For the first time this season since I have been tracking the MLB attendance at baseball-reference.com, the attendance has declined over 700,000. Not surprisingly, we haven’t heard any reports from baseball commissioner Bud Selig about how well the game of baseball is doing.
Only 12 teams have shown an increase in attendance during the 2010 baseball season. The numbers should continue to drop as teams drop further out of the races, school starts again, and college and pro football start in about a month.
Attendance would have fallen more if not for the new Target Field in Minnesota showing an increase of over 561,000 more fans than in 2009 for the Minnesota. The Colorado Rockies, with an increase of over 163,000, and the San Francisco Giants, with over 108,000 more fans this season, are the only three teams with an increase of over 100,000 more fans than in 2010.
Seven teams have drawn over 100,000 less fans in 2010 than in 2009 with the New York Mets topping the list with a loss of over 341,000 fans. The Toronto Blue Jays, with a loss of over 273,000 fans, the Indians, drawing over 271,000, and even the Milwaukee Brewers, who Selig used to own, have drawn over 217,000 fewer fans.
Twelve teams are drawing 1,000 fewer fans per game than in 2009 with the New York Mets losing over 6,200 fans per game while Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians losing over 4,000 fans per game while the Milwaukee Brewers and Baltimore Orioles are drawing over 3,000 less fans per game.
The Yankees are averaging over 46,000 fans per game while the Cleveland Indians are the worst drawing team with about an average of 17,000 fans per game.
The Florida Marlins could move to the positive side in attendance since they have lost only 38 fans per game and are only a minus 2,249 for the season.
Over 700,000 fewer fans represents a huge loss for the major league baseball. Those 700,000 fans, assuming they would have spent $20 at each game, means a loss of $14 million for baseball.
Baseball is averaging 408 fewer fans per game which, if using the $20 per fan benchmark, represents a loss at each game of $8,160, which multiplied 81 times for each home game comes to a loss of $660,960 for the season.
With 11 major league teams at least 10 games behind the division leaders and three teams at least nine games behind the division leaders, that could be 13 teams out of the division races very soon.
On a more positive note five division races are showing a separation of two-and-half games or less between the first and second place teams which should boost attendance. The AL West is the only race not hotly contested but not by no means over with the Angels seven-and-half behind the Rangers.
The Tampa Bay Rays have lost over 98,000 fans despite being the thick of the AL East race.
These are the attendance gain or loss numbers for all the division leaders:
The totals for all the last place teams in each division:
Nationals: + 63,477 ( most of increase could be attributed to Stephen Strasburg pitching in home games)
Pirates: +71,064 (this is a surprise considering the Pirates have lost seven more games than at this point last season)
In summation, these numbers mean that general managers will have to be even more careful to not sign free agents for exorbitant sums.
They will be careful to not take a risk on injury prone players like Ben Sheets who earned $10 million from the Athletics despite winning only four games in 20 starts and is now out for the season and is not likely to pitch at all in 2011. They also paid Coco Crisp $5 million to play in only 41 games so far and he will fall short of playing in 100 games.
Another example is Kevin Millwood earning $12 million this season with two wins in 23 starts. The Mariners have paid out big bucks to players like Milton Bradley (hitting .205 for $11 million in 2010) and Chone Figgins, who is hitting .253 for $8.5 million but is hitting .310 since the All-Star break.
The Mets are paying Carlos Beltran over $19 million and he only recently played in his first game of the season. Jason Bay is earning $8 million to hit six home runs.
Then there is the case of Carlos Zambrano, who has either pitched badly or been suspended this season for $18.8 million, despite winning only three games.
Kosuke Fukudome is earning $14 million in 2010 and hit .189 in June and .162 in July, but is hitting .421 in August.
Baseball is going to have to stop the insanity of these long-term contracts because the fanbase isn’t there to support such extravagant spending.