For a few weeks earlier this summer, Twins fans were hearing it from sportswriters for not supporting the ball club. The attendance, it was noted, had tailed off at Target Field as the novelty of the new stadium wore off and the reality of a bad ball club set in.
Fans don’t have any responsibility to support a bad product any more than a car buyer has an obligation to buy a lousy car. Still, the criticism of Minnesota fans was unwarranted then and is today as the season winds down to its merciful end – the third straight 90-plus loss season.
Overall, Minnesota ranks 17th in league attendance, about the middle of the pack, which isn’t bad for a market where most of the audience is concentrated in the cities, and it’s a small one at that.
But operating under the theory that people will support a winner, where’s the credit for Minnesota fans who have bought tickets to a loser in numbers far outpacing the rest of the league.
Here’s the average number of fans per team’s win at an average ballgame as of today.
|Team||Attendance||Wins||Home games||Average Attendance||Att/Win|
|Los Angeles Angels||2,784,405||68||75||37,125||546|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||3,338,660||85||73||45,735||538|
|Chicago White Sox||1,535,651||58||68||22,583||389|
The top six teams are all big-market teams who should be able to draw fans even with bad ballclubs (see Cubs, Chicago).
Then it gets interesting. Fans in Colorado (#7), Milwaukee (#8) and Minnesota (#11) are all supporting bad ballclubs.
Boston, a market whose fans get far too much credit, has the most wins and yet is back in the pack at #19. So is Atlanta (#25), which has the second-most wins. Granted Boston is a relatively small ballpark with high prices, but the fan support should be stronger given the quality of the team. Nobody notices that Minnesota supports its bad team better than Boston “supports” its good one.
The cautionary tale here are five teams at the bottom. Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay have more in common than just not being able to attract fans to their games. They’re all in the pennant race as of this morning and they’re all having good seasons. Pittsburgh and Oakland are going to the playoffs and Tampa Bay probably will.
Tampa Bay is easy to explain; it’s an awful place to watch a ballgame. Pittsburgh and Cleveland, however, have only one excuse. They have been bad for so long that the fans aren’t buying into one winning season.
Cleveland, in particular, has tried everything this year, including cheap beer, dollar hot dogs, and great fireworks after games. It hasn’t worked. Once you run a fan base away, it’s hard to convince them to come back.
The Twins would do to notice that.