendance. 114 comments


 

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?

  • Nate Whitten

    The sheer stupidity of MLB teams tanking might bother me the most. Let’s compare NBA and MLB. In the NBA, trying for that top pick makes sense for two very good reasons. One, he’s likely to be as good as advertised. Two, add one great player to a 5 man lineup and you have immediately become a much better team. Neither of these issues are relevant in MLB. Drafting is a crap shoot. And one good player added to a bad team equals a bad team. I am sure we all remember how getting A-Rod as a FA made the Rangers an instant winner.
    So, lose 100 games and lose much of your fan base–for what? I know that someone, just an outside shot, will mention the Astros. Maybe, just maybe that works elsewhere. They are the exception, not the rule. It is a bad bet. Inside straight.

    • CrazyEd

      Yup! The odds of a first round draft pick making it to the majors is 10:1 (Google in your friend). That’s just making it to the majors, not being a star or even staying past one game. Just having an appearance.

      To make tanking successful a team has to do it several season in a row, both KC and the Stros took something on the order of four loosing seasons to accomplish it (I’m too lazy to look up the exact number). A one or two year tank is not enough.
      In the end the fan doesn’t have many options. Keep following or quit following is pretty much it. The hard core guy will stick around, complain, but stick with it. The occasional guy will do what is really the reasonable thing to do, opt out and spend his money elsewhere.

      • Nate Whitten

        Thanks. Also look at KC now. Nowhere in the mix. Astros had 1 WS. Don’t bet on another.

    • WhoKnowscs

      The NBA, whether the follow them or not, has anti-“tanking” rules.

  • CrazyEd

    This’ll make some fans happy:

    “Dave Raymond and CJ Nitkowski will return for their third season together in the Texas Rangers television booth for Fox Sports”
    David Murphy is going to do a few games as analyst.

    • grumpyderfsmagic8ball

      I’d rather listen to paint dry then DR.

      • CrazyEd

        LOL … Told you some fans would be happy :):):)
        Nitkowski is the one that drives me up the wall. Some stats are nice, but he takes it way over the top.

        • JacobMcCandles

          CJ was a real surprise for me. Outside the booth he was very intelligent,intuitive…in the booth, YAWN

          • CrazyEd

            Anybody that can operate three/four computers/tablets and still carry on a conversation has to be mentally astute. Your correct, the in booth conversation is sleepy time.

        • Mr.C

          He repeats the same comment game after game after game.

      • Mr.C

        LOLA

    • elkaba

      Not this fan!

  • WhoKnowscs

    Case in point. The Phillies sold something like 340,000 tickets . . . in the week after signing Harper. And over 100,000 of that in the day after.

    • CrazyEd

      I’m not sure it would have the same effect in every market. In some, but not all. I know it wouldn’t in SDiego and probably not in the case of the Ranges.

      • WhoKnowscs

        Maybe not for Harper, but there is bound to be some big name that will draw people in to watch. In essence Phillies did something to at least try and they got the attendance.

        • CrazyEd

          All I’m saying is the Philly is a different market. They have a different pool of fans that they draw from. Philly fans come from a single metropolitan area and tend to be pretty hard core with not many options for entertainment. Rangers fans are drawn from a much larger geographical area. Quite a number from OK. They have many options for fall entertainment. Hunting and fishing to name a couple. The addition of a single big name to the current line-up is not going to get them to forego those options. TV’s and Radios are too easy. The same with SDiego. Go a few blocks west and your and the beach or on one of the fishing piers with your portable radio/tv or battery operated margarita mixer. Five miles east and your hunting. Not to mention the transience of the Military population. It’s just a different ball game, so to speak.

        • JacobMcCandles

          Nolan Ryan

          • CrazyEd

            I’d be willing to bet, that if you asked the current crop of people that the Rangers are trying to draw to the ball park who Nolan Ryan was ninety percent of them wouldn’t have a clue.

          • JacobMcCandles

            Not comprehendng??

