With the addition of the second wild card, the last month of the season has taken on a new air of desperation for teams vying for their division crowns, but the new playoff system has also thrust middle of the road into playoff hopefuls. The Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays are all in the middle of a Wild Card races, but they have something else in common, no one is at their games. So the question is, “Where the heck are all of the baseball fans?”
I want to start with the fans in Cincinnati. A four game set between your Red Legs and the second-place St. Louis Cardinals kicked off on Labor Day before a crowd of 32,951, a good showing. But for a holiday day game in the middle of a pennant race, a 77 percent capacity crowd is actually somewhat underwhelming. The Reds layed the smack down on Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright and won the game handily, and after that showing the fans flocked to the building for the rest of the four game series, right? Wrong. Unfortunately for the Reds Game One was, by far, the high water mark for the series. They followed the 32k crowd with a 20k group to see a 1-0 thriller, and the first career stolen base of Billy Hamilton. After yet another thrilling win, the fans flooded the gates with people, right?!? Wrong again! Game three saw a crowd of 23-thousand, an improvement from game 2, but when the back and forth contest headed into extras most seats were vacated and didn’t get to see the history of Matt Adams two go ahead homers in extras, or the second career steal of Billy Hamilton. The Reds closed out the series with their third win, but only 21,418 were in attendance to see them move within 1.5 games of the division foe Cardinals. Then, as I was watching highlights this weekend, I saw something strange, a packed house for a Brewers-Reds game. Crowds of 39,665, 25,929 and 26,725( an average of 30,773) filled the home stadium of a team with no hope for the playoffs, when their opponents can’t even fill the stands for a pennant race game.
And that’s not the only Ohio team on the list. The Cleveland Indians are averaging 19,435 fans per game this year, ranking ahead of only Miami and Tampa Bay in attendance, and they are dead last in percentage of capacity with just 44.7 percent. They drew 9,794, 12,615 and 12,085 fans for three of the biggest games of the season, a three-game set against the perusing Royals. Their failure to draw is disappointing considering the skill and likability of the squad, and how desperate they must be for a sports championship.
A team that isn’t catching any flack for drawing virtually nothing is Tampa Bay. I get it, no one in Tampa wants to watch baseball other than Hulk Hogan and Dick Vitale, but seriously? This is insane. It was understandable in 2008 when the Rays had their first winning season in franchise history, but it’s been 5 years. The Rays have averaged 91.6 wins per season in the past five years while being in the bottom third in attendance.
So if you want a playoff team, maybe you should go cheer them on. I don’t want to hear any excuses, because even PNC Park is rocking, and they haven’t won since Bill Clinton was president. So get out there, support your team and maybe you can root them into the playoffs.