We’ve visited problems within baseball a couple times so far this season, from pace of play to the length of the Major League season, so might as well round it off with MLB’s major attendance problems.
Jam-packed stadiums are few and far between. Yankee Stadium’s crowds have increased with the Yankees recent surge, but during April, there were several games where the crowd looked to be less than 20,000 in a stadium that seats 45,000.
PNC Park has been close to empty most of the year for the Pirates, and Camden Yards has been filled with nothing it empty green seats for the Orioles.
It’s a problem when brand new ballparks, some paid for with taxpayers money, are barely having people show up. Arenas are obviously different than ballparks, but it doesn’t help when NBA and NHL games are filled to the roof.
So what has happened that is keeping people away? There was a time in the late 1990s when my aunt and uncle would camp outside of Camden Yards ticket office to get Orioles-Red Sox tickets the night before they went on sale. Now, tickets for a June 13 game between the two are $15 on StubHub.
This April took a big hit across baseball because of poor weather in the northeast. Rain, snow and cold caused postponements in many cities, including Boston, New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Even if the weather wasn’t bad enough to postpone the game, no one wants to sit in 35-degree weather to watch a game.
Scheduling an Opening Day game in Detroit at the end of March seems idiotic, but that’s what MLB did with the Tigers and Pirates. Guess what? It rained. Who knew the weather would be crappy in Detroit at the end of March?
Making the MLB schedule isn’t an exact science, but figuring out a way to avoid games in cold-weather cities for the first two weeks of the season would be beneficial to all parties.
Teams being out of contention already by the summer months is another factor in low attendance. It’s established by June which teams have no shot, and no one wants to watch a loser.
But all 30 MLB teams have TV deals with different networks, so every game is aired, a drastic difference from now to when the stands were packed in the late 90s.
Fans don’t have to go to the ballpark to watch games anymore, they can sit on their couch and spend a lot less money.
With the TV deals and streaming services like MLB.TV, fans just aren’t going to games because they have other ways of watching it in a cheaper and less stressful way. Which is why using attendance numbers to lash out that baseball is a dying sport is silly.
In 2017, 18 of 29 teams in the United States (excluding the Toronto Blue Jays because the Nielsen Media ratings are U.S. only) had increased ratings in their regional ratings from 2016.
While the ballpark experience is fun and a great way to spend time with the family, many just don’t want to fool with the hassle. If anyone has been to a stellar atmosphere on a hot summer day in July with a beer in one hand and an Italian sausage with peppers and onions in another, you know it’s one of life’s simple pleasures.
However, low attendance at stadiums is not a sign that baseball is suffering. In fact, it’s continuing to thrive.