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Lots of empty seats. That's what you'll see if you happen to tune your tube to a Major League Baseball game these days.
It seems to me that there are an awful lot of tickets going unpurchased. Or, if they are purchased, they're sitting on someone's coffee table, never to be redeemed.
To test my theory, I grabbed the sports section from the Roanoke Times. The box scores in that newspaper list the games' attendance, as well as the seating capacity at the hosting facility.
As I suspected, those numbers supported my theory that MLB attendance is swimming with the fishes.
Here are the attendance figures from one day last week:
-Royals at Tigers: 30,347 attendees (41,255 capacity)
-Yankees at Rays: 19,177 (34,078)
-Blue Jays at Orioles: 14,981 (45,971)
-Mariners at Astros: 11,686 (42,060)
-A's at Red Sox: 29,274 (37,071)
-Dodgers at Mets: 24,130 (41,922)
-Pirates at Phillies: 32,158 (43,651)
-Cards at Nats: 33,694 (41,418)
-Cubs at Reds: 16,426 (42,319)
-Braves at Rockies: 35,234 (50,398)
-D'Backs at Giants: 41,756 (41,915)
Of the 11 games, only one, Arizona at San Francisco, was close to selling out. Of course, the Giants are the defending World Series champions, which certainly has something to do with that status.
How about Camden Yards filling a mere one-third of its seats while playing an intra-division rival, the Birds having made the playoffs last season and the Baltimorons playing well over .500 ball?
How about Minute Maid Field being roughly one-quarter full?
And Tampa bringing in less than half its capacity for a game against the Yankees? Isn't half the state of Florida from New York?
During the second week of the season, the Red Sox saw Fenway's streak of sell-outs end at 794 games. That streak began in 2003.
Seems to me that baseball has lost some of its luster.
Now, it's one thing for me to sit back and read boxscores while guessing about causes. I decided to do a bit of research.
In years past, the wife and I have traveled to Chicago to see my beloved Cubs. (I wouldn't call them the wife's beloved Cubs, yet. But I'm working on that one.)
We've always found it quite difficult to get tickets, even when teams such as the Marlins or Angels come to Wrigley. We'd wind up either a) at the very top of the place or b) sitting behind a steel support.
I went on-line and found I could find two tickets to each and every Cubs home game. Additionally, I could find these ducats in nearly all price ranges.
By the way, tickets were available, not only for games against the hated St. Louis Cardinals, but for the despised cross-town White Sox. Tickets to the Cubs-Sox showdowns used to bring hundreds of dollars per ticket into the pockets of scalpers. Now, I could buy a pair of them through the Cubs website for $79.32.
Or, I could buy a pair of dugout box ducats for $764.76. Or virtually anything in between those two amounts.
Therein, I believe, lies the problem. As in most of life, it comes down to matter of economics. Why doesn't your house sell? The simple (and only) answer is that you have priced it too high.
Why can't you find acceptable workers for your business? You are offering too little money.
Why don't we eat lobster and steak every night? We cannot afford to do so.
Why are there not fannies in ball park seats? It's not because the games run too long. It's not because the quality of play has been diluted. It's not because of the prevalence of televised games on the MLB Network.
The reason is that the Cubs are asking people to pay anywhere between $70.36 and $655 to watch one of their games.
People realize they can get more bang for their buck doing something else.
Don't fret for the teams, by the way. Between television revenue and quarter- to half-filed stadiums, they'll make out just fine.
Just don't look for too many crowd shots when you're watching MLB. After all, it's one thing to print those attendance figures in the daily paper, to flash a vacancy sign, if you will.
It's quite another thing to actually show how vacant these joints really are.
I have it on good authority that this weekend's Kentucky Derby will be won by Revolutionary. The good authority is my Louisville pal, Art.
I spent a lot of time at the rail with Art, so I trust his call on this one. As there is no wagering parlor nearby, I'll root for Revolutionary, but not with my wallet, alas.
Also, when I go to the track, I like to bet exactas. An exacta is a gambit by which you attempt to select both the first and second place finishers in a given race.
Since that Kentucky Derby will likely have 21 entrants, however, you'd have a dickens of a time trying to hit the exacta. In fact, there will be 441 possible winning combos.
I think it's tough enough to make one pick out of 21, let alone out of 441.