          • CrazyEd

            You said Nolan Ryan. I interpreted that to mean that you thought the addition of Nolan Ryan (in his prime) to the Rangers would account for a huge increase in the number of fans coming to the ball park. My answer was that the current crop of people that the Rangers are trying to draw to the ball park are baseball illiterate and wouldn’t know who Nolan Ryan was.

          • dearmidol

            I don’t know about that. Look at how many people are still saying the Rangers downfall happened when Nolan Ryan left the front office. And even if people wouldn’t know him now, he was a huge drawing card at the time. Texas is different, though, you are right. This is a football town and it’s tough to generate immediate excitement for a player. But where you would gauge that would be in day to day attendance. I would think if the Rangers had a few bankable stars people would be more willing to go to the Ballpark in the middle of summer to watch them, even if the team wasn’t good.

          • JacobMcCandles

            Sadly the draws for me are the players on the other teams…..

          • calntom

            Trying to sign any notable stars this year would have been a huge mistake. Patience will pay off in the coming years. No one or two major signings would help this team this year. Glad the cash is still in the cookie jar.

          • JacobMcCandles

            Ahh…gotcha

    • dearmidol

      Exactly. Stars are stars for a reason.

  • JacobMcCandles

    In the best sport in the country MLB, sadly the powers that be have marketed the sport like garbage. No foresight whatsover. Now it looks like they are trying to make steps albeit lousy ones. DH was bad enough, implementation of IR is a failure and some of these new ideas,,,,laughable….all pointing towards leaving the sport alone and if anything appeal to youngsters.

    • CrazyEd

      All they have to do is take a quick look at what all the constant rules changes have done to NASCAR. It should be obvious, but I guess not.

  • CrazyEd

    All right congress, time to do something productive for the country. All fifty states have their clocks coordinated to time as it ought to be. Scrap daylight savings time. Your the folks that can put an end to the madness, DO IT!

  • CrazyEd

    It’s time for me to spend some time with my guitar. If, it’s gotten over laughing at me after it caught me listening to Tommy Emmanuel.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0IY3Ax2

  • calntom

    For the Rangers, attendance is going to be a non issue for their new venue.

    My only wish for this season other than having a good developmental year is that they have their best sell off for topping off the replenishment of the farm system. Call it tanking if you want. I call it a smart rebuild to get this ship cruising into the next decade.

    • grumpyderfsmagic8ball

      Not sure anyone wants to buy what we have to sell.

      • calntom

        True, the Rangers baseball team is a tough sell. The new venue will sell itself. Half the people in the stands won’t even know what a bullpen is. It is about entertainment throughout the entire sweaty, uncomfortable, nasty summer.
        I expect that the Rangers are going to be a tough ticket. It ain’t going to be like StubHub dyno seats for less than face value like in the past or buy the cheapest tickets and sit anywhere you want. It is going to cost real money for us without access to company/corporate tickets.

        • CrazyEd

          I look at the Boston stands these days and find it hard to believe that in the early 60’s we could get admission for fifty cents if we went in uniform. The ball park was so empty we could just wonder around to find a seat we liked. It was a far cry from what their attendance is today.

        • dearmidol

          That’s a good point. Obviously the newness of the park will be a huge draw. But the question is, if the team is not good, how much pull does the park have? Interesting thought.

    • dearmidol

      Isn’t the point to build a system to where you don’t have to tank? Isn’t that what Jon Daniels promised Rangers fans, that this franchise would always field a championship-calibre team? Of course things happen. But you can build a consistent winner without having these huge dramatic tear downs. All this has become is a reaction to critical errors of the past.

      • calntom

        That is the point if you are the Yankees Boston, Dodgers. Never has been for the Rangers, never will be. If Daniels ever said that, I never bought into it. Rangers payroll is not going to rival any of the previously mentioned teams. The Rangers had their run early last decade then tried to hang on too long. Trades got them trying to make something out of nothing. When you know things look bad, you better have a plan. This is their plan. Compete once again going into this next decade. Not this year, maybe not even seriously trying to make the playoffs next year, though that is still to be seen.

