If two rebuilding teams play a baseball game and no one was there to watch, did the game actually happen?
A similar thing could be said about the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays. While the Rays actually have the best record in the American League, they typically don’t draw large crowds. Put them on the road against a struggling Royals roster, and you get a lot of empty seats.
I know that it's a Wednesday afternoon during the school year in a city that doesn't draw well against a team that doesn't attract a road crowd. But I've never seen so few people at a major league game as the one just starting now between Kansas City and Tampa Bay. pic.twitter.com/z3QUdfdWiT
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 1, 2019
Attendance has been an issue for Major League Baseball once again in 2019. After watching attendance drop by four percent in 2018, the early returns don’t look promising.
The Blue Jays are far from the only rebuilding team to lose fans. The Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins, Royals and San Francisco Giants have been the five biggest attendance losers thus far. Of that group, only the Twins went out and made significant additions in the offseason.
The Giants’ failure to draw fans is the most surprising, according to USA Today.
The most startling loss comes in San Francisco. The Giants have been almost perennial contenders and drew at least 3 million fans in 18 of 20 seasons at Oracle (neé Pacific Bell and AT&T) Park. Bound for their third straight losing season and with a concerted rebuilding effort at hand, the Giants are averaging 32,665 fans – down 17% from an average of 39,278 in March-April 2018.
It isn’t the weather either. As USA Today notes, there have been fewer postponements in 2019. The average temperature is also up compared to last season.
The one team trending in the right direction would be the Philadelphia Phillies. The team’s attendance is up 44 percent compared to last season. The Phillies went out and signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen in the offseason. They also acquired J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura in trades.
In the case of both the Royals and White Sox, there are some legitimate reasons the teams failed to draw Wednesday. Both games were rescheduled due to postponements.
The Royals mentioned that when they gave out attendance figures for the day.
#Royals announce, and make clear this was supposed to be a 7:15 game, tickets sold for today of 11,411. Obviously much less here to see #Royals and Rays. Fans who didn't come today could exchange Tuesday or Wednesday tickets for another game,
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) May 1, 2019
Both early games also took place during the afternoon on a weekday. People were at work and young fans were in school.
Even if you can slightly discount the low attendance figures from those games Wednesday, the rest of the season can’t be ignored. The fans have made their opinions clear: If a team isn’t going to spend, the fans won’t either.
Considering how many teams decided to tear everything down this winter, attendance is unlikely to drastically improve any time soon.
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