Mets attendence is down, but it's not as bad as it looks

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Thumbnail image for citi field.jpgThe New York Times has an article up today about baseball’s decline in attendance, and it singles the Mets out as the biggest decliners since last year:

After 22 home games, attendance at Citi Field is down 6,852 fans a game,
the largest decline by number in Major League Baseball. That translates
to an average of 31,892 fans at games this season compared with 38,744
last season. The Mets are also 11th in average attendance in the major leagues,
down from seventh last year.

Dave Howard, the Mets’ executive vice president for business
operations, blamed the early-season decline on bad weather in April, the
team’s disappointing play in recent years and the economic downturn.
(The weather in April was warmer and drier than normal in the New York
area.)

I like that last parenthetical because, yeah, blaming the weather is kind of bogus. It’s been bad the last week or so, but April was actually way lower on rainouts across baseball than most years tend to be. Still, this article is overstating the problem, at least with respect to the Mets.

This biggest problem is that the article appears to be comparing last year’s full-season average to April and May of this year.  The 2010 Mets have yet to play with school out, with mid-summer promotions or with marquee opponents such as the Yankees or Phillies in town.  I’m not saying all of those things are going to even up attendance to last year’s average, but it’s going to close the gap a bit.

Moreover, while the article does talk about the novelty of new stadiums wearing off quicker than it used to, such a phenomenon is now the norm, not the exception, so singling out the Mets on this score seems rather unfair.  The Mets had a nice run-up in attendance at Shea between 2006 and 2008, but really, their average draw for the previous decade or so was between 20,000 and 34,000 in a park that brought in way less revenue per person than the current one does.

I’m not saying that things are fabulous on the attendance front. I’m simply saying that it’s easy to overstate the problem. Even if all you care about is head count, the team is not in uncharted waters here, but from a
business perspective, they’re doing just fine.  The fact is that last year’s Mets team didn’t do a ton to inspire big gate in the early going this year. It happens.

If they play well as the season goes on, things will tick up.  If they don’t, it won’t.  It’s the oldest story in the business of sports.

Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).

Yay?

John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?