We're barely a week into the season, and already teams are freaking right the fuck out about empty seats. And the numbers sure have been embarrassing.
If that Marlins crowd up there isn't telling enough, we'll use the AL East as a case study. Remember, there are more than three teams in the big bad East, though from this week's games, even fans in Toronto and Baltimore seem to have forgotten about the also-rans.
Yesterday, Toronto drew a record-low crowd to the Rogers Centre; just 10, 610. The Orioles did them one better, when only 9,129 came out to see them on Monday. That's insane to me. I can remember when Skydome and Camden Yards were shiny and new, and it was impossible to get tickets. Now, they're struggling to reach five figures.
The Orioles have a season-ticket base of about 10,000, which means when you include walk-ups, a ton of people simply swallowed the cost of their tickets, rather than attend that game.
Their PR guy gave a number of reasons for the low turnout, all of which are legitimate: It was a Monday. It was early April. It was against Tampa Bay. And we'll add two more: that walk-up tickets are subject to a surcharge, and that the Orioles are terribad.
Of course, that last one's the most important. Good teams draw, while bad teams don't, unless they're the Cubs. And unless your ballpark is a license to print money, you're stuck in a never-ending shit-spiral where you don't get the attendance revenue to turn your team around. It's a troubling cycle, but it's not inescapable. The Rays have averaged a respectable 27,000 fans a game so far.
But take an unwatchable product, throw in a lingering recession, and there are going to be an embarrassing amount of empty seats. That's business.
Interestingly, one league that's doing gangbusters is MLS. Through the first few weeks of their season, they're averaging bigger crowds than hockey or basketball. Don't read too much into it: extended honeymoons in Toronto and Seattle, a new stadium in New York, and a new team in Philadelphia are inflating those numbers. And, of course, the NHL and NBA are constrained by the size of their arenas.
But on this Tax Day, perhaps the most American of days, it's definitely worth noting that soccer is on its way up, while baseball is lagging dangerously in many place.
(Screengrab from Dupes in Columbus)