A little more than two weeks later, the winners at the Major League Baseball trade deadline are feeling the positive effects of their transactions at the turnstiles.
Two of the most active “buyers” at the July 31 deadline were the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers, each of whom has seen a surge in attendance during their first post-deadline homestand.
The Pirates, who are in contention for their first playoff berth in 20 years and made four deadline deals, have averaged 28,007 fans per game in the first 10 games of a season-long 11-game homestand that coincidentally concludes today, Thursday, August 16, against the Dodgers.
That average is nearly 1,700 fans more than the Pirates’ overall season average of 26,354 fans per game. In addition, the Pirates have drawn at least 20,000 fans in each of their last 27 home games after playing in front of less than 20,000 fans 14 times in their first 31 home dates (including one doubleheader that counted as a single gate).
“A lot of these guys weren’t here when I was here and we lost 99 games [in 2009],” Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens told The Associated Press after the Pirates beat the Miami Marlins on Sunday, July 22. “To come out here and see the crowds that we’re getting, it definitely means a lot to me and this clubhouse and the guys.”
The Dodgers had an easier time drawing fans during the first half of the season — they rank third in the NL in attendance at 41,369 fans per game — but they have also seen a notable increase in crowds since acquiring four players, including superstar infielder Hanley Ramirez and former All-Star outfielder Shane Victorino, in the week leading up to the trade deadline.
The Dodgers drew an average of 42,222 fans per game during the nine-game homestand that began Monday, July 30. They welcomed three crowds of more than 46,000 during that stretch, including 52,832 for their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks July 31 — hours after the Dodgers acquired Victorino — and 55,024 for the penultimate game of the homestand against the Rockies Tuesday, August 7.
As impressive as the Pirates and Dodgers have performed at the gate this month, the standard bearer for a trade that provides an immediate and sustainable boost at the gate is still the Mike Piazza blockbuster that brought the likely Hall of Famer to the Mets on May 22, 1998.
The trade was completed in the midst of a seven-game homestand which opened with the Mets drawing an average of just 14,053 fans for three dates against the Cincinnati Reds (the opener on May 19 was a doubleheader that counted as one gate). But hours after news of the trade broke on May 22, the Mets drew 22,307 for a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. With Piazza in the lineup for the first time May 23, the Mets welcomed 32,908 for the afternoon tilt and then a robust 47,291 for the series finale May 24.
The Mets drew crowds of less than 20,000 22 times in 25 home dates prior to Piazza’s arrival. They had just two sub-20,000 crowds in their final 52 home dates (which included two doubleheaders) and in fact had more 30,000-plus crowds (33) than sub-30,000 crowds (19).