MLB attendance is up 4.2 percent this season over last, but there are some surprising laggards at the box office this season -- though it doesn't seem to matter whether a team wins or loses.
The convention wisdom on the MLB level is that it matters at the box office whether a team is winning or losing. And if you look at the top performers this season at the box office -- the Philadelphia Phillies, the Texas Rangers, the St. Louis Cardinals -- you'll see two teams at the top of their division and team surprisingly in last place in the National League East. We're inclined to throw the Phillies out of the mix; that teams has turned into a monster on the sales and promotional side, and Citizens Bank Park may be the best-run facility in the majors. Similarly, the Cards would be a strong draw this season no matter what the team's record, given the World Series win last year.
And, of course, that overall MLB attendance is helped significantly by the Miami Marlins, who are drawing considerably larger crowds at Marlins Park than last season at Sun Life Stadium.
But there are some teams that are winning but not seeing a bonanza at the box office. The Cleveland Indians are drawing a pitiful 14,291 fans a game at Progressive Field despite leading the American League Central, and the Baltimore Orioles are attracting only 22,370 fans a game despite leading the competitive American League East and unveiling upgrades to Oriole Park. There's surely some frustration in both front offices, but both face the same fundamental issue: after years of losses and complacency on the operations front, fans are understandably a little wary about committing their hearts and pocketbooks to teams that have not been dependable in the past.
In New York City, things are static: Yankees attendance is down slightly this season, while Mets attendance is steady. Neither stat represents good news; while the Yankees are attracting 40,658 fans a game in announced attendance, that's only 80.8 percent of capacity at the new Yankee Stadium. And the Mets possibly have years of work to do in attracting more than the 28,737 fans a game announced for Citi Field.
A closely watched stat will be Dodgers attendance. So far this season the team is attracting 38,525 fans a game; that's up a little from the 36,236 fans tallied per game last season, but still way below the glory years of the franchise like 2004 and 2005, when team attendance was 43,000+ per game. The new ownership regime hasn't impacted the box office yet: in fact, with the Giants in town and the new ownership in place for the first time, the Dodgers drew only 33,993 fans for what should have been a big game on May 9. Obviously more wooing of the fans is in order.
Also down this year: the Twins (where the sheen of Target Field may be wearing off), the Padres, the Astros and the White Sox. All four teams are under .500 and not generating a lot of buzz on the field.
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