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Landmark Study Finds Mariners Attendance Down

maybe if you came back
maybe if you came back
Otto Greule Jr

"The Seattle Mariners sure have been drawing well at Safeco Field lately," you might have thought. "Why, I can't imagine that there is another team in baseball that so consistently brings in so many baseball fans." Well, stop right there! Scientists are here to say you are completely wrong in your assumptions! Relatively speaking, the Mariners haven't been drawing well at all! I read this article way earlier in the day and I still can't pull my eyebrows off the ceiling. King5:

The Seattle Mariners have suffered the biggest 10-year drop in attendance among the four major sports leagues in America, according to a new analysis by 24/7 Wall Street.

The Mariners saw a 51.4 percent decline over the past decade since 2002, when it finished 93-69 and placed 3rd in the American League West. They were 75-87 this past season and finished 4th in the division.

Immediately, one should recognize this as...not bad math, but misleading and kind of arbitrary math. What is the significance of ten years, as opposed to eight years, or twelve years, or thirty years? One thing we know about attendance is that it tends to be lagging. In 2002, the Mariners were good, and they were fresh off being the best team ever. Also, their stadium was beautiful and still brand new. In 2012, the Mariners finished in last place for the fourth year in a row, and for the fifth year out of six. The selected endpoints work in the Mariners' disfavor.

In 2002, the Mariners averaged 43,740 sold tickets per home game. In 2012, they averaged 21,258 sold tickets per home game. As noted, that's a 51.4-percent drop. For whatever it's worth, between 2000-2010, the Indians saw a drop of nearly 60 percent. Endpoints do funny things.

But just because the endpoints are kind of arbitrary doesn't change the specific conclusion: no other team in the four major sports has seen such an attendance drop over the last ten years. That's eye-opening, even though more generally, yeah, we all understand that the Mariners don't draw like they used to. How could they? Why would they?

It might be worth investigating whether low-scoring games keep people away to a greater degree than high-scoring games, when controlling for success. That is, does a bad team that doesn't score draw worse than an equivalently bad team that does score? I'm going to guess that it's just all about winning, with a few minor variables, but godspeed if you want to tackle the virtually impossible research.

So the Mariners have had problems bringing people to the stadium, which makes sense on account of the lousy product. This has a pretty direct effect on the Mariners' revenue, which has a somewhat direct effect on the Mariners' success. Death spiral! But the solution: win. Just because Mariners fans haven't been showing up doesn't mean Mariners fans don't still exist in great numbers, or that they wouldn't exist in greater numbers if and when the team is good again. We've seen rejuvenated crowds in Baltimore and Pittsburgh the last couple years, and there's no reason to doubt that M's fans will show up if the team is worth showing up for. We're still reading and writing about them. Elsewhere, people are still complaining about them. Complaints are a sign of an emotional connection, and for only very few has that emotional connection been completely severed. And if it hasn't been severed by now...

The Mariners used to draw well. The Mariners haven't been drawing well. If the Mariners become good again, one should expect them to draw well. Thank you for reading, this has been science.