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Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Baseball had its worst attendance in 16 years

Eric Fisher of Sportsbusiness.com reported this morning that Major League Baseball had its worst attendance in sixteen years in 2019. Total attendance was 68.49 million, which is down 1.7% from 2018 and represents the sixth decline in attendance in the last seven seasons. Attendance is down a whopping 14% from its height in 2007.

While there are many reasons for the attendance decline, it’s hard not to lay a hefty amount of the blame on an increasing number of teams simply not trying to win. There were four 100-loss teams in 2019 and six more teams lost at least 90 games. Most of that losing was due to rebuilds which have not prioritized spending money or winning at the major league level. All of that bad play led to extreme competitive imbalance and almost non-existent pennant races. Given that baseball ticket prices apparently only go up from year to year, never down, it’s not surprising at all that the demand for the increasingly expensive product that is a major league baseball game has sunk.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 01, 2019 at 10:03 AM | 69 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. cookiedabookie Posted: October 01, 2019 at 12:04 PM (#5884948)
Institute a salary floor, allow for trading of draft picks. Players make more money, and if teams want to tank they can take on bad contracts for draft picks/prospects. But at least a team will have to field a team of known players. Or tax them for every game lost over 99 games.
   2. Belfry Bob Posted: October 01, 2019 at 12:21 PM (#5884957)
Attendance is down a whopping 14% from its height in 2007.


When did most networks start broadcasting games in HD?
   3. JRVJ Posted: October 01, 2019 at 12:55 PM (#5884970)
Maury Brown did an interesting analysis on this, and while it's not a perfect fit, most of the decrease is from teams that are absolutely s*cky (e.g., Toronto).

Frankly, I think the next fight has to be for teams that are rebuilding to at least comply with a halfway decent salary floor. Yes, that could mean that they take on contracts for picks and things like that, but it stands to reason that if they pay out a little more money, they will be more in the 70 win range and not in the 50 win range.
   4. . Posted: October 01, 2019 at 01:07 PM (#5884975)
The tanking isn't why attendance is down so much. The first step toward fixing a problem is something other than misdiagnosing it, or lying to yourself about it.

Baseball as a business faces a number of socio-cultural headwinds and it's those headwinds that have driven attendance down. There's no reason to believe trotting out the same product next year and in 2020, 2021, 2022, etc. won't continue to see a drop in attendance and even if attendance blips up an immaterial amount next year, it won't mean the headwinds have diminished.
   5. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: October 01, 2019 at 01:11 PM (#5884978)
For context:

College Football attendance was at its lowest levels since 1996 last year. (41,856 average amongst the FBS schools). Pac 12 is at its lowest per game average since 1982, B1G Ten lowest since 1984. According to NCAA, 2008 was the peak (46,971).
   6. udonis weakly 57i66135 zaza Posted: October 01, 2019 at 01:13 PM (#5884980)
my new #hoopidea:

put netting up around the entire stadium...except for the section directly behind home plate.
whenever a fan in that section gets hit with a baseball, MLB will donate $100 to a charity of the pitcher's choosing.
whenever a fan has to be taken to the hospital, MLB will donate $100 to a charity of the batter's choosing.
whenever a fan gets knocked unconscious by a baseball, everyone in that section will get a t-shirt of chief wahoo with tears streaming down the side of his face.

i call it extreme baseball.
   7. Kiko Sakata Posted: October 01, 2019 at 01:18 PM (#5884983)
Maury Brown did an interesting analysis on this, and while it's not a perfect fit, most of the decrease is from teams that are absolutely s*cky (e.g., Toronto).


At the team level, of course, win-lost record is a big factor affecting attendance. But at the league level, win-lost records are all zero-sum.

Baseball-Reference tracks year-over-year attendance changes by team. In 2019, 3 of the top 10 decliners in attendance made the playoffs (WAS, Yankees, and HOU) and a fourth (Cleveland) was in contention until the last week of the season. Meanwhile 4 of the top 5 gainers in attendance missed the playoffs - the exception being the Minnesota Twins. Interestingly, two of the three largest gainers were the Phillies and Padres, neither of whom made the playoffs but who signed the two biggest free agents last offseason.

Also, potentially noteworthy, more teams saw their attendance per game go up in 2019 (16, including the Marlins whose attendance went up by a grand total of 198, or 2 per game) than saw it decline (14 teams, with the Angels seeing attendance decline by a whopping 15 per game).
   8. McCoy Posted: October 01, 2019 at 01:25 PM (#5884985)
Both the marlins and blue Jays drastically changed the way they reported attendance recently making comparisons to other years meaningless when looking at the whole. Then throw in smaller stadiums.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 01, 2019 at 01:26 PM (#5884988)

Maury Brown did an interesting analysis on this, and while it's not a perfect fit, most of the decrease is from teams that are absolutely s*cky (e.g., Toronto).


Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus also concluded this in 2018.

