I went down to Petco on a whim last night to catch a little Padres/Pirates action. The Mariners had already played, so I wasn't missing anything, I hadn't been to the ballpark in a couple of weeks, and since the playoff picture looks so miserable I've kind of adopted the Padres as my postseason team of choice. Sounded like a good decision at the time, and it definitely paid off. A big thank you goes out to my expired military ID, which gave us a $12 discount, and to Scott Hairston, for hitting the first Major League walk-off home run I've ever seen in person. It rocked. If you've never heard Matt Vasgersian call a big homer, go watch the highlight - you'll be glad you did. The man is easily among the top three or four announcers in the league.
Anyway, I'm not here to write about the game. As great an ending as it had, what struck me most was the crappy fan support. The Padres began the day a game behind Arizona for the division, and a game and a half up on Philly for the Wild Card. If the season ended now, they'd be in the playoffs, but they're also close enough to missing out (and to leapfrogging the D'Backs) to keep things interesting. These are important games they're playing.
They sold 26,354 tickets.
Yeah, it was a Wednesday game against a lousy team on a chilly night. Still though, that's lower than it should be for a competitive team in a good new ballpark in an awesome neighborhood. It wasn't just yesterday, either; they drew about 90,000 for the first three games of the series after failing to sell out a weekend set against a division rival. Three weeks ago they hosted a four-game series against the leading D'Backs and averaged less than 27,000. All in all, the Padres - a probable playoff team - rank 9th in NL attendance. And it's not like the people who show up are particularly vocal.
San Diego isn't the only team looking for more support, though. Arizona's 11th in the league despite a talented young team that's currently leading its division. A three-game series against the Padres two weeks ago didn't break 85,000. That said, at least people seem to be warming up to the guys down the stretch. The last two night games against San Francisco each drew about 10,000 more people than the Peavy/Lincecum Sunday matinee in Petco last weekend. That's unforgivable.
As much as people like to complain about the Seattle fan base, at least it knows how to appreciate and embrace a successful team. The Mariners' last six home games against LA - all on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays - averaged 38,500. They got almost 110,000 for another Monday-Wednesday three-game set against Minnesota last month before nearly selling out a weekend series against the pathetic White Sox. Hell, even after the horrible slump that knocked this team out of the race, they drew just as well for the home series against Oakland as the Padres have for the Pirates. Yeah, there's a lot of bandwagoning in Seattle, but at least those people come out and offer their support when they're supposed to. There are a lot of teams who would kill for that kind of following.
Despite what Dave Niehaus and FSN would have you believe, the Mariners do not have "the best fans in baseball." But they sure as hell don't have the worst, either. That this team was able to draw as much as it did between 2004-2006 is a testament to how loyal this fan core really is.