With success on the field elusive for the Seattle Mariners, it’s time to turn our attention to more mundane matters. The quick start after the All-Star break collapsed. The M’s are in last place and own the worst record and winning percentage in the American League. Those are facts, and any perception of this team that is warmer than they are bad and aren’t going anywhere in the post season is self-delusion.
Despite their on-field struggles, home attendance is up considerably from last year’s numbers, which were, themselves, an improvement. Through 47 home games the M’s have drawn 1,374,761, or an average of 29,250 per game. That’s 18th best in major league baseball, and 6th best in the American League. Not bad for perhaps the most disappointing team in baseball. Last year the Mariners drew 2,064,335 for an average of 25,485.
While nobody wishes the Mariners ill, it is difficult to see how the team sustains the kind of pace if the M’s continue to play crappy ball and remain the worst team in the league. Let’s be clear, though M’s aren’t very good, they aren’t the Philadelphia Phillies. The level of play in the American league is generally more mediocre than in the National League. The NL has some really good teams and some really terrible teams, while the AL has the Kansas City Royals and everybody else clustered within ten games of .500. The National League has four teams playing worse than the M’s and it wouldn’t take much in the way of winning for the Mariners to surpass the Red Sox and the White Sox.
Somehow, to reach last year’s attendance figures, the M’s would have to continue to average 20,282 die-hards through the gate in the 34 remaining home dates. That is an achievable figure. The M’s drew in excess of that number for each game of the most recent homestand. The weather remains persistently, annoyingly inviting for a day at Safeco Field.
But an important date lingers on the near horizon. July 30th is the day Seahawks training camp opens in Renton. As the good ship Mariner sinks slowly below the playoff horizon, and even as the Sounders continue to struggle, the ‘Hawks will have the attention of media and Seattle fandom. Let’s face, it and accept it: Seattle is a front-running town. Win and be adored. Lose and be ignored. Despite losing the Super Bowl one of the most controversial calls in the game’s history, the Seahawks are the NFC champs, and are picked to repeat. They will suck 95% of the sports oxygen out of the Puget Sound area.
I wouldn’t count on projecting M’s attendance until the last spin of the turnstyle. They may make two million attendees for the second year in a row, but it won’t be easy unless Nelson Cruz gets hot and competes for the home run title, or Felix becomes unhittable and jumps in the conversation for Cy Young, or a tardy Robinson Cano lights up and chases a batting title. Despite the pre-season hype and predictions the Mariners are a major disappointment. They’ve made their own bed.