It’s funny how you can spin things. Major League Baseball released their annual attendance figures on Monday and MLB touted the fact that they topped 73 million for the seventh straight season. What they don’t really explain is attendance has now fallen to a level that’s just a fraction of a percentage point above what they drew back in 2004. Attendance is down again for the third straight season and while the drop is slowing, it’s still going down nonetheless.
The New York Yankees, after being dethroned in 2009, once again led baseball in attendance with 3,765,803. With a smaller capacity, the Yankees’ days of a 4 million draw are behind them but they rode their championship and once again stand atop the pack. They saw an incremental gain over 2009 but they still have a ways to go because their capacity was still less then 90 percent.
Coming in at No. 2 and leading the National League were the Philadelphia Phillies. They sold 3,647,249 tickets and that’s a new team record. Rounding out the top five were the Los Angeles Dodgers (who led baseball in attendance last year) at No. 3, the St. Louis Cardinals at No. 4 and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at No. 5.
One of the biggest gainers was the Minnesota Twins, who opened up Target Field this year. They drew 3,223,640 to come in sixth place overall and this is the best attendance for the franchise since the team moved to Minnesota. They were also one of three teams, with the Phillies and Boston Red Sox being the other two, to have a capacity that exceeded 100 percent.
Nine teams surpassed the 3 million mark in 2010 and this matched the nine they had in 2009. Twenty teams topped the 2 million mark in 2010 compared to just 19 teams in 2009.
For the third straight year, we had a new team in last place in attendance. The Cleveland Indians were 30th with 1,391,644 tickets sold. This is particularly disheartening because not too long ago, the Indians held the record for consecutive sell outs (a record since broken by the Boston Red Sox). Coming in at 29 was the Oakland Athletics, who finished dead last the year before. The lowest attendance by a playoff team was the Tampa Bay Rays who came in at 22nd with 1,864,999 tickets sold.
Minor League Baseball fared a little better. They drew 41,432,456 fans in 2010 and this is down less then half a percentage point from 2009. They might have had a chance to set a new record but they incurred 100 postponed games in August. The Eastern League, Florida State League and Midwest League all set new attendance records as did 21 different minor league teams.
Heading into 2011, it’ll be interesting to see what teams do to draw fans to the ballparks. Price cuts wouldn’t be out of the question especially for those teams that are tougher sells (and with losing records). Still, the fact that Minor League Baseball has stayed close to their record numbers goes to show how fans like a good bargain in this recessionary economy.