The Tenth Inning Week 9 – New York Attendance ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
By Mike Ivcic
Today is Memorial Day, and before there’s any talk of baseball, we at the UltimateCapper.com would like to extend our eternal gratitude and most sincere thanks to all of those who have served this great country in every branch of our armed forces. I would not be able to write these words without their service and, in many cases, ultimate cost of sacrificing their lives, so the least I can do is return is give our great service men and women top billing for one week in an online sports column.
This evening as marks the start of what I consider to be the best interleague rivalry in the sport, and the Mets and Yankees embark on the first of four straight meetings – two at each team’s ballpark, as part of the new interleague scheduling done by MLB. I will save my dissertation on how the interleague schedule should be done for another column, mostly because I’m been beating the same drum about the baseball schedule for almost a decade now, but there’s another interesting trend that has developed specifically around these two teams that is the focus of this week’s column.
Attendance across the league has shown a slight uptick this season, especially in places like Kansas City, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, where the combination of recent success in the last year and a half and expectations for the remaining season have seen more fans file through the turnstiles. Even as attendance has dropped slightly in cities like Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and Boston recently saw their consecutive sellout streak end at 820 games, the game as a whole has been getting a nice boost from some robust attendance figures. So why, then, is attendance down for both the Yankees and Mets this season, when each team expected to see an increase? Living within listening distance of the city’s primary sports talk radio station, I had actually started to believe that the Big Apple was no longer a true baseball town after listening to the hosts and callers discuss the apparent apathy towards the city’s two teams, but then I stopped and used my brain – apparently a foreign concept to anyone involved in sports talk radio – and realized why Yankee Stadium and Citi Field have been emptier than expected.
Let’s start with the Mets first, since that answer would seem to be the easier of the two for anyone that’s actually watched one of these teams games not started by a guy named “Harvey.” Bluntly, the Mets stink. By my count there are only five players on the current 25-man roster – Harvey, Jonathon Niese, David Wright, Daniel Murphy, and Bobby Parnell – who would even be considered as useful pieces on a team currently competing for a playoff berth. They do have some excellent young talent that will soon be in Flushing – Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud are the first two that come to mind – but they’re not at Citi Field yet, so why should the fans be? But even the last time Harvey pitched at home, an occurrence most baseball people have started calling “must-see-TV,” why were most Mets fans doing just that – watching on TV – instead of seeing it live at the ballpark?
Similarly, the Yankees are also suffering at the gate, but that can’t be explained by poor performance – this is a first place ballclub! Perhaps the absence of players like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson had a little to do with the feeble attendance numbers. Fans of the Bronx Bombers clearly weren’t as interested in paying top dollar to see Lyle Overbay and Eduardo Nunez.(who wound up getting hurt as well) as they would have been had the full lineup been on the field. What’s missing in the equation here, though, is that fans already know that this will be Mariano Rivera’s last season, and if I’m a half-broke Mets fan living in Philadelphia trying to scheme a way to get to Yankee Stadium to see him pitch one more time, how are the true, die-hard Yankees fans not scrambling over each other to find every available ticket in the hope that they’ll get to see the GOAT (Greatest of All-time, or what I would refer to as the GWEL, Greatest Who Ever Lived) throw one more cutter for the final out of the ninth inning to secure a Yankees win?
The answer can be summed up in four words – Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Islanders. All four winter sports teams made the playoffs, and despite what New Yorkers would like you to think, the city doesn’t actually have the sports demand to support six teams simultaneously. Someone had to suffer, and because the four teams above were all in the postseason, and three of them (Knicks, Nets, Islanders) were actually providing their respective fan bases with levels of hope that hadn’t been seen in at least a decade, it’s not surprising that fans were turning out in droves for those teams and skipping out on watching two baseball teams both devoid of star power on a chilly mid-April night. The extended hockey seasons certainly didn’t help matters, especially for the Mets, who had to deal with three weeks of relevant Islanders regular-season hockey before the week-and-a-half series against the Penguins. Traditionally the first weekend of the baseball season also coincides with the scheduled end of the Islanders season – and I say scheduled because the in the last decade the Islanders have typically been done sometime in January or February. Add in the extra playoff round for both the Knicks and Rangers, two teams that also had fan bases genuinely believing in the remote possibility of a championship, and maybe it’s not a huge shock that there were empty seats in the Bronx and Flushing.
A funny thing happened this past week, though – the Pacers beat the Knicks and the Bruins beat the Rangers. Winter sports in New York are officially done, so with the lone exception of the fiasco that is the quarterback position for my beloved New York Jets, the only thing left to talk about between now and Labor Day is baseball. The last two days on the east coast have also been day one and day two on the list of most beautiful weather of 2013, so maybe a night at the ballpark with a hot dog and a bag of peanuts – and no school the next day – will suddenly be in the near future for many in our nation’s biggest city. And even though I’ve said many times that the Subway Series should be held sometime in mid-June, maybe starting the best interleague rivalry on the schedule on Memorial Day was a good call. Maybe baseball actually got it rightâ¦
Did I just write that?
Happy Memorial Day everyone, and God Bless America.
Playoff “Dead” List
… the Miami Marlins!
Tune in next week when I remove all suspense of the second pick and eliminate the Houston Astros.
Three series to watch this week…
Three series to watch this weekend…
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