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Parsing MLB’s attendance numbers: April 2010

The first month of the regular season is almost over, providing us with a good time to look at MLB's attendance figures, including the surprising winners and the predictable losers.

The first month of the regular season is almost over, providing us with a good time to look at MLB's attendance figures, including the surprising winners and the predictable losers.

There aren't many surprises when you look at the top 10 teams in MLB attendance this season: Los Angeles Dodgers (47,467 per game), Philadelphia (45,056 per game), New York Yankees (44,602 per game), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (39,491 per game), St. Louis Cardinals (38,725 per game), Chicago Cubs (38,679 per game), Minnesota Twins (38,569 per game), Boston Red Sox (37,505 per game), Milwaukee Brewers (35,956 per game) and the San Francisco Giants (35,510 per game). The presence of the Minnesota Twins is something new, but totally predictable: with a new ballpark and a front-running team, Twins fans are turning out in droves.

The biggest surprise: the presence of the Milwaukee Brewers on the list. Playing in one of baseball's smallest markets, the Brewers have consistently struggled to draw, even with the opening of Miller Park. But the present owners of the Brewers do two things the Selig regime rarely did: make a commitment to winning (even if it means making some expensive mistakes, like signing Jeff Suppan to a totally unwarranted contract) and enhancing the fan experience. Indeed. there's always something new at Miller Park when the season starts, and with some legitimate stars on the roster (Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun), the Brewers are an exciting team to watch, even if the results are a series of 6-5 and 9-8 games.

Unfortunately, when you move past the top ten, you run into a series of teams who have to be disappointed in their attendance figures so far. With all their talk about a new ballpark outside the Oakland area, the A's have pretty much alienated a huge chunk of their fan base; always a tough draw, the first-place A's have attracted 17,641 fans a game. Given that new-ballpark talk will continue throughout this season, don't look for that number to dramatically improve. The Toronto Blue Jays are dead-last in MLB attendance at 15,877 per game, even after a series with archrival Boston in the books. The Blue Jays aren't very competitive on the field after letting Roy Halliday go and don't usually make many ballpark improvements in the offseason, so you have a very static situation at Rogers Centre. The Mets are down some 7,000 per game despite fielding a competitive team and making some changes at Citi Field.

But the biggest story has to do the inability of the Tampa Bay Rays to draw more than 23,040 per game to the Trop. The Rays have turned things around on the field — leading the Yankees by 2.5 games after compiling the best record in baseball to date — and have done as much to Tropicana Field as can be done to make it a hospitable venue. That attendance record is pretty poor, though; we're suspecting it's been depressed somewhat by all the talk of a new ballpark in the Tampa Bay market, but that's not something the Rays can control: the search for a new ballpark has been a community endeavor, with the Rays keeping a distance from the proceedings.

Otherwise, most teams are down.

Still, it's early in the season, with the East Coast suffering through some rainy weather. Attendance is always down the first month of the season. When school ends and families can more easily attend game you'll see an uptick in attendance — but for many teams the uptick (if it comes) may not be enough to totally save the season.

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