In his latest column for SI.com, Tom Verducci notes that Major League Baseball's attendance is down 2.9 this season, which is fairly significant number. However, as he also reveals, those numbers are a bit skewed by a certain organization in the National League East. I'll give you one guess.
Baseball attendance is down 2.9 percent, but the Miami Marlins alone account for 40 percent of the decline in tickets sold, and the weather in many places has been brutal.
If you guessed anyone but the Marlins, I would have to question why you clicked on a story without reading the headline first. Honestly, you shouldn't even have to read the headline to figure this one out.
According to Deadspin, the Marlins sold an average of 27,000 tickets per game in 2012, but that number is all the way down to 17,893 this season. That's over 9,000 less sold tickets on a nightly basis. But again, it shouldn't come as any real surprise after owner Jeffrey Loria oversaw a firesale that sent Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and others to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Marlins fans have been burned before and they've been burned again, and it's difficult to imagine they'll ever come back in anything resembling full force anytime soon. At least not under Loria's ownership. In fact, if there's any surprise it might be that they're at least topping 15,000 tickets sold per game, but I guess a new stadium can still make up some of the difference.
Moving on to another interesting portion of Verducci's piece, he also noted a few theories as to why attendance is down around the game, and in particular during interleague play.
Much has been made about low attendance at interleague games this week, with the Mets and Yankees, for instance, failing to attract their usual sellouts.
People use those crowds as a proxy for baseball's popularity, but you have to understand there is a story behind those interleague numbers. Now that MLB has moved to two 15-team leagues, the little accounting trick baseball used to sell the popularity of interleague play no longer applies. In past years baseball would make sure to schedule as many interleague series as possible on weekends, when school was out (especially the "natural rival" series.) MLB then could point to the "increased attendance" of interleague games as the fans' way of voting their approval of interleague play.
But those games drew well in great part because of when they were played. The toughest tickets to sell are weeknight games while school is in session — thus the empty seats this week in New York. So don't be so quick to think attendance at interleague games is a problem or the "novelty" of it has worn off. With interleague games all year, MLB no longer can gerrymander the interleague schedule the way it did before.
Just to be clear on my opinion, the novelty of interleague seemed to have worn off several years ago. Verducci is absolutely right about the fewer weekend games driving down the bottom line, but the buzz just hasn't been there for a long, long time. I'm sure a lot of the apathy this season has to do with both Chicago teams, both Los Angeles teams and half of New York struggling mightily, but the Crosstown Classic felt more like Cubs-Padres in August than anything remotely buzzworthy.
That has to be more than a little concerning, but I'm sure we'll see tweaks in the schedule next season that are at least done with attendance in mind. It's up to the teams to create the buzz, however, so there's no doubt MLB will be pulling for quick turnarounds in those major markets.