A couple of weeks into the baseball season, I wrote a piece on early attendance trends, which at that point indicated a loss of about 700,000 fans on the season. Turns out that was an under-estimate. With the better part of two months left to go, numbers are already down by almost that much, compared to 2009 - projected forward for the rest of the season, another million fans will be lost from the ballpark in 2010.
What's more disturbing is that this comes on the heels of the five million decrease from 2008 to 2009. Obviously, the economy plays a factor, but it's the first time there have been consecutive drops of more than a million since 1950-52. over which time the annual crowds dropped from 17.2 to 14 million. As before, however, the overall number conceals a wide variation among teams.
As at the start of the year, things would be much worse if it weren't for the Twins, who continue to pack 'em in at Target Field. On a per-game basis, they are over 10,000 up, going from 15th to sixth in the majors as a result. That prevents the total number from being much worse - the other 29 teams have between them lost almost 1.25 million to date.
There almost seems to be an East-West divide in those numbers. After the Twins, the next three biggest increases all come out of the NL West, with the Rockies, Giants and Padres posting healthy gains - likely helped by the trio still being in playoff contention. At the other end of the spectrum, major drops - and we're talking from 250-315,000 so far - come from the Indians, Blue Jays and Mets in the East.
Some of that is to be expected - the Mets got the "new field boost" last season. But the Indians have simply been hemorrhaging fans over the past few seasons. The per-game number is more than ten thousand down on when they went to the playoffs in 2007, and is on pace to be the lowest for Cleveland since 1992, before they moved into Jacobs/Progressive Field. The Blue Jays are worse off still - the last time they averaged less than twenty thousand per game was 1982.