To put this in less technical language: about 35 percent of the attendance decline from 2015 to 2018 is attributable to less competitive baseball games.
   10. Davo Posted: October 01, 2019 at 01:56 PM (#5884996)
Let me explain why this is Actually Good (1 / 137)
   11. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: October 01, 2019 at 02:02 PM (#5885001)
What? The consumer won't purchase the rights to see knowingly bad entertainment? That's outrageous.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 01, 2019 at 02:05 PM (#5885003)
At the team level, of course, win-lost record is a big factor affecting attendance. But at the league level, win-lost records are all zero-sum.

Right, but I don't think the Yankees and the Astros are going to draw much more if they win their division at 105 wins, instead of 95.

A 50 win team is much less watchable than a 70 win team, but a division leader is basically a division leader, regardless of record.
   13. JRVJ Posted: October 01, 2019 at 02:54 PM (#5885026)
12, I agree with this.

I was listening to a podcast this morning (it may have been the Ringer MLB Show) and somebody pointed out that fan excitement is usually larger when there's a genuinely competitive race. When a team is out of the race very early in the season or is such a juggernaut that it looks like it's going to win its division by July, fan enthusiasm wanes.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 01, 2019 at 03:08 PM (#5885036)
I was listening to a podcast this morning (it may have been the Ringer MLB Show) and somebody pointed out that fan excitement is usually larger when there's a genuinely competitive race. When a team is out of the race very early in the season or is such a juggernaut that it looks like it's going to win its division by July, fan enthusiasm wanes.

Makes sense. The tighter the distribution of wins in a division or league, the more total fan interest should be, and the higher total revenue.

   15. Due to the leadership of Zonk... Posted: October 01, 2019 at 03:19 PM (#5885038)
At some point, I wonder how much the easily accessible and now safe secondary market plays a role...

"16 years ago" - I'd preseason shop for dates (or split a package with friends). I don't do that anymore because why bother?

If the mood strikes me/schedule permits - I just browse stubhub... and now more than ever, my decision really gets made based on whether I find a good bargain or not. I *think* I'm probably buying fewer tickets now, but that *feels* like it's less because I used to make a concerted effort to wander around the park and seek out cheap seats - to say nothing of not evening bothering with the ticket window - and instead, do a quick mobile check to see if a good seat at a good price is available. Some of that is inevitable life changes (more discretionary income; telecommuting), I'll grant.... but BITD? The decision was a planned one.... Now? It's a good seat at a fair price decision that I can make from home, on the spot.
   16. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: October 01, 2019 at 04:15 PM (#5885055)
Good point Zonk. Just thinking backwards, my last dozen plus MLB games, all but one was a StubHub buy. These aren't really close (purchase) calls. The sections, the number of tickets, the convenience, and yes, usually the price is always favorable.
   17. McCoy Posted: October 01, 2019 at 04:50 PM (#5885077)
People would say baseball is doomed if they ever switched to counting attendance by who actually shows up.
   18. Dr. Vaux Posted: October 01, 2019 at 05:04 PM (#5885087)
We only went to one Orioles game this summer, after going to more than 10 in each of the previous 7 years. It wasn't anything to do with the team or the prices, though; we were just incredibly busy. Next summer we'll probably go to more than ever (and, my protestations about the state of the game notwithstanding, it's been on tv in the background almost every night we're home, just like always, though I look up at it only rarely).
   19. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 01, 2019 at 05:49 PM (#5885112)
Stubhub cuts both ways though -- it also means that if you buy tickets and can't use them you can feel pretty confident that there will be a takeout, even if it's at a discount to what you paid and there are some hefty fees. And it's almost zero effort to do so.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: October 01, 2019 at 06:20 PM (#5885118)
I doubt there's ever been a more extreme distribution of wins than the AL this year. 5 teams won 96+ games and Cle was on 93; 5 teams lost 94+. The Red Sox at 84-78 were the only team between a 450 and 550 win percentage. Most of the AL games this year would have been either drastic mismatches or two terrible teams playing each other.

Overall attendance in the NL looks to be up about 9,000 (per league-game ... i.e. average attendance up about 600) this year. The Giants and Nats are the only teams with substantial declines probably thanks to terrible early starts. Those drops were more than balanced out by a big gain in Philly and a solid one for the Mets. In the NL, only 2 teams won 95+ and only 1 lost 95+. 7 teams were between 450 and 550.

This year's performance is primarily because of atrocious teams, probably both in terms of their expected decline in attendance and, given the high concentration of suckitude in one league, an imbalance that spreads throughout the entire schedule. Which means this was an AL problem.

Last year NL attendance was off about 13,500 which was entirely the atrocious and openly non-competitive Marlins (who also changed the way they reported attendance I think) and Pirates. I don't know why the Pirates saw such a big drop. For 2019 NL, at least the Pirates and Marlins leveled out; the Tigers are down about 10,000 from 2017 and the O's/Royals both down about 9,000. Toronto is off 18,000!
   21. McCoy Posted: October 01, 2019 at 08:11 PM (#5885140)
Toronto also changed the way they handled their tickets and how they're counted.
   22. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 01, 2019 at 08:18 PM (#5885147)
Toronto is off 18,000!
Yeah, but that’s only like 10,000 U.S.
   23. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: October 01, 2019 at 08:36 PM (#5885162)
Maury Brown did an interesting analysis on this, and while it's not a perfect fit, most of the decrease is from teams that are absolutely s*cky (e.g., Toronto).

