Thursday, August 20, 2009

Giving a Whole New Meaning to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"

There are many interesting angles from this week's series against the Rays that are worth discussing. And while I could wax poetic about something more important - say, for example, the continuing development of the team's young guns - I'm stuck on attendance, or the lack thereof in Tampa.

Watching the Orioles play in front of a bunch of empty seats is nothing new, but watching them do so on the road against a team in the playoff hunt grabs my attention.

Perhaps the thing I've missed most in the past decade-plus of losing in Baltimore is the electric atmosphere that once existed at Camden Yards.

There were plenty of times in the '90s when I couldn't get a ticket to the ballpark, when snagging a standing-room spot amounted to a victory. I remarked then about how nice it was during the Memorial Stadium days to make a spontaneous decision to attend a game and be able to do so at the last minute.

I was wrong.

I want the sellouts back. I want the return of the ballpark magic that produces Orioles Magic. And it would be there if the O's were in the playoff hunt.

Not so in Tampa Bay and, as it turns out, in many other towns as well. Which is why I think attendance should count toward the division and Wild Card standings. But I'll get to that later.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, the Orioles are drawing more fans - overall and average per game - than are the Rays. Curiosity led me to take a closer look and consider the attendance figures for the top eight contending teams in each league.

Nothing scientific - I don't even factor in the size of the respective ballparks - just considering attendance in a general, broad-brush way.

Here are some observations:



Baseball in Florida - It Ain't Exactly a Trip to DisneyLand

Combined, the Rays and Marlins have drawn less overall fans (2,515,644) than three individual major league teams: the Yankees, Dodgers, and Phillies.

It's not just a big city thing. The Cardinals have drawn only 64,534 less fans than the two Florida franchises together.


Wild Card Does Not Necessarily Equal Wild Fans

The Houston Astros are four games under .500 (58-62) and nine games out of the Wild Card chase. In other words, Houston does have a problem: they aren't going to the post-season.

Still, the Astros have drawn more fans - 1,865,142 - than six Wild Card contenders (Colorado, Atlanta, and Florida in the N.L.; Tampa Bay, Seattle, and Chicago in the A.L.).

Houston has drawn only 12,251 less fans than A.L. Central-leading Detroit, who more than any other fan base deserves a break because of the economy.


The O's Are in Third Place! ... in Attendance

Try explaining baseball to a non-fan; you'll quickly realize how silly and arcane many of the sport's rules are.

Throw in the uneven realities of "baseball etiquette" and "make-it-up-as-we-go-along" systems like the Wild Card and All-Star Game outcomes that determine home field advantage in the World Series, and you realize that nothing's really out of the realm of possibility for the sport.

Not that I dislike those latter systems, mind you. Rather, I acknowledge that for a sport that prides itself on its traditions, baseball is open to any changes that may translate into more change in owners' pockets.

Which is why owners should consider factoring attendance into division and Wild Card standings. Talk about a home-field advantage!

This new system would provide a disincentive to visiting fans who invade other teams' stadiums, especially when the division races are close. That fact alone would earn the proposal a majority "Yes" vote in Charm City. The players aren't local; at least the fans should be.

Major league teams have no bones about blackmailing cities into building new stadiums by threatening to leave town, so why not pose some consequences to fans who aren't willing to spend their hard-earned money on tickets?

Granted, this set-up would give the Yankees an unfair edge on other teams, but that's sort of an unwritten rule in modern baseball anyway.

Here's how the A.L. East would break down if attendance factored into the standings.

1. New York - 2,697,208

2. Boston - 2,120,048

3. Baltimore - 1,510,081

4. Tampa Bay - 1,422,731

5. Toronto - 1,441,909

In the end, factoring in attendance figures wouldn't dramatically alter the standings anyway. New York and Boston would still top the division.

The only thing that would really change is that Tampa fans would be punished for not giving their team the support it deserves.


Attendance Breakdown for Teams with the Best Records in Each League

A.L.

New York - 2,697,208

Los Angeles Angels -2,335,805

Boston - 2,120,048

Detroit - 1,877,393

Texas - 1,770,921

Chicago White Sox - 1,759,520

Seattle - 1,681,813

Tampa Bay - 1,422,731


N.L.

Los Angeles Dodgers - 2,759,940

Philadelphia - 2,656,565

St. Louis - 2,451,110

Chicago - 2,296,389

San Francisco Giants - 2,096,514

Colorado - 1,747,659

Atlanta - 1,773,033

Florida - 1,092,913



3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You mentioned Houston in your write up, but neglected to include them in the top NL attendance list at the conclusion of the post.

Matthew Taylor said...

Sorry if that was confusing. I list the top eight teams by record, not by attendance. I'll change the wording so it's more clear.

Thanks for the comment.

Crys said...

I love the idea of providing a disincentive to visiting fans. Finally a solution to cure the baseball world of the plague of Red Sox and Yankees fans. It would also be nice to have more fan support while the Os are losing.

I have to admit though, that while I would like more Os fans to show up, I like being able to get a ticket now at Camden Yards. After I moved away from Baltimore, for years, it was impossible to get a ticket when I came back to visit.