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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Stark: Does baseball’s slow free-agent market hurt attendance? – The Athletic

Great article by Jason Stark.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 12, 2019 at 12:55 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: attendance, free agency, pay site

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   1. bobm Posted: January 13, 2019 at 10:46 AM (#5805037)
This is a great article on a topic that is not being given enough coverage on the labor situation.

IMO there is a causal relationship here between these two variables, *regardless* of whether one thinks free agents are worth the money or what one thinks increasing attendance is worth the money in the short run or the long run. The "long run" is longer than the tenure of most GMs and probably more of a league-wide issue.
   2. bobm Posted: January 13, 2019 at 10:50 AM (#5805040)
Great stuff in TFA:

Just three years ago, when the Mets were negotiating to re-sign Yoenis Céspedes, Céspedes’ agents at CAA made a different sort of presentation that clearly got the Mets attention.

As the New York Times reported later, the agents attempted to project not just how much Céspedes was worth in attendance, but in total revenue. Factoring in everything from TV ratings to jersey sales to the estimated value of every back-page New York tabloid headline, they informed the Mets that, by their computations, Céspedes had actually been worth $34.7 million during the previous season.

The Mets were so duly impressed by that presentation, laid out in large part by a fellow named Brodie Van Wagenen, they agreed to sign Céspedes to a four-year, $110-million contract. And at the press conference announcing it, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon explained it all by saying: “He obviously helps put butts in seats. People want to see him.”

But these days, a mere three years later, agents say they can’t get the front offices they deal with to even listen to those types of arguments.

“The current generation of GMs are not going to sign players to try and sell tickets,” says a rep from one prominent agency. “You have a culture where GMs are starting to dominate the decision-making, and their owners let them have the reigns (sic) because they’ve been convinced this is a really efficient way to spend money.”
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 13, 2019 at 12:25 PM (#5805051)

...and how did that Cespedes contract work out for the Mets?
   4. Rally Posted: January 13, 2019 at 01:36 PM (#5805070)
He signed that big deal after 2016. He’s actually played well when on the field since then, but the problem is he played fewer games in 2017-18 combined than he did in 16.
   5. Jack Sommers Posted: January 13, 2019 at 01:45 PM (#5805074)
Gate receipts as a percentage of overall revenue have dropped from 38% in 2009 to 30% in 2017, Link and once the MLBAM sale is factored into 2018 numbers, combined with last year's attendance drop, that percentage will go down a little further, most likely.

At the same time, revenues just hit an all time high anyway. Maury's article

The way baseball is increasingly consumed, I just don't see factoring in the impact of off season signings on attendance as a relevant LONG TERM factor.





   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 13, 2019 at 01:46 PM (#5805075)
I have to think the fact that 10 or so teams are showing no interest in winning, and the big market teams show more interest in avoiding the luxury tax than improving, has to dampen enthusiasm and attendance.

The Yankees off-season has certainly made me much less excited to watch and/or attend games.
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 13, 2019 at 01:51 PM (#5805076)

The other day I saw a commercial where Sarah McLachlan was pleading for our help over slow-motion footage of suffering, pitiable Yankees fans.
   8. Jack Sommers Posted: January 13, 2019 at 01:58 PM (#5805078)
I have to think the fact that 10 or so teams are showing no interest in winning, and the big market teams show more interest in avoiding the luxury tax than improving, has to dampen enthusiasm and attendance.

The Yankees off-season has certainly made me much less excited to watch and/or attend games.


Maybe....but all those players will end up somewhere eventually.

For me the most interesting question is what is the natural long term progression for all of this and is there a tipping point? If attendance continues to decrease, for whatever reasons are being identified, does that eventually cause a decrease in all the other revenues ?

Is the future of baseball 20-30 years from now stadiums with 20,000-25,000 capacity, but at much higher dollars per ticket to off set the decrease number of tickets sold, and if it is, can the non gate receipts continue to grow to make up for the lost "live event" revenues ?
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: January 13, 2019 at 01:59 PM (#5805079)

The way baseball is increasingly consumed, I just don't see factoring in the impact of off season signings on attendance as a relevant LONG TERM factor.


If you are focusing solely on attendance, I would agree, but if you are focusing on consumers and interest generating actions, then that seems to be a pretty poor way to run a business.
Signing free agents, making trades etc gets your team free advertisement in the papers, news etc. Generating a little bit of hunger in the fanbase, which is pretty important in the first few months of the season. Obviously winning is the biggest way to increase your popularity, but it takes a few months for the fans to notice the winning. Complain all you want about the stadium or the cities, but treating teams, fans and players as if they are just pieces on a game board, doesn't really help maintain long term interest.

