The Seattle Mariners are losing fans. This is not necessarily a major shock, particularly since the franchise has been less than inspiring over the last few seasons.
According to a study done by 247wallstreet.com, the Mariners are the team that has lost the most fans over the last 10 years. This survey was done across all major sports.
As a Seattle native, I grew up watching the Mariners from the very beginning. My dad would take me to games at the Kingdome, and as a youngster it did not really bother me that the team was always in the cellar.
My uncle was a fan of the New York Yankees, and every year we would bet a dollar on which team would finish with a better record. Needless to say, it was not a money-making scheme for me.
After Willie Horton hit his 300th career home run as a Mariner (262 before getting to Seattle), the team threw out 300 autographed balls at a game a few days later. I happened to be at that game, and my dad managed to make an acrobatic catch and snag one of those balls for me.
A treasured keepsake.
In the early years, I rooted for the likes of Julio Cruz, Ruppert Jones, Tom Paciorek and Bruce Bochte. Eventually, the early stars gave way to players such as Harold Reynolds, Alvin Davis and Mark Langston. Still, the Mariners were not really on the national map.
Then, Ken Griffey Jr. arrived and everything changed.
When will the fans return to Safeco Field?
In the 1990s, it was very exciting to be a Mariners fan. Watching Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez was actually fun, and fans were treated to genuinely competitive baseball.
1995 was arguably the most memorable year in Mariner history, as the "Refuse to Lose" run probably saved baseball in Seattle.
The late 1990s had some positive moments, but 2001 was one of the most statistically dominant years that baseball has ever seen. When Seattle fans look back at that year, there are mixed feelings because that was a season that really should have ended with a World Series win.
If I were Jerry Seinfeld, I would say "Newman!" right now. Instead, I will say "Yankees!" in reference to 2001.
Since 2001, there has been what could best be described as a steady decline.
The team has changed, and there has been little star-power that is immediately recognizable around the league. During the 2000s, the Mariners enjoyed Ichiro, King Felix and the graceful exit of Ken Griffey Jr.
Unfortunately, the team has been less than stellar.
Safeco Field is still one of the most beautiful ballparks in the league, and Seattle has a bevy of young talent that may eventually mature.
Perhaps moving in the fences will lead to more home runs and more fans in the seat.
I hope this team improves, and as a fan you have to stay optimistic. Still, there are a lot of barriers to success in Major League Baseball.
I spend some time in Los Angeles, which means that I get to hear about the spending of the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers. Fans in Southern California do not seem bothered that the Dodgers are now the Yankees.
It is a reminder that baseball is still a sport of great financial disparity. As a fan, you have to wonder if the Mariners will ever have the funds to compete.
I suspect that some fans worry about future competitiveness, which is why they have taken their entertainment budget elsewhere. Still, there are plenty of teams around the league that have also struggled.
Why are the Mariners at the top of this list?
Regardless of the reason, this is my team. Rooting for a team is part of your sports DNA, and to be a fan is to stick with your club through thick and thin. I will not jump on anyone else's bandwagon, and I will proudly wear my team gear even when they lose 100 games.
I will remain loyal. More fans in Seattle should do the same.
Get out and support the team in 2013. Hope springs eternal.