Weren't there bad teams 16 years ago? I gotta assume that overall MLB win-loss percentage average out to .500 then and now. For every team losing more games, someone else is winning more games.
   24. Spahn Insane Posted: October 01, 2019 at 09:15 PM (#5885193)
I blame the Tigers. 114 losses this year, 119 16 years ago. They're degrading the MLB product with their very existence.
   25. Due to the leadership of Zonk... Posted: October 01, 2019 at 10:00 PM (#5885224)
In pure MLB dollar terms, I doubt the attendance figures really mean that much...

I'd just be intensely interested to see the team data on sales over the years broken down by preseason buys, season ticket packages, in-season spot purchases... and how that has changed with the advent of safe* digital options.

*FTR - for the first time ever - and I've probably purchased upwards of 100 stubhub tickets (including multiseats for friends/guests/etc), I ended up with a bad ticket this year. I literally got my 40 bucks refunded through stubhub within half an hour and bonus, the gate folks also found me a decent seat anyway. It turned into a free game. I still remember ~20 years ago a cousin saying she'd gotten great seats for 100 bucks for 5 of us and me saying "fan them out..."... only to see we had ONE decent seat to that day's game... and 4 crap seats to prior games.
   26. depletion Posted: October 01, 2019 at 10:14 PM (#5885235)
In pure MLB dollar terms, I doubt the attendance figures really mean that much...

This is true, but its unwise for the game to ignore steadily decreasing attendance. I've attended one or more games almost every year since 1966 but probably none in the last 4 or 5 years. I just don't have the time, and Nationals park is a PITA to go to due to the sardine-can-like Metro ride home. I much preferred the old, beat up RFK for easy car access. My $0.02.
   27. The Run Fairy Posted: October 01, 2019 at 10:45 PM (#5885254)
Toronto also changed the way they handled their tickets and how they're counted.


That's bs. Attendance absolutely did crater this year, thousands of people did stop buying packages. Just turn to a random weekday game on mlb.tv and look at the vast sections of empty seats in the lower deck.
   28. base ball chick Posted: October 01, 2019 at 11:14 PM (#5885307)
i'm surprised to hear some of yall say you saved money on tix with stubhub

just out of curiosity, i have checked astros tix prices - what you would get if you walked up to the box office, vs stubhub - and after you add in all the stubhub fees, it was the same price or more expensive

unless you are talking about the extreme nosebleeds far LF/RF that usually go for $15

the players care more about fans in the seats than the owners do. they make zillions with empty stadiums - see marlins. or any other team trying to lose/not caring if they win or lose
   29. Dr. Vaux Posted: October 01, 2019 at 11:19 PM (#5885314)
Nationals park is a PITA to go to due to the sardine-can-like Metro ride home. I much preferred the old, beat up RFK for easy car access. My $0.02.


And there's that the last train leaves before the game's over. We naven't gone there for years.

At Camden Yards, you can park relatively close for $10.
   30. Due to the leadership of Zonk... Posted: October 01, 2019 at 11:50 PM (#5885333)
i'm surprised to hear some of yall say you saved money on tix with stubhub


It's mostly - at least in my case, almost wholly a matter of being a single dude who is fortunate enough to have a telecommuting job that allows him to skip out of work a few hours early on occasion. Doesn't hurt that Cubs summer games - and current night game schedule-wise, that puts almost every home Friday in play (Seriously... get a job with a European company. I continue to be amazed how summer is really considered "holiday" and you get told "Let's talk in September").

If I did all the math - I'd probably come out ahead if I bought ahead of time, pure dollar-wise.... but the thing is - I'm also not getting the quality of seats I can. Granted, it's a somewhat unusual occurrence, but I've plopped down ~30-50 bucks for a ~first 10~ row seat (granted, up the lines). BITD, I'd scalper-rat remainders - and get better prices - but it usually meant spending the afternoon at Murphy's and often, get shut out.

Maybe I'm less interested in the MLB numbers and more interested in reconciling my misspent youth with modern responsibility and technology....
   31. BrianBrianson Posted: October 02, 2019 at 03:54 AM (#5885353)
Weren't there bad teams 16 years ago? I gotta assume that overall MLB win-loss percentage average out to .500 then and now. For every team losing more games, someone else is winning more games.


I'm a little skeptical because comparisons are focussing on the absolute number of teams with X+ wins or X+ losses, which is a little short sighted. 2 100 loss teams is just as "uncompetitive" as 1 100 loss team 50 years ago.
   32. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 02, 2019 at 07:10 AM (#5885358)
At some point, I wonder how much the easily accessible and now safe secondary market plays a role...

"16 years ago" - I'd preseason shop for dates (or split a package with friends). I don't do that anymore because why bother?

If the mood strikes me/schedule permits - I just browse stubhub... and now more than ever, my decision really gets made based on whether I find a good bargain or not.