The A's again made the "playoffs", and nobody in the area really cared, and that is with San Francisco having a down year. Simply because there is nothing interesting about the team.. Nobody knows any of the players, all the fans know that whoever is on the team will be gone in 5 years or sooner, it's not worth buying a jersey for them, because it's just a waste of money etc. And even when successful, they will never take the next step to becoming actually very good, instead they'll just cycle out a few pieces for a few other pieces and pocket the revenue sharing money.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 13, 2019 at 02:18 PM (#5805080)
The other day I saw a commercial where Sarah McLachlan was pleading for our help over slow-motion footage of suffering, pitiable Yankees fans.

It's not that they're not good, it's that they're boring. If the team is content to play in the WC game, and has like an 90% chance of getting there, why pay attention until then?
   11. Dale Sams Posted: January 13, 2019 at 06:55 PM (#5805121)
I have to think the fact that 10 or so teams are showing no interest in winning, and the big market teams show more interest in avoiding the luxury tax than improving, has to dampen enthusiasm and attendance.

The Yankees off-season has certainly made me much less excited to watch and/or attend games.


Exactly, now match that with The Commish's desire to turn the sport into the equiv of Michael Scott trying to look cool for kids, and voila. That's why attendance is down and will keep going down the more teams tank and the more they threaten to #### with the rules.

It's not that they're not good, it's that they're boring. If the team is content to play in the WC game, and has like an 90% chance of getting there, why pay attention until then?


You are a mid 2000's Red Sox fan and I claim my five pounds.
   12. Brian Posted: January 13, 2019 at 06:55 PM (#5805122)
Boring? That was a danger for the Yankees a few years ago but now? If a team with Judge, Stanton, Torres, Sanchez, Andujar, Severino, Chapman, Tanaka, Paxton etc. is boring for you maybe you just need a break from baseball.
   13. dejarouehg Posted: January 13, 2019 at 07:18 PM (#5805129)
Boring? That was a danger for the Yankees a few years ago but now? If a team with Judge, Stanton, Torres, Sanchez, Andujar, Severino, Chapman, Tanaka, Paxton etc. is boring for you maybe you just need a break from baseball.


Not a Yankees fan but I agree to a point. Generally speaking, watching teams grow through the draft or minor league trades is much more enjoyable than free agent driven teams. I enjoy Judge, Torres, DiDi, Severino and Sanchez.

If they want to improve attendance, aside from the rule changes that are often debated here - let's assume MLB adopts rules to improve pace of play - MLB would do well to start the season later. Those lousy-weather April games are a miserable experience.

Thought it would be fun to see Trout play at Wrigley, but early April? Nevermind, I'll wait for him to play in NY or Baltimore.
   14. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: January 13, 2019 at 08:01 PM (#5805146)
If the team is content to play in the WC game, and has like an 90% chance of getting there, why pay attention until then?


I dunno, because baseball is fun?
   15. McCoy Posted: January 13, 2019 at 08:09 PM (#5805152)
It seems much of the decline last year came from small market teams being evil (Miami) or disappointing their fans while other small market teams weren't able to step up.
   16. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 13, 2019 at 08:37 PM (#5805154)
If a team with Judge, Stanton, Torres, Sanchez, Andujar, Severino, Chapman, Tanaka, Paxton etc. is boring for you maybe you just need a break from baseball.

The Yankees open the gates early so fans can watch Aaron Judge - the guy who has actual Supreme Court Justices in his namesake seating section - take batting practice. There is no lack of interest in the team, notwithstanding the occasional off-season grump.
   17. BrianBrianson Posted: January 13, 2019 at 08:57 PM (#5805160)
Well, attendance across MLB is down a few percent this year, and if you squint really, really hard, you can sort of imagine it's been trending downwards over the last several years.
   18. dejarouehg Posted: January 13, 2019 at 09:06 PM (#5805163)
The Yankees open the gates early so fans can watch Aaron Judge - the guy who has actual Supreme Court Justices in his namesake seating section - take batting practice.


I'm a huge BP fan. Still one of my greatest memories was seeing McGwire go upper deck center field at Tiger Stadium. (Ichiro crushing it in Fenway and Sosa going deep from LF to RF and back to LF are other fond memories.) Have only seen Judge twice. Was among the most pedestrian BP I've ever seen.

