On an otherwise dead day of coverage for baseball comes more attendance bashing from Commissioner Bud Selig as well as ESPN national writer Buster Olney.
Selig on #Rays: "To see they're No 29 in attendance is inexcusable. Nobody can defend that."— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) July 10, 2012
Here's the excuse for people not attending Rays' games: They chose not to.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 10, 2012
It bears repeating that the team is one of 17 teams in baseball whose 2012 attendance figures are ahead of the 2011 pace. When you consider the fact the team has been without its marquee player since the end of April and has limped through the games since with more injuries and usage of players that were picked up off scrap heaps, it is rather amazing the team has seen an increase of 1,314 per game over last season.
After three consecutive seasons of declining attendance, the team is seeing an improvement at the turnstiles this season. At the current pace, 138,035 more fans will have taken in a game at Tropicana Field in 2012 than they did last season. That is a very modest increase, but an increase none the less. The sport and the writers want better performance from the fans, and they have done better this season despite the remaining geographic and economic conditions that coincide with the decimated star power of the team's offense that has led to even more low-scoring games than fans have grown accustomed to in recent seasons.
Mr. Selig, it is rather inexcusable that the teams currently in first and second place in the A.L. Central are down in their attendance figures this season than last season. The Chicago White Sox are seeing 1,285 fewer fans per game this season despite the fact they are leading the division while Cleveland is seeing 1,851 fewer fans despite being just one game out of the wildcard at 44-41. How about the Angels, who are 48-38 and leading the wildcard standings and yet are seeing 1,755 fewer fans per game?
It is inexcusable to keep beating this dead horse unless the master wants to help fix the situation by facilitating a move to the more populated side of the bay. Over the last 18 months, the Tampa side of the bay has seen their population grow by more than three percent while the St. Petersburg side of the bay has grown just one-tenth of a percent. It should be more inexcusable that the Twins have a gorgeous new stadium and are seeing 4,313 fewer fans per game this season in a market where they are they have at least two generations of fans. It should be more inexcusable that your players can be arrested for drunk driving and not be suspended. It should be inexcusable that you let your personal bias about instant replay take over the national discussion despite the fact the majority of fans do want replay (Rasmussen 2009, mlb.com 2011).
Mr. Olney - if we all could make choices so easily. Those choices can be influenced by a still higher than national average unemployment rate, or the unpopular surcharges implemented by the Rays when purchasing tickets within 5 hours of first pitch, or even the tiered-pricing model that they and other teams around the league use as a pricing model. I want to take my son to the game on Sunday for his 7th birthday but I would be lying if the $48.90 pricetag for two seats in the upper deck of the left field area did not give me great pause while staring at a higher electric bill due to the blistering summer heat in central Florida in these summer months. It could also be the fact the stadium is poorly located and there are only so many people that can make an hour-long commute in bay-area rush hour traffic to make a game during the week.
The choice that should be made here is to stop pointing fingers and start talking and writing about solutions to the issues, in the best interest of the sport. If bloggers from their proverbial basements can do it, certainly it can be done at the national level.