You've now come to the point where most fans were up through the 70's or 80's, depending on the park. The only difference is that then there were always bargains to be had,** and 99% of the time you could get them at the ticket window on the day of the game. A formal secondary market simply wasn't necessary.

** They were called "face value", and hard as it may be to believe for those who only know "dynamic pricing", they didn't go up in price when the Yankees or the Red Sox were in town.
   33. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 02, 2019 at 09:24 AM (#5885378)


Weren't there bad teams 16 years ago? I gotta assume that overall MLB win-loss percentage average out to .500 then and now. For every team losing more games, someone else is winning more games.


I would guess most of attendance comes from season ticket sales, and 16 years ago, even some of the teams that were bad expected to be good, or at least their fans did. This year, there were quite a few teams you could cross off as contenders on day one.
   34. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 02, 2019 at 12:51 PM (#5885451)
The only difference is that then there were always bargains to be had,** and 99% of the time you could get them at the ticket window on the day of the game.
The reason bargains were to be had, may have been that few people actually went to the games. In 1955, in the middle of what some insist was baseball's Golden Era, MLB averaged 13,466 fans per game; in 1965, after expansion to new West Coast markets, 13,827; in 1975, 15,403; and in 1985, 22, 265. MLB didn’t reach this year’s attendance level until 1993, and if you overlook the immediate aftermath of the 1994 strike, it pretty much continuously maintained that high plateau, with minor fluctuations. Attendance is higher now than it was in 2002-03, although I suppose if we check the archives, BBTF might have been filled with Baseball Is Dying comments then, too.
   35. Athletic Supporter is USDA certified lean Posted: October 02, 2019 at 01:10 PM (#5885457)
just out of curiosity, i have checked astros tix prices - what you would get if you walked up to the box office, vs stubhub - and after you add in all the stubhub fees, it was the same price or more expensive


The Astros are good, though, so people actually want to go to their games.

I got a lower bowl ticket, 20th row or so, for the A's/Mariners game at Safeco on Saturday night for $40 plus taxes and fees, about $50 total. That same ticket retails for $88 I believe (at least that was the cheapest first party lower bowl ticket, which was several rows further back). Desirable time for a game, as an A's fan obviously a super relevant game, but the Mariners suck so here we are. To [19]'s point it makes it more palatable for a Mariners season ticket holder (hold onto the tickets so you have them if the M's ever get good again, cut your losses by pawning off tickets), but damn, that was a great deal (and a great game with a great result).
   36. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: October 02, 2019 at 01:40 PM (#5885476)
In addition to all of the other factors cited above, we're almost certainly on the front edge of a recession and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if people were starting to tighten belts in the aggregate.
   37. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 02, 2019 at 01:41 PM (#5885477)

just out of curiosity, i have checked astros tix prices - what you would get if you walked up to the box office, vs stubhub - and after you add in all the stubhub fees, it was the same price or more expensive

Right, as #35 mentioned, the Astros are a good team. Most teams fall out of contention at some point during the season and my experience is that you can get pretty good deals on Stubhub then. Not necessarily true for all teams or all games -- certain opponents, pitching matchups, days of the week, promotional nights, etc. might make a given ticket more highly sought after.
   38. Tin Angel Posted: October 02, 2019 at 02:13 PM (#5885493)
Deadspin had an interesting article on this today: MLB's Empty Seats Aren't A Problem, They're Part Of The Plan
   39. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 02, 2019 at 02:18 PM (#5885496)
The Astros are good, though, so people actually want to go to their games.

I got a lower bowl ticket, 20th row or so, for the A's/Mariners game at Safeco on Saturday night for $40 plus taxes and fees, about $50 total. That same ticket retails for $88 I believe (at least that was the cheapest first party lower bowl ticket, which was several rows further back).


I got tickets for the Yankees last home game (Sunday vs Blue Jays) for $65 ea. from the box office. 2nd deck, 3B side two sections closer than the foul pole. They were good seats.
   40. DL from MN Posted: October 02, 2019 at 02:41 PM (#5885512)
38 is correct. Owners care about attendance revenue, not attendance.
   41. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 02, 2019 at 02:45 PM (#5885515)
I'm a little skeptical because comparisons are focussing on the absolute number of teams with X+ wins or X+ losses, which is a little short sighted. 2 100 loss teams is just as "uncompetitive" as 1 100 loss team 50 years ago.

The standard deviation of team wins (and losses) has definitely increased over the past several years and in 2019 was the worst it's been during the expansion era (ever so slightly worse than 1962 even though they both round to 15.9). See table below.

I would ignore strike years because with a shorter schedule you'd expect a lower standard deviation of wins. And I would be hesitant to read too much causation into the numbers since things like recessions, new parks, etc. have an effect as well.

But it's noteworthy that the high water mark in attendance came in the most competitive year since 1990, which followed a 6-year period of improvement in competitiveness, although the overall economic cycle certainly had something to do with it, too.