        • dearmidol

          Cardinals are another team that is perennially good, they rarely have many down years. Certainly not the fall of the face of the earth years. Market size shouldn’t matter. Boston and St Louis are much smaller than Dallas-Fort Worth. Payroll doesn’t matter either.

          But you are right, they tried to hang on too long. But it might be because they thought they had it figured out when they really didn’t.

          • calntom

            What is past is past. A big sell this year will look good going into 2020 and beyond. More like “beyond” is going to be realistic.
            They will field a better team next year though I don’t see how it could be a championship caliber team.

          • dearmidol

            I just hope some of this minor league talent they are counting on comes through. Rangers could use some luck going their way.

          • calntom

            Roger that Kevin. They sure did not make any spectacular trades. I just hope their scouting and development make progress with what they have brought home and drafted.
            BTW, sitting at the airport in St. Louis now. Heading back into town…. Booooo on Sunday travel.

          • CrazyEd

            IF they stay with the current plan they will be able to field a competitive team year after year with an occasional run in the play offs. I fear they will get overly excited an repeat the errors of the past. Just keep what talent they have in the minors, keep adding to it, and stay patient.

          • calntom

            Roger that Ed. It is not like they dont have money. They can add to the team when the time is right. Grow them and buy them and dont chase pie in the sky hopes

  • Mr.C

    Solution to attendace issues in MLB is to ban the NFL.

    Let’s make Baseball Great Again!

  • azrangerfan

    Only one number 1 draft pick each year. For all the teams who have thrown in the towel, only 1 of them will get the coveted #1 pick. Seems to me the way to play it is by signing middle of the road players and then hoping they click playing together. You stand the chance of keeping the fan base interested if you can compete, even if it’s just an 80 win season. And the prospects can continue to grow in the minors rather than at the major league level. At the very least you might get one or 2 you can trade at the deadline for future help. Tanking it from the get go just wouldn’t be an option for me.

  • Mr.C

    I was looking at the free agency folks next year.

    Pitchers:
    Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, Bumgarner, Verlander, Porcello, ….

    CF: Osuna

    3B: Donaldson

    Question:
    Will the Texas Ranges be buyers in 2020?

    I think payroll in 2019 is around $135M which includes: $21M for Choo, $15M for Andrus, $9M for Fielder, $6M for Cole Hamels, $3M for Austin Jackson, $2M in option buyouts (Moore, Chirinos, Perez), $10M for Minor, $9M for Lynn, $7M for Smyly, $2M for Volquez, $2M for Miller and another $14M for Odor, LeClerc, Gallo. That’s $100M out of the $135M payroll in 2019M.

    Two free agents pitchers, Ozuna, and Donaldson will probably cost $90M. Let’s say the team is willing to spend $165M in payroll next year. Where will you cut $60M to afford it?

    Conclusion:
    Don’t expect the Texas Rangers to be big spenders next year. It will not happen !!!

    Pray for Gallo, Mazara, Andrus, Odor, IKF and DD to develop into MLB stars!

  • Mr.C

    Game about to start. Lineup reflects folks in competition for a spot in the roster. Should be interesting to see who step up to the plate.

    ((( Refresh )))

  • Mr.C

    Pence is FANTASTIC 2!

  • Mr.C

    Kevin
    I’m getting an error trying to upload the lineup picture file.

    Error message said I need to be logged in to post it. However; I’m obviously logged in.

    • dearmidol

      Hmmm, not sure what’s happening there. Everything seems to be fine on my end.

      • Mr.C

        Maybe Disqus is having issues. Can you try to post an image to see if that’s the case?

      • Mr.C

        Never mind

        It was my WiFi

  • Mr.C

    No Tocci magic today

    • dearmidol

      It’s early.

      • Mr.C

        No magic so far!

