Attendance is down? Eh, no big deal

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There has been an awful lot of chatter about attendance in the first couple weeks of season, driven mostly by empty seats in places that aren’t usually empty like Dodger Stadium. Yankee Stadium has had some small crowds too (for the Yankees anyway) and we’ve had the usual shots of nearly abandoned ballparks in Cleveland and Florida and places like that.

I think a ton of this has had to do with the weather — they scheduled way too many home games for the Yankees in April — and my suspicion has been, based on earlier reports of advanced ticket sales, that what we’ve been seeing and hearing about is really more an anecdotal thing as opposed to a real thing. Darren Rovell of CNBC crunched some numbers and pretty much confirms this:

If you average every team’s attendance so far and compare it to that exact amount of games last year, Major League Baseball is only averaging 304 fans fewer per game than last year. While that 1 percent drop is significant, it’s not as much as I would have thought from some of the pictures I’ve seen.

It’s weather mostly. And, as Rovell notes, there have been bigger crowds than usual in places we tend not to see as often during the early editions of Sports Center: San Francisco, Oakland and Toronto. No biggie.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.