Website 24/7 Wall Street.com, which publishes what it describes as “insightful analysis and commentary for U.S. and global equity investors,” published a list titled “13 Pro Teams Running Out of Fans.”
The 13 bedraggled franchises represent all four major pro sports, including seven from Major League Baseball, three from the National Basketball Association, two from the National Hockey League and one, a little surprisingly, from the National Football League.
The story compiles 10-year attendance declines. Not only have the Seattle Mariners (to no one’s surprise in the Northwest) suffered the biggest drop off in paying customers over that span — 51.4 percent — their margin over the second most-shunned club, the Cleveland Indians, is large: 12.7 percent (-38.7 percent decline).
The Mariners attracted 3,540,482 in 2002, the year after 116 wins. Last year, Seattle drew 1,721,920, the lowest full-season total since the club moved into Safeco Field in mid-1999. Stadium capacity, 44.4 percent, was baseball’s worst.
These are, according to 24-7 Wall Street.com, the 13 teams that suffered the biggest declines over 10 years: 13. Miami Dolphins, NFL, -17.1 percent; 12. Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, -19.0; 11. Washington Wizards, NBA, -19.1; 10. Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL, -19.2; 9. Baltimore Orioles, MLB, -19.7; 8. New York Mets, MLB, -22.0; 7. Detroit Pistons, NBA, -22.3; 6. Oakland Athletics, MLB, -22.6; 5. Dallas Stars, NHL, -23,2; 4. Arizona Diamondbacks, MLB, -32.0; 3. Houston Astros, MLB, -36.1; 2. Cleveland Indians, MLB, -38.7; 1. Seattle Mariners, MLB, -51.4.
In its capsule comment on the Mariners’ decade-long fan drain, 24/7 Wall Street.com notes, “Since tying an MLB record with 116 wins in 2001, the Mariners have frequently struggled.”
Frequently struggled? One could argue that’s a gross understatement after no division titles and seven last-place finishes since 2002.
“The Mariners also traded away Ichiro Suzuki, whose career included Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards, and breaking the record for most hits in a season,” 24-7 Wall Street.com added. “Although several good players remain, such as perfect-game pitcher Felix Hernandez, the team has been unable to keep fans interested.”
Players such as Rich Aurilia, Scott Spiezio, Carl Everett, Carlos Silva, Jeff Weaver, Miguel Batista, Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins, trades such Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez, and giveaways such as Adam Jones to Baltimore have a way of doing that.
But now all of that is in the sordid past, and the Mariners are in the process of chipping away at that -51.4 percent fan dive. Even now, they are wooing free-agent catcher Mike Napoli, and consider the other off-season moves designed to make the club fan friendly again:
- Oct. 2: The Mariners announced they will move in the fences from 12 to 17 feet to aid the worst offense in the American League.
- Oct. 4: Fired hitting coach Chris Chambliss after the Mariners finished 14th in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS (first batting coach ever fired following a 12-0, season-ending victory).
- Oct. 22: Raised ticket prices in many sections of Safeco Field without providing season ticketholders a heads-up.
- Nov. 2: Extended the contract of RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, who will make $6.5 million in 2013 and $6.5 million in 2014 with a $1 million option if a $7.5 million contract is not picked up in 2015, plus bonus money.
- Nov. 3: After getting rid of C Miguel Olivo and SS Munenori Kawasaki, re-signed lefty Oliver Perez.
- Nov. 7: Announced a major investment (dollars undisclosed) in international player development with the construction of a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.
- Nov. 6: Claimed outfielder Scott Cousins, a .163 hitter, off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Nov. 15: Announced that the club will spend $10 million to install a new high-definition video display system at Safeco Field.
- Nov. 19: Released free-agent bust Chone Figgins, a move that mandates the Mariners eat his $8 million guaranteed salary.
- Nov. 20: Acquired infielder Robert Andino, a .211 hitter in 127 games last season, for OF Trayvon Robinson.
Spending $10 million on a block-long video display might seem (a) the equivalent of building an opera house for Courtney Love, and (b) a move that does nothing to improve the ball club, but keep in mind the off-season traditionally doesn’t heat up until the first week of December with the annual meetings, this year in Nashville.
With that in mind, you’re invited to take our poll and, as always, comments are encouraged.