The Orioles are right in the thick of things, holding on to the second wild card and, at least before dropping the first three of their four-game series with East-leading Boston, contending for the division. They just wish more fans were showing up to see it.
Through these first three games against the Red Sox, a huge series for their playoff hopes and traditionally a big one for fan interest, the crowds at Camden Yards have averaged just 19,903 a night.
“I’d say that it’s just, it’s a little, what’s the right word to say it’s a little, you know, not sad, just like, eerie, a little bit,” said center fielder Adam Jones, the team’s longest-tenured player.
That’s part of a larger trend: the Orioles rank 20th in MLB attendance this season at 26,440 per game, down from more than 29,000 last season and nearly 30,500 in 2014.
There are a whole mess of theories as to why, and this Baltimore Sun article examines some of them: it’s been particularly hot this summer and rainy this spring; ticket prices are higher at Camden Yards, with seats an average of $5 more than last season; suburban fans may be less likely to come to downtown Baltimore in the wake of protests after Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of police.
But the one that keeps coming up is complacency. The Orioles had been woeful for so long before their resurgence under Buck Showalter, and attendance began to climb with 2012, their first playoff appearance and first winning season since 1997. This is the fifth year of the Orioles as contenders, and maybe the novelty has worn off a little bit.
Jones added: “We grind and grind and grind. We understand, there’s a lot that that factors into it...I’m just saying, the city wanted a winner — the last five years we got ‘em a winner. I don’t if know if they’ve gotten complacent already on us winning. I wish they haven’t. I hope they haven’t. Because winning is fun every single year, and being in this race is exciting every single year. So to the ones that come every night, thank you with open arms.”
The novelty of just about everything wears off—I remember when you simply couldn’t get a seat at Camden Yards for years after it opened. But I bet there are a lot of fanbases across MLB that would love to have the problem of playoff race fatigue.