Year StDev Attendance Notes
1961  15.6  13
,212  Expansion
1962  15.9  13
,186  Expansion
1963  13.4  12
,647  
1964  13.5  13
,087  
1965  14.3  13
,827  
1966  10.4  15
,592  
1967  10.6  15
,005  
1968   9.7  14
,217  
1969  15.0  13
,992  
1970  12.6  14
,787  
1971  11.6  15
,063  
1972  11.3  14
,506  
1973  10.3  15
,496  
1974   9.9  15
,437  
1975  11.7  15
,403  
1976  11.8  16
,151  
1977  14.4  18
,406  Expansion
1978  12.3  19
,332  
1979  12.9  20
,748  
1980  11.6  20
,434  
1981   8.7  19
,041  Strike
1982  10.5  21
,161  
1983   9.8  21
,593  
1984   8.9  21
,255  
1985  12.6  22
,265  
1986  10.3  22
,589  
1987   9.8  24
,708  
1988  12.0  25
,237  
1989  10.0  26
,198  
1990   9.1  26
,044  
1991   9.7  27
,002  
1992  10.2  26
,529  
1993  12.2  30
,964  Expansion
1994   7.6  31
,256  Strike addition of Wild Card
1995  10.3  25
,021  Strike
1996  10.0  26
,509  
1997   9.6  27
,876  
1998  13.5  29
,030  Expansion
1999  12.5  28
,887  
2000  10.0  29
,377  
2001  13.0  29
,881  
2002  14.8  28
,006  
2003  13.4  27
,831  
2004  13.5  30
,075  
2005  10.8  30
,816  MTL moves to WAS
2006  10.1  31
,306  
2007   9.3  32
,696  
2008  11.1  32
,382  
2009  11.4  30
,218  
2010  11.0  30
,066  
2011  11.4  30
,228  
2012  11.9  30
,806  
2013  12.3  30
,451  
2014   9.6  30
,345  
2015  10.5  30
,349  
2016  10.7  30
,131  
2017  11.5  29
,908  
2018  14.7  28
,659  
2019  15.9  28
,198 


   42. . Posted: October 02, 2019 at 02:51 PM (#5885521)
The reason bargains were to be had, may have been that few people actually went to the games. In 1955, in the middle of what some insist was baseball's Golden Era, MLB averaged 13,466 fans per game; in 1965, after expansion to new West Coast markets, 13,827; in 1975, 15,403; and in 1985, 22, 265. MLB didn’t reach this year’s attendance level until 1993, and if you overlook the immediate aftermath of the 1994 strike, it pretty much continuously maintained that high plateau, with minor fluctuations. Attendance is higher now than it was in 2002-03, although I suppose if we check the archives, BBTF might have been filled with Baseball Is Dying comments then, too.


The time series doesn't work because until the mallpark era, with very few exceptions, people didn't go to baseball games to do things other than watch a baseball game.
   43. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 02, 2019 at 03:32 PM (#5885536)
The only difference is that then there were always bargains to be had,** and 99% of the time you could get them at the ticket window on the day of the game.

The reason bargains were to be had, may have been that few people actually went to the games. In 1955, in the middle of what some insist was baseball's Golden Era, MLB averaged 13,466 fans per game; in 1965, after expansion to new West Coast markets, 13,827; in 1975, 15,403; and in 1985, 22, 265. MLB didn’t reach this year’s attendance level until 1993, and if you overlook the immediate aftermath of the 1994 strike, it pretty much continuously maintained that high plateau, with minor fluctuations. Attendance is higher now than it was in 2002-03, although I suppose if we check the archives, BBTF might have been filled with Baseball Is Dying comments then, too.


Much of that per game attendance increase can be attributed to population growth in the suburbs, part of it to rising incomes, part of it was because many teams scheduled far more weekday afternoon games, part of it was due to the rise of season ticket sales to corporations, and part of it was due to the simple fact that attendance is now based on gross ticket sales rather than the turnstile count. When you consider all the factors, it's possible that MLB attendance as a percentage of the population within an hour or two of the ballpark peaked in 1948. And that doesn't even take into consideration that in the late 1940's there were about 3 times as many minor leagues as there are in 2019. Baseball was simply part of the American everyday consciousness in a way that it hasn't been for many, many decades.

How many afternoon newspapers back then put the afternoon line scores on their front page? (HINT: Plenty.) And how many news websites in MLB cities put updated baseball results on their website's front page? Gross attendance figures only give you a part of the story. Christ, today the New York Times rarely even bothers to post a Yankees or Mets regular season game story by one of their own writers, instead using the AP story while their own reporters cover tennis, soccer, or women's gymnastics with the sort of depth that they used to devote to baseball. And the New York papers that do cover baseball with the respect it deserves are struggling to stay in business.

