Attendance at Citizens Bank Park is way down

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Between 2008-12, the Phillies were among baseball’s best when it came to filling seats on their home turf. Citizens Bank Park seats about 43,650 and officially sold out 257 consecutive games dating back to July 2009.

The Phillies missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006 last year and GM Ruben Amaro’s tepid off-season gave fans very little to get excited about, particularly when you glance a bit south on I-95 to the Washington Nationals. As a result, attendance at Citizens Bank Park is way down thus far, as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb reports:

The Phillies drew 513,147 fans for their first 14 home games in 2013. That is 117,031 fewer fans than in the first 14 games of 2012. Their average decrease of 8,359 fans per game is second-most in baseball; only the gutted Marlins are worse.

If the trend continues, it could have a serious effect on the team’s finances.

An average decrease of 8,359 fans projected to 81 home dates is a total loss of 677,079. The team’s average ticket price is $37, according to Team Marketing Report and Forbes. That could represent, on average, a $25 million loss in revenue. And that’s just in ticket revenue alone. When fewer people are in the ballpark, less money is spent on concessions and merchandise.

(Important note: Gate receipts used to be split between both participating teams but that is no longer the case, as of 2010.)

Since 2009, the Phillies have operated with one of baseball’s largest payrolls, north of $100 million. They owe $104.5 million to just six players in 2014. If attendance continues to fall, the Phillies may find it difficult to maintain a payroll in the $160 million area. With a barren Minor League system, their ability to field a competitive roster will become more difficult as well.

There was another miscommunication between the Phillies and Pat Neshek

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Back in June 2017, then-manager of the Phillies Pete Mackanin and reliever Pat Neshek had some miscommunication. In a series against the Cardinals, Neshek worked a five-pitch eighth inning and it was believed he would come back out for the ninth inning, but he never did. Mackanin said Neshek said he didn’t want to pitch another inning. Neshek said he was never asked. There was also some miscommunication the game prior. Neshek thought he had the day off; Mackanin said Neshek said he wasn’t available to pitch.

Mackanin is no longer the Phillies’ manager, but the miscommunication between Neshek and the team apparently persist. Neshek was notably absent during the Phillies’ hard-fought 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday night. The game featured a struggling Seranthony Domínguez pitching two innings, yielding three crucial runs in his second inning of work.

Manager Gabe Kapler called the bullpen and instructed Neshek to begin warming up to prepare to face Albert Almora, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Kapler rang the bullpen after Domínguez walked Jason Heyward, who batted ahead of Almora. Neshek wasn’t warmed up yet. Domínguez was able to retire Almora on a sacrifice bunt, which was reviewed and gave Neshek some extra time to get ready. He was ready for the next batter, Daniel Descalso, but at this point Kapler no longer wanted to bring Neshek into the game. Descalso lined a triple to left-center field, scoring two runs and came home himself when shortstop Jean Segura‘s throw caromed off of his foot out of play.

Recounting the situation, Neshek said, “I got on the mound and threw two pitches. [Kapler] said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.” Neshek was asked how long it takes him to get ready. The veteran said, “A minute. Not 20 seconds. I’m, like, the best in the league at getting ready. My whole career has been coming in like that.”

The Phillies were able to eke out a 5-4 win. Had they lost the game, Kapler and Neshek would likely have been under the microscope for the awkward situation leading to a crushing defeat. Kapler drew plenty of criticism over his bullpen management last year in his rookie managerial season. That included bringing in lefty reliever Hoby Milner into a game in which he hadn’t yet warmed up.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the manager who struggled with bullpen management last year nearly mucked up a win last night, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a reliever who’s had prior issues with communication had another communication mix-up. Maybe it’s not. It’s worth noting that the Phillies needed three innings from the bullpen to protect a 2-1 lead over the Cubs on Tuesday. Kapler called on rookie Edgar Garcia for two outs, lefty José Álvarez for four, and then brought in Juan Nicasio to close things out in the ninth. No Neshek, even as Nicasio got into trouble. Nicasio would surrender the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a deflating 3-2 loss.