Studies like the one found in Baseball Prospectus’ Baseball Between the Numbers, have found repeatedly that two phenomena lead to significant spikes in attendance at Major League Baseball games. The first relies upon the building of a new stadium wherein a brief honeymoon phase can be expected regardless of the team’s position in the standings. The second is contingent upon the team’s success. The study also found that that success had to be sustained. In other words, short-term winning rarely sees much of a spike, but the season following a successful run will see the largest jump.
Things like popular player acquisitions and single-game promotions can have a minor effect on attendance, but those tend to be ephemeral at best. The evidence clearly shows that the most effective long-term cure for attendance woes is winning.
The Cleveland Racist Names have not been a good team since 2007, and not consistently since the early aughts. Attendance at Jacobs Field (Progressive? I’ll consider that name when this is gone) has been routinely among the worst in the league for most of the last decade. It should come as no coincidence that this is the exact frame of time when the Clevelands have been the most terrible.
However, Cleveland closer Chris Perez clearly hasn’t picked up a copy of Baseball Between the Numbers.
From Jordan Bastian on Indians.com:
I’m tired of getting booed at home, so I figured I’d throw some strikes today,” said Perez….
“You can quote that. It doesn’t bother me. It (ticks) me off. I don’t think they have a reason to boo me. They booed me against the Mariners when I had two guys on. It feels like I can’t even give up a baserunner without people booing me. It’s even worse when there’s only 5,000 in the stands, because then you can hear it. It (ticks) me off.
“It doesn’t go unnoticed — trust us,” Perez said. “I’m not calling out the fans. It’s just how it is. … Nobody wants to play in front of 5,000 fans.”
Perez also invoked the near-signing of Carlos Beltran. He alleges that Beltran was choosing between St. Louis and Cleveland and chose the Cardinals based on the city and fan base.
The Clevelands are off to a good start for the second straight season, and this year they appear to have a better and more talented team than the one that started 30-15 last season, but it’s still very unlikely that their start is sustainable.
I don’t expect Perez to understand the ebb and flow of attendance and how it actually works. That’s a job for the box office folks who are paid to study such things. But I do expect Perez to have a least a faint idea of the socio-economic condition of the city in which he plays most often.
Cleveland has a 9.3% unemployment rate, which is almost two full percentage points higher than the U.S. national average. It’s underemployment is nearly double that. Like other Mid-West industrial cities such as Pittsburgh and Detroit, Cleveland has been ravaged by the economy and by the outsourcing of meaningful work to bigger city centers and overseas. According to this article released four days ago in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland is the seventh-most financially distressed greater metropolitan are in the U.S. People simply don’t have the money to spend on a baseball team that has been terrible for the better part of a decade.
Living in Windsor, I see more than my fair share of games at Comerica Park in Detroit and the attendance is consistently excellent. The difference is, Detroit has a more robust suburban infrastructure and also draws several thousand fans each night from Canada. Not to mention that fact that the Tigers have has sustained success over the last six years with playoff appearances and division titles.
Perez is clearly voicing frustration over playing in an empty park and occasionally getting booed, but it probably isn’t a smart thing to call out a clearly frustrated and underemployed fan base, even if he claims that’s not what he’s doing. If the Clevelands keep winning, chances are they’ll draw more fans toward the end of the season. If they somehow stay relevant long enough to make a playoff run, they’ll almost assuredly see a spike in attendance next season.
But ultimately, people won’t return to the ballpark the way they were in the late 90s and early aughts until the socio-economic conditions of the city and its surrounding area improve. It may behoove Perez to be slightly more aware of the fan base he’s criticizing before he gets up on his high-horse again.
And the rest:
Is Scott Rolen done for good? [Jon Heyman, CBS Sports]. I blame the Getting Blanked Show for pronouncing him dead a few weeks ago on their “He’s Just Not That Good Anymore” segment. This is all their fault. They broke Scotty!
The Blue Jays placed first baseman Adam Lind on outright waivers the other day [Andrew Stoeten, DJF]. He’s expected to clear and if he does, the Jays will remove him from the 40-man roster and outright him to AAA, where he is already residing.
The Jays aren’t the only team with an underperforming first baseman. The Miami Marlins optioned Gaby Sanchez to AAA-N’awlens [Micheal Jong, Fish Stripes].
The St. Louis Cardinals look like they’ll be without first baseman Lance Berkman for an extended period of time after he injured his knee during last night’s game [Jenifer Langosch, MLB.com]. The Cardinals suddenly have a rash of injuries and their once-vaunted offense is starting to look thinner and thinner. Gee, who could’ve seen this coming?
Rockies lefthander Jorge de la Rosa was shut down yesterday during his rehab stint after experiencing tightness in his forearm. de la Rosa is recovering from Tommy John surgery and was expected to return at some point mid-season [Russ Oates, Purple Row].
Is the “battle” for the Blue Jays’ outfield positions really heating up [Brendan Kennedy, Toronto Star], or is the Star making a small-sized mountain out of a pebble?
Today in Minor Acquisitions that Nobody Cares About: The Cubs have re-acquired catcher Koyie Hill from the Reds for cash [Patrick Mooney, Twitter]. Hill is expected to backup Geovany Soto until Welington Castillo returns from a minor knee injury in about a week.
Finally, Doug Thorburn of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at pitcher mechanics and injuries.