Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dollars & Sense - Miami Marlins Continued Attendance Decline

The Miami Marlins are bad.  Really bad.  We all know that, though.  It really isn't much of a secret.  But sports are about unconditionally loving your team, no matter how bad they may be.  With the way that the Miami Marlins' fans are buying up tickets (or not), they are showing us that sometimes there may in fact be conditions to fanhood loving.

Fans give their vote approval or disapproval of the current state of their favorite team by either buying tickets, watching on television, consuming any other sort of media related to the team, or none of the above.  These days it seems that more and more Marlins fans are choosing the latter.  On Monday, Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) documented the Marlins continuous attendance decline.  What began in the second half of last season, has rolled on into the early stages of 2013.

Last season, in their first season in Marlins Park, the Marlins averaged 27,400 fans per game. That was a big increase from their mark of just over 18,700 the year prior, but not as big as the front office would have liked to see with the money put into the team and on-paper firepower.  This season, the Marlins are averaging 18,864 fans per game, thus putting them within 100 fans per game of their pre-Marlins Park attendance figures.  Only the Tampa Bay Rays have seen a bigger decline from year one to year two in their current stadium.  I mean, it is not like tickets are ridiculously overpriced like the early days of the new Yankee Stadium.  We are talking $9 tickets here people!  (Thank you again to Bizball Maury Brown for the data.)

On Tuesday, the team decided to close off a portion of their upper deck.  The practice of "tarping off" sections of seats is usually saved for franchises with years and years woes and poor ticket sales.  This helps to knock down attendance capacity, which is why it is used from time to time in the NFL due to their blackout rules.  Ask the Jacksonville Jaguars how this has worked for their franchise.
Hollywood Reporter

The rise and fall of Miami Marlins and their love-to-hate owner Jeffrey Loria is well documented.  In the offseason prior to the 2012 season, the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, and Heath Bell to usher in the franchise's brand new Marlins Park.  They were even in play to land the coveted Albert Pujols!  The fact that Loria & Co. was under SEC investigation for possible violations in obtaining the funding for Marlins Park (the public funded $500 million of the construction costs) is more or less irrelevant here speaks volumes to the position of the franchise is in.

So, headed into the new season, Loria had his new group of players playing in his new ballpark, everything seemed perfect. The Marlins got off to a quick start... in the wrong direction.  Finishing the year as the cellar-dwellers in the National League East at 69-93, the Marlins were just like that guy that peaked in high school.  On paper in the offseason, the Marlins looked like contenders.  Yet as we are reminded year in and year out, pennants are not won at the Winter Meetings.

After the season, the previous year's blockbuster signings were ship up to Canada along with lifetime Marlins' pitcher Josh Johnson.  The only players of promise that remained were young slugger Giancarlo Stanton and outspoken youngster Logan Morrison.  Instead of debating whether the Marlins were a playoff team like a year ago, the media debated whether Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig should step in and stop Loria video game-esque dealings.

Is there anything that can the Marlins can do to get back on top in the eyes of their fans?  They keep losing.  They are handcuffed by the whims of the Loria Administration.  They have two young players that have been tossed around in trade rumors but are both currently on the disabled list. Add it all together with one of the worst records in baseball as we near the quarter mark of the season, and it is really a public relations nightmare in South Florida.  There is nothing to hang their brightly colored black, teal, orange, and silver hats on.

Now, the Miami Marlins are living the seemingly endless nightmare.  They are at the bottom and their is absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel.  Fans are tired of living by the stroke of Jeffrey Loria's paint brush (well the actual artist's brush anyhow), and in return they have refused to by Jeffrey Loria's tickets.  Distrust in an ownership regime rarely hits the level saved mainly for a serial cheating spouse, but this one has certainly gone there.  When it comes to Miami Marlins fans, though, you just wonder if they will ever return.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

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