Monday, July 4, 2005

Baseball's Attendance Fraud

One of my all-time favorite statistics in baseball is the attendance. It is one of two stats I never miss when I read a box score (the other is time of game). It's been that way my whole life. I also love the cumulative attendance stats: total for the 3 game series, homestand, season, average per game, home, road, day, night, weekday, weekend, MLB yearly, all-time, etc.

The one thing that irks me about this stat is that Major League Baseball doesn't give attendance stats anymore. But they do something far worse than not give attendance stats. They give the "tickets sold" stat and call it attendance. Ever since I can remember, the American league has committed this abomination, but prior to about 1993, the National League gave us the truth: the number reported was the number of paid customers that actually went through the turnstyles. I think crummy small market NL teams were hurt late in the season by high no-show rates in road game gate cuts, and squawked about it, and the league responded by using tickets sold to figure in revenue sharing. Plus the tickets sold numbers (attendance figures on steroids) looked better, uplifting baseball's image.

Baseball has a not-so-well guarded well-guarded secret that on the average, any given game has a 10%-15% no-show rate. Some games are well above this clip. I knew that when the A's outdrew the Giants by 12%, they actually had the same attendance because of the two league's different counting schemes. The lowest attended game I ever saw was an A's game vs. Texas in '86, and I personally counted the attendance at 1,603, missing maybe a few in the restroom or grabbing a hot dog. The fan in the 3rd deck got a better seat in the 2nd inning, and because there were only 33 fans in the huge bleacher section, I got to take home three home run balls as souvenirs that day. Yet the next day's box score reported an "attendance" of more than three times the actual amount.

Recently, the Giants in a downward free-fall, hosted the worst team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals. They looked like the '27 Yanks in kicking our butts. High pre-season ticket sales bolstered by an expected passing of Babe Ruth by Barry Bonds and another pennant contending team, the game I attended had about a third of the upper deck completely empty, and about half of the remaining seats actually filled, thanks to Bonds' injury and a pathetic season. No more than about 20k were there, yet the "guess the attendance" quiz revealed over 37k, just a few k shy of "another SBC Park sellout" as they love to announce. The attendance figure was met with boos from fans who knew better.

Let's put this tired fraud to bed, swallow some pride, and announce the real attendance. I'm sick of the dog and pony show. Maybe Congress could intervene!

1 comment:

  1. The local news sports coverage of baseball can't help but show the empty stands behind the players--why isn't this getting more attention? I've been googling for news/discussion on low attendance and not finding any mainstream acknowledgment of the situation.
    Personally, I can no longer afford good seats at all and can't often manage 'cheap' seats and moving down.