So many possibilities…
The Seattle Mariners announced a new low in recent franchise history. The answer could be one of several possibilities, but I’ll spoil it right off the bat for you – Attendance.
Wednesday April 18th, a lowly 11,343 fans came to Safeco Field to see the Mariners take on the Cleveland Indians. That is the lowest single game attendance in Safeco Field history.
The Safeco Field attendance record for a season was set in 2002, 2 years after the field opened. In the first 2 seasons, Safeco drew in 3.14 million and 3.51 millions fans, respectively. The peak season of 2002 saw 3,540, 482 fans pour through the gates. A decade later, that number has plummeted, with the 2011 season only seeing 1.89 million fans come to the ball park.
There are several reasons it has boiled down to this point. Let me point a few out for you.
5. Party Poopers
This one is a long shot, but talking to several fans, it is a huge contributing factor this season. When the Seattle Mariners wrote a letter to the Seattle City Council expressing their concerns over the new Seattle Arena Proposal location, it made several Mariners fans angry.
With the team not helping their case on the field, and not realizing they are trying to block potentially 2 new franchises from coming to the city, they have a very short rope to work with.
With the team being funded by taxpayers and the city giving them concessions over authorities like the Longshoremen and Port of Seattle, they have no room to talk and the fans are reflecting their anger over the whole thing by now showing up in a virtual boycott.
4. Poor Scheduling
I realize they play 81 games at home, but scheduling the Cleveland Indians on a cold, rainy spring weeknight is not the best idea in the world. Fans are already finding incentives not to show up to games, but this isn’t helping the Mariners case one bit.
Seeing Oakland for the MLB opener in Japan, “Opening Day” in Oakland AND the Mariners home opener is not only boring with lack of variety of opponents, but two mediocre teams playing each other does not exactly have fans jumping at the chance to go to games.
3. Dark Skies
The Mariners are used to having a marquee player on their roster that draws in fans from all over. These days, Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez are the biggest draws by far. And although those 2 have reached a high level of superstardom around the Majors, they still don’t carry the weight that a Ken Griffey Jr or Alex Rodriguez did.
Fans like to show up to see their favorite players. Fans from across the league watch games looking for that star player to go off.
And like I said…while Ichiro and King Felix are those guys these days, they have not reached and may not reach the level that Junior hit.
When we were kids, we wanted to play “Griffey Grabs” and mimic Griffey’s beautiful swing. You don’t see that with kids these days. At least not with any Mariners.
Many sports franchises, not just baseball franchises, have a face of the team that the fans can identify and in ways relate to. These same faces also go out and make deals to make their teams better. The Mariners lack both of those.
Yes, Howard Lincoln is the “face” and Nintendo is the main owner, but that has really not shown much at all during their tenure of ownership.
The fact that the CEO of Nintendo is basically the “owner” of the Mariners and that he hasn’t shown up for a single game upsets fans more than you could imagine. Ownership is supposed to put a product on the field that competes for division titles and pennants and championships.
When that owner is non-existant, it really shows the fans the true colors of that entity. And the fans reflect it.
Not only that, though, is the fact that ownership has refused to spend money to bring good players to Seattle. It has reached the point where players want nothing to do with Seattle because of their reputation for being such a horrible franchise over the last several years.
If you’re not paying to bring quality players in, how do you expect to win games and win over the fans? Young talent is great and all, but you do need some veterans for their leadership and polished skills to help build a good team.
Along with just flat out losing lots of games, the Mariners keep things close and even pull some of those games out. But the most consistent thing about this team is its inconsistency. I could bring you examples from recent years, but I don’t need to. I can make my point based on this early season alone.
In the season opener in Japan, the Mariners managed only 1 run in the regulation 9 innings. With Felix Hernandez pitching, they stayed in the game and went into extra innings. The Mariners scored 2 in the top of the 11th to win the game 3-1. The next game, the team only managed 1 run in 9 innings again, with Jason Vargas throwing a 1 run gem. The bullpen came in and gave up 3 runs to lose the game.
In game 1 in Texas, the Mariners tacked on 5 runs in the first two innings only to lose 11-5. The next day, they couldn’t hit to save their lives, wasting another pitching gem, this one from Blake Beavan who threw a 1 run beauty.
It seems as if when the pitching is on, hitting is non existent. When the team hits, the pitchers have a hard time of holding the leads, no matter how big or small they may be.This kind of inconsistency has been prevalent in the last several seasons and are driving fans away.
There is a lot wrong with this franchise, folks. The attendance is reflecting that accurately.
We all love our Mariners and support the team as best we can, but until there is a product on the field that ownership and the fans can be proud of, don’t expect things to change. When team leadership shows they care about this Mariners franchise, the fans will do the same.
**Side Note** These complaints are about the team itself and the ownership. This has nothing to do with game day experience as the Safeco Field employees really make each game an enjoyable one despite the product put out on the field. Safeco Field still boasts one of the best ambiances around all of Major League Baseball.