Is it the craziness of Mother Nature or is Major League Baseball suffering something far worse than bad weather in terms of fan attendance? Can MLB survive an attendance hit like the NFL did last season.
First off, the reasons why NFL attendance was lower last season was due in part to the social awareness issues that became a hot topic with the players, organization and fans, especially when stars took a knee during the National Anthem. Second, this has already been a strange start to the MLB season. There is still hope things can correct itself.
Weather across the northern states and out west has produced cold temperatures, wind, rain and snow, which has suspended or cancelled games and reduced attendance across the board. The Miami Marlins only wish they could use the weather as an excuse for poor attendance.
MLB columnist Jeff Passan tackles the potential problem in his story on Yahoo Sports. He thinks there is a chance the attendance figures so far this season are caused by a deeper reason that rain, sleet, wind and snow.
“Attendance is down in staggering amounts across baseball, from Chicago to St. Louis to Baltimore and even in cities with warm weather and domes,” write Passan on his Twitter account. “10 Degrees explores: Is the dip is weather-related, or is MLB at risk of an attendance problem due to tanking?”
Tanking? There’s no tanking in baseball. Or is there? While the Miami Marlins have had issues putting butts in the seats because the team is one of the worst in the league, other teams with winning records and competitive organizations are experiencing the same kind of mass exodus as other franchises that won’t sniff the post season this year.
“Inside front offices all spring, officials wondered whether the significant number of teams that neither spent in free agency nor harbored realistic notions of contention would have a tangible, negative effect on fans attending games,” writes Passan. “And while, yes, it is April, and, yes, it certainly is frickin’ freezing in here, Mr. Bigglesworth, and, yes, it is a small sample of games, the disintegration of crowd size around the game is alarming enough to track.”
Compared to last season at this juncture, the Boston Red Sox are down about 2,500 fans a game. For the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, it’s nearly 5,000. The Cleveland Indians’ average crowd has dropped more than 5,000, the Texas Rangers’ more than 7,000 and the Pittsburgh Pirates more than 7,500. The Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals each are in the 8,000-fan range, and the Miami Marlins are pushing 10,000. The most severe is the Baltimore Orioles, who have played six games at home and are at almost 16,000 fewer per.
When the weather does start to cooperate in more rhythmic fashion, could these figures change? Will MLB teams see an increase in attendance? Will the warm summer months mean fans get back out to the ballpark and will home runs and top pitching performances still reign king on a sunny summer afternoon?
“Now, the last time the league suffered through an April with more postponements than this was 2007. Over the first 225 games that season, the average crowd was 29,888,” writes Passan. “By the end of the year, that number leaped to 32,704 per game for a total of more than 79.5 million, still the largest attendance figure in the game’s history.”