You've got a second-year stadium and the worst attendance in the league. You've got the worst team in baseball. If you're the Marlins, how do you possibly make money? The answer, it seems, is to give away free tickets and hope people buy lots of beers.
Miami's attendance issues became apparent instantly and dramatically. Through nine home dates, they're averaging 19,500 fans a game, but that's the officially announced number, and it's probably a dirty lie. Last season the announced figures claimed more than 27,000 fans a game; the actual turnstile number was closer to 17,000.
Today the Miami Herald takes a look at the deals the team has resorted to offering in an attempt to outdraw bingo night at the Elks Lodge. Among the methods for getting free Marlins tickets:
- Flagging down a van from a local medical clinic.
- Test-driving a car.
- Showing a picture of your kids to a radio station's van.
- Buying a pizza.
- Visiting a museum.
- Being 55 or older.
This is in addition to all the two-for-one deals, the free food packages, and the single-digit price tickets available on the secondary market. Whatever the problems with baseball in South Florida, no one can say fans have been priced out. That leaves apathy and anger, and the Marlins had better hope it's anger, because at least that can fade.
Miami is furious with the deal that landed the Marlins a new stadium, paid for by taxpayers. (And they'll keep paying for it through 2048.) Team President David Samson says as much when discussing the uphill battle the front office faces in winning back the city.
“We’re trying to bring people to the ballpark to enjoy baseball in spite of their feelings for me or Jeffrey. People arrive in a bad mood so we are working extra hard to overcome preconceived notions."
Samson's on a weird PR penance tour, giving time to nearly every media outlet that asks, admitting that things got ugly. He's taking on all the sins of the public financing controversies in an attempt to deflect the bad blood from the Marlins brand itself—and, more cynically, from his former father-in-law Jeffrey Loria, the guy who actually calls the shots.
Watch Samson willingly get destroyed by a feisty Bryant Gumbel on Real Sports last week:
The hatred doesn't matter in the long run, of course. The Marlins field a quadruple-A baseball team. Any team that's this bad isn't going to draw, no matter how slimy the front office is. (In a promise that sounds more like blackmail, Samson said the Marlins could afford an $80 million payroll if they averaged 30,000 fans.)
It'll be in the mid-80s in Miami this weekend. Go outside. Enjoy the sunshine. Maybe get free Marlins tickets—they make great bookmarks.