And the point remains that the sort of bargains that could be had 30 or 40 years ago exist today only for certain games against certain opponents. Look up the ticket prices from the 70's, see what kind of seats you could get at various ballparks in inflation-adjusted dollars, and unless you compare nosebleed apples to behind the plate oranges, you'll see that my point is indisputable.
   44. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 02, 2019 at 03:52 PM (#5885546)
I’m only mildly surprised that #43 didn’t lament that the ‘nickel candy bar’ that existed in various forms from 1925-1970 now costs well over $1. The fact remains that BITD when everything was supposedly much better, according to some, folks didn’t go to MLB games in nearly the numbers that they do now, when baseball is supposedly dying, according to some. And all this with unprecedented access to local and out of market games on large screen, high definition TV.
   45. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 02, 2019 at 04:41 PM (#5885575)

#44 I generally agree, but history is full of examples of businesses that became complacent, rather than trying to improve or protect themselves against potential downturns. I think it's good for MLB to be asking itself whether the product can be improved even when business is good. But they should be conservative about making changes and should test those changes beforehand (i.e. in the minors in Indy Leagues) so that you don't have the issue they did this year with introducing a new ball and having no idea that it would dramatically increase HRs.
   46. Zach Posted: October 02, 2019 at 04:46 PM (#5885579)
Weren't there bad teams 16 years ago? I gotta assume that overall MLB win-loss percentage average out to .500 then and now. For every team losing more games, someone else is winning more games.

Yeah, but the experience of watching a 100 loss team is far worse than watching a 70 win team.

A 70 win team has interesting storylines. The bullpen is a weakness, can you fix it? The young guys are scuffling, will they come around? Is the veteran guy done, or can he keep it together until the end of the year?

There are some winning streaks and some losing streaks, then in late summer things become clear and you tune out a little until September callups.

A hundred loss team is just brutal. KC won their first two this year, then went on a 10 game losing streak. You couldn't even dream on them for a week. And Detroit finished 11.5 games behind them!

   47. DL from MN Posted: October 02, 2019 at 04:49 PM (#5885581)
How many afternoon newspapers back then put the afternoon line scores on their front page? (HINT: Plenty.) And how many news websites in MLB cities put updated baseball results on their website's front page?


Not really the same. The afternoon newspaper was the best way to find that info. Now I use the MLB app, why would I go to the local news website to get game scores?
   48. McCoy Posted: October 02, 2019 at 04:51 PM (#5885584)
Andy's narrative has been and always will be that everything was better and cheaper back in his glory days.
   49. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 02, 2019 at 04:55 PM (#5885586)
Yeah, but the experience of watching a 100 loss team is far worse than watching a 70 win team.
Those eight wins make that much difference?
   50. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: October 02, 2019 at 04:55 PM (#5885587)
Why do we care obsessively about attendance? People consume the product of MLB in many many ways and physical attendance in a stadium is only one of them.

I am not saying attendance doesn't matter, it does. But not nearly as much as the cries about baseball dying would have you believe.

If someone wanted to produce a better stat, one that included the value of an attendee to a baseball game relative to the past, and showed that was decreasing then yeah, that would be worrisome. But fairly minor fluctuations in raw announced attendance totals? Not so much.
   51. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 02, 2019 at 04:59 PM (#5885592)

the players care more about fans in the seats than the owners do. they make zillions with empty stadiums - see marlins. or any other team trying to lose/not caring if they win or lose

Does an empty stadium affect tv ratings? I still watch games in Miami and Tampa even though it's a bit of a drag...I wonder whether more casual fans do the same.
   52. Walt Davis Posted: October 02, 2019 at 05:12 PM (#5885597)
#41 ... and I gather those numbers are for MLB overall. The NL was pretty balanced in win distribution so the AL variance would be much higher than what you find overall.

It's a reasonably straightforward point -- the MLB winning percentage is always 500 so obviously at the league-level there's no connection between "wins" and attendance because wins don't vary at the league level. The connection between wins and attendance is at a team-level. To the extent that "team quality" matters at the league level, it's obviously got to be about the variance in wins.

1/3 of the teams in the AL really, really stank. This created imbalance throughout its entire schedule. Not only is there little reason for an O's fan to go to an O's game, there's reduced interest from Yankees fans to attend when they're playing the O's ... or the Jays or the Tigers or the Royals or the Ms or even the White Sox. Heck, other than the great fun of beating up the O's (17-2), seems the Yanks players couuld barely generate interest in those games.

It may also be the sheer bluntness of it all. On the one hand, it's hard to believe the old blather about "we've got a young team, we're gonna play really hard, we're gonna be competitive, come out and watch the kids" actually worked for clearly terrible teams in the past but, on the other hand, it's clear that "we suck, we know we suck, you know we suck, we know you know we suck and we're not even going to pretend to do anything about that but we hope to be good again in 4 years, see you then" is not bringing people to the ballpark.
   53. Rennie's Tenet Posted: October 02, 2019 at 05:17 PM (#5885599)
I think blackouts are a problem. I moved back to Pittsburgh after years away, don't want cable, would be blacked out of the Pirates on MLB.tv. I'm 8 miles from the ballpark, but have been clueless about when games are or who's coming to town next because because I'm not sitting down and watching a few innings every night. I'm a dinosaur and they don't care about my money, but a lot of younger people aren't forming the baseball habit because the games are mostly on cable now.
   54. Zach Posted: October 02, 2019 at 05:19 PM (#5885601)
Those eight wins make that much difference?

Yes. Much bigger than the difference between 81-81 and 90-72.