  • Mr.C
  • Mr.C

    Let see how Smyly deals with this inning

  • Mr.C

    DPlay will make it

  • Mr.C

    Apparently Fontana caught that ball but there is no reply options in ST.

    • JacobMcCandles

      Think we can bury your boy Eli White

      • CrazyEd

        Frisco Roster shows:

        Eli White
        2B

      • Mr.C

        I don’t like Eli White

        I do like Fontana, and liked Ibanez even more. Regardless, I think Woodward wants Forsythe instead.

        • dearmidol

          Forsythe was most recently on the Dodgers. Woodward knows him better I guess.

  • Mr.C

    Smyly was an awesome return from the Cole Hamels trade to Chicago. I hope he doesn’t get injured this year.

  • Mr.C

    2nd time against the Shark

  • Mr.C

    Pence is FANTASTIC 2!!!!

    • dearmidol

      He is certainly forcing his way onto a major league roster. Maybe even Texas’s.

      • Mr.C

        LOLA

        • dearmidol

          Hey, you never know.

  • dearmidol

    Why did they remove Smyly? I hope it was just pitch count.

    • Mr.C

      He is getting the Minor treatment.

    • JacobMcCandles

      Only so many games left…wanna see everyone…where r your seats? Bought lower level tickets b4 season started at AA for Dirks last game can sell them for 1500..bought for 75

      • dearmidol

        Seats for the Rangers games? Mine are 1B side, Section 37.

        That’s great about the Dirk tickets.

        • JacobMcCandles

          Mini season or Full

          • dearmidol

            Mini, 20-gamer.

  • CrazyEd

    Been testing baseball aps on my phone. This one works great so far, listening to the game just fine.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.toddbrady.proBaseballRadio&hl=en_US

  • CrazyEd

    Pence 3 for 3.

    • Mr.C

      Is he FANTASTIC 2?

      • dearmidol

        Better than Elvis.

        • Mr.C

          Ha

  • dearmidol

    Jeff Mathis? Jeff Mathis?

    • JacobMcCandles

      Another whiff by JD,,,couldve signed Maldonado, a better defensive catcher, with a much better bat,,,,and cheaper!!!

      • Mr.C

        Maldonado is not a better defender than Mathis IMO. I think he was awful against the RedSox last postseason.

        I agree there were other options in the free agency market.

        • CrazyEd

          All I know is if you listen to the pitchers and catchers they can’t say enough good things about what Mathis has been doing. I think the teaching part was a big part of JD’s thinking.

          • Mr.C

            Sometimes Texas hire low offensive catchers and for some reason they become clutch hitters.

            Remember Bobby Wilson?

          • CrazyEd

            Yeah! He was clutch.

  • CrazyEd

    Pay attention, this guy can hit.

    • Mr.C

      ((( Almost )))

      Good call

      • CrazyEd

        LOL …. Really, he can hit. Got some power too. Almost Gallo power.

  • CrazyEd

    Wrong again Ed!

  • Mr.C

    This is the part of the game where Texas Ranger’s young relievers blow any lead.

    • CrazyEd

      Looks like a good call!

      • Mr.C

        Almost

        • CrazyEd

          Yup, they did their best. Just fell a little short.

  • Mr.C

    Another error for Eli White

    • CrazyEd

      Yup! I don’t get why thye didn’t cut him with the rest of the guys. He belongs in AA.

  • CrazyEd

    I lost count, where are we, bottom of the 16th?

    • Mr.C

      Haha

  • elkaba

    Here’s where I am on the issue of tanking and attendance. I think there are teams that are basically tank-proof. Take Boston, NY, Philly, Baltimore, etc., with their older, more historically storied teams. Their fans are legacies, fans for life, for better or worse, for generations, for forever. These teams can suck for decades, win one WS and be back on top like nothing ever happened in between. These teams are found in older cities that have grown up with a strong baseball culture all around the ballpark (even if the team stinks, the bars nearby are still good.) Baseball is a large part of the history and culture of these cities, and that’s true whether they’re winning or not.

