Baseball Attendance Down 5.1 Million

Andrew GodfreyCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2009

There were over 2,000 less fans per game to do the wave last season and major league baseball attendance dropped over 5 million for the year.

There were over 2,000 less fans per game to do the wave last season and major league baseball attendance dropped over 5 million for the year due to the sluggish economy and exorbitant ticket prices of some teams.

The economic crisis hit major league baseball hard in 2009. Attendance fell 5.1 million and the Mets and Yankees saw a huge drop in attendance.

2009 was not good to the Mets either performance wise or attendance wise. Nobody foresaw the Mets finishing 23 games behind the Phillies. Their performance at the box office was not the best either. Their attendance fell 873,476 and led all major league teams with the largest drop in attendance. The Mets drew 10,784 fewer fans per game in 2009.

Even being the best team in baseball didn’t help the Yankees at the turnstiles. Their attendance dropped by 579,297 for the third largest fall in attendance. 7,152 fewer fans per game attended Yankees home games.

Their increased ticket prices probably had a lot to do with their falling attendance numbers.

21 teams saw their attendance fall in 2009 with only nine teams seeing a rise in attendance.

The Royals and Rangers were the only teams to increase their attendance by over 200,000. The Red Sox, Rockies and Dodgers were 31,000 or less ahead of last year’s numbers so only six teams were far enough ahead in their numbers that they couldn’t have been hurt by playing one less game.

In 2008 the Yankees and Mets both drew over 4 million fans but no major league team drew that many fans in 2009.  Seven teams failed to draw 2 million fans in 2008 but in 2009 that number increased to eleven teams.

The Dodgers led the majors in attendance with 3.7 million fans while the Athletics were on the other end of the spectrum with 1.4 million fans. While the Dodgers were drawing 46,440 fans per game the Athletics were drawing 17,392 a game.

The eight postseason teams all made the top 12 teams in attendance showing that there is a correlation between winning baseball and attendance.

The Phillies and Red Sox had over 100 percent of capacity for the year while the Cubs were playing to 96.3 percent and the Mets were filling 92.7 percent of their seats.

The three teams at the bottom of the list were the Orioles at 48.9 percent, the Blue Jays at 45.9 and the Athletics were the worst filling only 39.8 percent of their seats.

Team Payrolls Breakdown

Nine teams had payrolls of over $100 million in 2009. Five of those teams were among the eight postseason teams. Only the Red Sox were eliminated during the division series.

The payrolls ranged from the largest payroll of the Yankees at $201 million to that of the Marlins at 36 million. The Marlins could have almost fielded six teams at the same amount the Yankees filled one team.

The Mets and Cubs were second and third in payroll with $149 million and $134 million  respectively. The Tigers were fifth in payroll at $115 million and almost made the postseason while the disappointing Astros were ninth with $102 million.

The Yankees shed $8 million in payroll from the 2008 season despite the expensive signings of Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

The Twins had the seventh lowest payroll at $65 million yet made the final eight postseason teams. The Cardinals were 14th at $77 million. Both teams didn’t advance to the league championship series in their respective leagues.

The Padres cut their 2008 payroll of $73 million to $43 million in 2009 and they played like a team that had cut their payroll by $30 million. The White Sox cut their payroll from $121 million in 2008 to $96 million in 2009 for the next largest cut in payroll.

The Pirates with a $48 million payroll, the Padres with a $43 million payroll and the Marlins with a $36 million payroll had the lowest payrolls in the majors in 2009.

With free agents eligible to sign with their new teams next month we will see how the major league teams will go into the signing season.

One thing we know is that with 5 million fewer fans attending games in 2009 teams will be cutting back on payroll and we will see players who have options for the 2010 season released. Teams would rather take a loss of a couple of million dollars than have to pay a player much more than that.

Next spring will be a great chance for prospects to make an impact since they will be paid $400,000 minimum salary and teams would rather pay them than pay a player making millions of dollars if the difference in performance is negligible.

For example why pay a pitcher with an ERA of 6.00 and up millions of dollars when they can pay a rookie $400,000  that may be as good or better than the pitcher making millions of dollars in salary?

Scott Boras will probably be drawing out negotiations for his clients till spring training like he did with Manny Ramirez last season so he can get the biggest commission possible.

It should be an interesting offseason for hot stove enthusiasts.

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