The fun of watching a bad team is probably closer to being proportional to WAR than wins. If everybody's replacement level, there's nothing to root for.
   55. DL from MN Posted: October 02, 2019 at 05:25 PM (#5885602)
a lot of younger people aren't forming the baseball habit because the games are mostly on cable now


The Twins should be ######## non-stop to the league about the playoff games. They have a premier slot - primetime on Friday night and Saturday afternoon - to showcase the game to younger fans and they're stuck on MLB network. Most fans who usually watch on the regional Fox are going to be using Gamecast on their phone and/or listening to AM radio.

In order to watch, MLB.TV subscribers must authenticate to one of these participating pay TV providers:

Atlantic Broadband, Armstrong, AT&T/DirecTV, Blue Ridge Communications, CenturyLink Prism, Charter Spectrum, Consolidated Communications, Cox, DirecTV Now, Grande Communications, Metrocast, Optimium, Suddenlink, PlayStation Vue, RCN, Service Electric Cablevision, T-Mobile, Verizon FiOS, YouTube TV


BTW - are the only people still paying for cable the same old, rich people who can afford season tickets?
   56. Zach Posted: October 02, 2019 at 05:33 PM (#5885605)
Put another way:

KC's WAR leaders this year:
Merrifield 4.0 + Soler 3.7 = 7.7 Wins

Keller 2.6 + Mondesi 2.6 + Dozier 2.1 = 7.3 Wins

Duffy 1.8 + Kennedy 1.4 + Gordon 1.2 + Maldonado 1.1 + Bailey 1.0 + Junis 0.8 = 7.3 Wins

8 wins equates to two more stars, three more guys with upside, or 6 veterans hanging on / young guys getting established. Any one of those combinations would have made the team far more interesting this year.
   57. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 02, 2019 at 05:40 PM (#5885607)
I see your point w/r/t a couple more 4 WAR players, but I disagree that any number of the Martin Maldonados and Homer Baileys of the world would make anything more interesting.
   58. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 02, 2019 at 06:22 PM (#5885610)
It may also be the sheer bluntness of it all. On the one hand, it's hard to believe the old blather about "we've got a young team, we're gonna play really hard, we're gonna be competitive, come out and watch the kids" actually worked for clearly terrible teams in the past but, on the other hand, it's clear that "we suck, we know we suck, you know we suck, we know you know we suck and we're not even going to pretend to do anything about that but we hope to be good again in 4 years, see you then" is not bringing people to the ballpark.

It's not just about the teams at the bottom end. Having a few really good teams running away with things at the top also makes the season less interesting. In the AL every division was decided by 7+ games whereas in the NL you had one division going pretty much down to the wire.

By August 1 only three AL teams were within 7 games of a Wild Card spot whereas in the NL you had seven who were within that.

By September 1 only two AL teams were within 5 games of a Wild Card spot whereas in the NL you had four. (It's even more disparate because the next closest team in the AL, Texas, was 12.5 games out...in the NL everybody but the Marlins was closer.)

Now there's something to be said for a good race between a small number of 93+ win teams rather than a battle royale between a lot of 81-89 win teams. But for attendance and fan interest, I think having so many teams effectively out of the playoff running before August is a bad thing.
   59. Zach Posted: October 02, 2019 at 07:17 PM (#5885621)
I see your point w/r/t a couple more 4 WAR players, but I disagree that any number of the Martin Maldonados and Homer Baileys of the world would make anything more interesting.

Oh, agreed. I just started at the top and went down the list. After Gordon you're into the dregs.
   60. Random Transaction Generator Posted: October 02, 2019 at 07:18 PM (#5885622)
Yeah, but the experience of watching a 100 loss team is far worse than watching a 70 win team.


It depends on how the teams are built.

I was FAR more entertained by the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays (95 losses) than I was the 2018 or 2017 Toronto Blue Jays (76 and 73 wins, respectively).
The previous two teams were a mish-mash of middling players and struggling/injured veterans that pretended they were trying to be competitive.
The 2019 team was exciting because it gave a glimpse of what the future might hold by playing the young rookies for as much as they could (Guerrero, Gurriel, Bichette, Biggio, Jansen, McGuire).
They lost more games, but it was more entertaining to watch them than to watch guys like Pillar and Morales struggle badly.
   61. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 02, 2019 at 09:28 PM (#5885702)
Andy's narrative has been and always will be that everything was better and cheaper back in his glory days.

That's about as true as a Donald Trump tweet. Some things are better, some things aren't. Some things are more expensive relative to inflation, others aren't. Only simple minded people think that progress is linear.

------------------------------------------------

I’m only mildly surprised that #43 didn’t lament that the ‘nickel candy bar’ that existed in various forms from 1925-1970 now costs well over $1. The fact remains that BITD when everything was supposedly much better, according to some, folks didn’t go to MLB games in nearly the numbers that they do now, when baseball is supposedly dying, according to some. And all this with unprecedented access to local and out of market games on large screen, high definition TV.