    Then there are the newer teams, the young teams with no history back to 18-whatever. The expansion teams more or less live or die year to year. They have a much more selective and subjective fan base (and, yes, more local sports with more history.) Tanking for these folks could end up being tantamount to suicide.

    Someone brought up Houston. Houston tanking when they did was smart, because they were already blacked out due to a change of ownership and a bad TV deal stuck in court. They weren’t going to be growing a fan base for years no matter what. What better time to rebuild than when nobody’s watching anyway? The teams (including us) trying to emulate Houston are making a mistake. And yes, the league is somewhat overreacting to all of it.

    Keep in mind, too, there are other forces at work against baseball right now, as well. Demographics are changing, especially big city demographics. And culture is changing, too. Numbers don’t lie. No matter how badly you want to take baseball back to whenever and make it great again, that’s just not happening. And baseball could be doing doing a lot more to make itself more immediately and culturally relevant everywhere it’s played. That would be better than tanking or wasting time tweaking rules to speed up the game in hopes of drawing more casual fans to itself or building new stadiums for multi purpose use.

    Baseball’s aging group of die hard fans wil probably stick it out no matter what, but that’s only if the game stays enough like the game they love. In fact, the game doesn’t need to be remade to attract more casual followers, it just needs to become exciting and relevant again for a new generation of fans.

    • CrazyEd

      That’s a lot to chew on.

      • GT500

        Elk gets paid by the word……

        • elkaba

          LOL, where you been? Long time no hear!

      • elkaba

        That’s all true and probably has a lot to do with it, along with ever shrinking attention spans.

  • CrazyEd
  • TD30

    http://poshplaymat.com/blog/
    Emily’s blog about heading into the season. I love her and kind of want to be her when I grow uo….

  • Rowdy Yates

    Great game today. Saw the A’s win a home walk off with a 9th inning base hit against the Giants. Gotta love the game even when it’s one played by two teams you don’t give a hoot about and it’s tight to the end.

    • dearmidol

      Had to be tough to see your hated A’s though.

  • GoRangers23

    Good article Kevin!

  • possumrld

    I agree in part with your reasoning, Kev. But I believe there are other cultural reasons for the decline in attendance other than bad teams. Remember how bad the Cubs were for so long? Yet they often filled their stadium, and they had solid, loyal fans. And many other clubs were bad for decades as well, yet many of them still had decent fan support.
    So firstly, (but not in any order of importance) one big problem is that our current culture demands instant winners. So this current “new breed” of baseball fans, simply will not stay with a losing team. If the team falls on hard times, they jump ship, and the “band wagon” is about the only place to be anymore, because everyone loves a winner! So we don’t have many hard core fans these days that are willing to follow a bad team year after year, and sometimes even for decades.
    Then there is so much other entertainment available now, instantly and on demand, from video games, to movies, to online social garbage, and online gaming, to whatever it is you want to watch. And frankly, many people would simply much rather see a baseball game from the comforts of their living rooms these days, rather than fight the crowds.
    Of course baseball marketers are at fault as well, with their insanely high priced tickets, and their crazy high parking fees, and concession prices that would make any highway robber turn green with envy.
    But also, there is the fact that baseball is not really accessible to “the masses” anymore. It isn’t ever on regular TV thse days, or at least not on a regular basis anymore. And the MLB people have all but abandoned their radio market, because they like the idea of everyone having to pay to hear even the streaming of just basic audio. And in my opinion, until they get this problem fixed, they aren’t going to be getting the up and coming young fans in any serious numbers. I became a baseball fan, because the Astros were on every night of the summer, and some months either side of the summer, and for free. And whether they think it matters or not, if MLB offered free live streaming of all of their games, and pushed that market hard, by various marketing means, I believe in a few years there would be a rebound of fan interest.
    But as it stands now, they charge for everything, because they have gotten spoiled to doing it.
    And now they can’t even see the future at all, for the dollar signs.