The New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds are three of baseball’s surprise teams this season, but their success thus far hasn’t been enough to lure fans to the park. In fact, it hasn’t even stopped a stampede away from the ticket office.
The Mets, who are averaging 6,796 fewer fans per game than a year ago, have endured the biggest drop in attendance among the 30 Major League Baseball teams while the Jays (5,040) and Reds (2,954) rank third and fifth, respectively. All figures are through Wednesday, June 23.
The declines are inconsistent with the on-field performance of the Mets and Reds, each of whom ended play Thursday, June 24 a half-game out of first place, and the Blue Jays, who were 39-34 and leading the majors in home runs.
But fans in New York, Cincinnati and Toronto are apparently still wary of embracing teams that have underperformed and/or struggled to contend in recent years. The Mets taxed their fans’ patience the last three seasons, for example, with a pair of September collapses in 2007 and 2008 and a series of missteps coinciding with the opening of Citi Field last spring.
The Reds have suffered nine straight losing seasons, the second-longest streak in the National League, and have not reached the playoffs since 1995, the fifth-longest drought in the majors. The Blue Jays have posted a winning record in seven of the last 12 seasons but haven’t qualified for the postseason since 1993 and entered the season with little hope of competing in an AL East that features the last three AL champs in the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox.
And that pessimism has proven accurate—the Jays are in fourth place, 6 ½ games behind the Yankees and four games behind the wild card co-leaders Rays and Sox—which may make it difficult for the Jays to lure fans to Rogers Centre. The Jays, whose average attendance through June 23 was 17,699, drew larger crowds than normal during last weekend’s homestand against the San Francisco Giants but welcomed fewer than 17,000 fans through the turnstiles for each of the three games against the St. Louis Cardinals this week.
The news is better for the Mets and Reds, whose efforts finally seem to be receiving some attention from fans in New York and Cincinnati. Fueled by castoffs such as pitchers R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi, catcher Rod Barajas and outfielder Angel Pagan, the Mets have won 21 of their last 29 games and regained the scrappy overachieving aura that defined the franchise at the turn of the century. The Mets, who were averaging 32,160 fans per home game through June 23, drew crowds larger than that in two of their three games this week against the Detroit Tigers.
The Reds, who have been within two games of first place every day since Tuesday, May 11, averaged 21,966 fans during their first 40 games at Great American Ballpark but exceeded that figure in each of the final six games of a 10-game homestand that ended Thursday, June 17. If the attendance numbers keep rising for the Mets and Reds, it’s a good sign their fortunes are continuing to improve, as well.