I'm only selectively nostalgic, and I've said more times than I can remember that in spite of the strikeouts, I like the game on the field today much more than the game on the field that I grew up with, and I've also said many times that the Extra Innings package more than makes up for the devolution of the value I get out of going to the stadium. I'm just glad I was around to be able to go to a stadium on impulse and get a good seat for a bargain price, no matter what teams were playing, and I'm equally glad that I've lived long enough to be able to see any and every game I want on HDTV for about 60 cents a day. Trust me, I ain't hardly nostalgic for the days of 40 Senators games a year and a couple of Games of the Week on a cruddy black and white TV that received 4 channels.

(But yeah, I do kind of lament the fact that a nickel candy bar is now 99 cents when by CPI reckoning it shouldn't be more than half that. But that sort of thing has just made my teeth last a bit longer.)
   62. Howie Menckel Posted: October 02, 2019 at 09:32 PM (#5885709)
Seriously... get a job with a European company.

my company got bought by one of those in July.

so far, so good. I welcome my new Danish overlords.
   63. spycake Posted: October 02, 2019 at 11:18 PM (#5885765)
The Twins should be ######## non-stop to the league about the playoff games. They have a premier slot - primetime on Friday night and Saturday afternoon - to showcase the game to younger fans and they're stuck on MLB network. Most fans who usually watch on the regional Fox are going to be using Gamecast on their phone and/or listening to AM radio.


FYI, the Saturday game is on FS1, not MLB Network.

Second, "most" fans who get FSN won't get MLB Network? The list you showed are not the only providers who carry MLB Network -- they're just the only ones who have authentication agreements with MLB.TV. MLB Network will be available as a "free preview" this postseason to all Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, and Sling customers in Minnesota (and perhaps others?), even if it's not part of a customer's normal plan, and it's available on YouTube TV and Vue too (both with free trials).

Hopefully we'll get to see them free over-the-air in the WS. :)
   64. spycake Posted: October 02, 2019 at 11:23 PM (#5885768)
I think blackouts are a problem. I moved back to Pittsburgh after years away, don't want cable, would be blacked out of the Pirates on MLB.tv. I'm 8 miles from the ballpark, but have been clueless about when games are or who's coming to town next because because I'm not sitting down and watching a few innings every night. I'm a dinosaur and they don't care about my money, but a lot of younger people aren't forming the baseball habit because the games are mostly on cable now.


AT&T Sportsnet (Pittsburgh) seems to be one of the big holdouts from streaming, though. A lot of other RSNs are available on YouTube TV, Vue, or even relatively cheaply on Sling (at least when they're not in a contract dispute like Fox!). In those places, it's actually easier/cheaper to get local MLB broadcasts now than it's been in a long, long time (if ever).
   65. BrianBrianson Posted: October 03, 2019 at 03:43 AM (#5885790)
Okay, 41 was good work. So we are (for the last two years) unusually dispersed (this year, around the worst we've seen in the last fifty-some years).

1-2 years isn't really enough of a trend for me to be convinced it's not just a fluke (certainly, people *seem* to be asserting it's a longer trend than that, maybe I'm misreading them), but to be curious, yeah.

Huh.
   66. jmurph Posted: October 03, 2019 at 09:42 AM (#5885809)
BTW - are the only people still paying for cable the same old, rich people who can afford season tickets?

Difficult to find exact numbers on this kind of thing, but it appears that an overwhelming majority of households still have cable/satellite services (65%, according to Deloitte), and those numbers don't even include things like Sling/Vue/YouTube TV/Hulu live tv/etc.

But I do share your main complaint- given how many networks Turner/Fox/ESPN own, it's absolutely ridiculous to hide any playoff games on the MLB Network, given that some percentage of those people mentioned above don't have access to that specific channel.
   67. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: October 03, 2019 at 09:59 AM (#5885820)
Bailey 1.0


Fun fact: Homer Bailey had more bWAR this year than Puig and Wood combined (Kemp was utter garbage, so, not even including him) Of course, if Homer had stayed on the Reds he would have went 2-16 with a 6.5 era.
   68. DL from MN Posted: October 03, 2019 at 10:08 AM (#5885824)
FYI, the Saturday game is on FS1, not MLB Network.


Better, but even more confusing. Now I have to check if my streaming package will carry BOTH Game 1 and Game 2 if I sign up. This would be a whole lot easier if we just cut out the damn middleman networks.
   69. bobm Posted: October 04, 2019 at 10:53 PM (#5886705)
Compare home team "sellouts" (defined as attendance >= 90% of capacity) between 2007 and 2019:

Team '07 '19
 BOS  81  67
 STL  81  56
 CHC  76  59
 NYY  69   6
 SFG  59  10
 LAA  55  21
 DET  51   1
 MIL  41  37
 HOU  41  34
 PHI  38  19
 SDP  32  16
 LAD  29  38
 CLE  28   1
 NYM  28   9
 SEA  17   1
 CHW  14   3
 COL  12  16
 BAL  12   1
 ATL  12   0
 OAK  11   9
 PIT   8   3
 ARI   6   4
 CIN   5   4
 TEX   4   4
 KCR   4   0
 FLA   2   0
 TOR   1   0
 TBR   0   0
 MIN   0  11
 WSN   0   4
 Sum 817 434

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