I'm not sure it's fair to use the Yankees as a barometer for the health of baseball, or either Florida team for that matter.

   19. Walt Davis Posted: January 13, 2019 at 09:49 PM (#5805178)
Attendance down ... but was ticket revenue down? (Concessions, etc.) I assume the answer's yes but that's the more important question from the (short-term) business perspective.

It seems much of the decline last year came from small market teams being evil (Miami) or disappointing their fans while other small market teams weren't able to step up.

Not sure that this is true, may depend on how you look at it. Here's a table from b-r. 17 of 30 teams saw a drop. Toronto's drop was massive but they were only 3 wins worse than last year. Huge drops from Balt, KC, Miami, Detroit and Texas are probably pretty much to be expected, but the Pirates improved by 6 games to over 500 and still saw a drop over 400,000. Houston was the big success story with a 500,000 jump ... which took them back to the attendance they had back in 2007.

But, for sure, the teams that were going to pretty obviously be terrible saw huge drops while nobody else particularly caught anybody's imagination. A complete lack of anything resembling a pennant race in the AL surely didn't help. Anyway, I'll agree/suggest that a marketing campaign of "we are going to suck for 3-4 seasons, please be patient and trust the process" is not going to seel many tickets.
   20. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: January 13, 2019 at 10:09 PM (#5805181)
I do think signing players late, and signing them to one year deals, does have a negative impact on attendance. As the players become more and more mercenary, fans have a lessened attachment to the team.

But it is behind the other reasons pointed out above: tanking teams, big market teams more concerned about the tax than improving, etc.
   21. base ball chick Posted: January 13, 2019 at 11:14 PM (#5805192)
the owners don't appear to give a fraction of a gol durn about the attendance seeing as how they don't make most of their money from the gate

they aren't real too particularly interested in winning or trying to win - hey, if they get lucky like oakland or TB last year, no probs, but they certainly are not going to TRY to make things better

and it sure looks as if ballplayers are going to need to go to arb every year and play hardball like mookie betts because they are going to get very badly screwed if they don't

i'm tired of hearing about "greedy" players and "mercenary" PLAYERS and not about the greedy and mercenary OWNERS. like i said when the astros started this vile trend, the owners are making 10s of millions a year AND NOT NEEDING EYEBALLS ON CABLE OR IN THE SEATS

AND I AM dammeddd TIREDER of all the crap about how payroll makes ticket prices go up. this is complete excrimento de caballo. or del toro, whichever has the largest and stinkiest
   22. Howie Menckel Posted: January 13, 2019 at 11:48 PM (#5805196)
AND I AM dammeddd TIREDER of all the crap about how payroll makes ticket prices go up. this is complete excrimento de caballo.

I once tried to explain how little correlation there legitimately is between the two, to a prominent NYC sports columnist. he looked confused, then admitted he was confused.
   23. The Duke Posted: January 14, 2019 at 06:23 AM (#5805208)
There is never a 1:1 relationship on drivers of attendance but I think lack of free agent signings has to be really low on the list.

The culprits to me are likely three items:

1. Pace of play (time between pitches , replay etc)
2. Tanking. This not only impacts home attendance but also away attendance
3. General trends in spending of entertainment $$$. The ability to get all the games on streaming has to ultimately affect attendance
   24. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 14, 2019 at 07:37 AM (#5805209)
Toronto's drop was massive but they were only 3 wins worse than last year.

Right, but we always talk about how attendance effects often lag results by a year. And in Toronto's case, in 2017 they were coming off two consecutive ALCS appearances. In 2018, they were coming off a 76-win, fourth-place season, and the AL (especially the East) was so strong that I'm pretty sure they were effectively out of contention after May.

I don't think you were saying this, but it's hard to argue that any of the attendance change could be attributed to a change in their free agent signing tendencies during the offseason.
   25. bfan Posted: January 14, 2019 at 10:20 AM (#5805238)
If the answer to the question posed is "yes", then teams keeping players on their team by signing them up to long-term deals before they hit free-agency, would be a negative to total attendance (and there certainly would be less news when that happens than what is generated from the many and Bryce tours to various cities). However, keeping players on the team they start with, by signing contracts like the above, which allows for fan long-term emotional investments in players, would seem to increase fan loyalty, so I doubt that the slow FA market hurts attendance.

I am sure the slow FA market makes it harder for writers to write interesting articles with new material in the off-season, and I guess that means less baseball news in the off-season, but I think when you look at all of the factors here, that the answer to the question posed for this article is "No".

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