As the only uncapped major league, MLB Baseball features a considerable gap between the haves and have-nots financially. That dynamic has given rise to a reality where about 10 teams are trying hard to win, 10 are trying hard to lose and 10 are stuck in the middle. That makes being a fan awfully tough in some cities. Here's Yardbarker's ranking of fan bases from worst to first. (All attendance figures through Aug. 26, 2019.)
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 9,994
Marlins Park is cavernous, empty and generally depressing almost every night. In south Florida, there are plenty of other things to do that beat sitting in a stadium watching a terrible team that has been stripped bare. Blame Derek Jeter and the Marlins' ownership group for buying the team and running it just as shamefully as Jeffrey Loria did. Fans have been subjected to repeated fire sales, and even though the Marlins have won two World Series, the team engenders no real loyalty or love.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 15,001
Tropicana Field is one of the sport’s worst facilities, and to make matters worse, it is situated in the traffic-choked Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, which makes getting there a nightmare. That is a big part of the Rays’ attendance problem. The Rays are a constant candidate for relocation, and earlier this year they were the subject of an outlandish plan that proposed they play half of their home games in Tampa and half in Montreal. (It was quickly shelved.) We'd have more sympathy for the fans, but the Rays win, and there’s no excuse to have the worst attendance in the American League.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 20,373
The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is a dilapidated joke of a stadium. Executive VP Billy Beane has never won an AL pennant during his time in Oakland, so maybe that’s what A's fans are holding out for. Or maybe they put on a good show when their A's are unexpectedly charging toward the playoffs and are just indifferent when they are merely run-of-the-mill good. Either way, it’s a bad look.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 21,808
Cleveland has roared back into the AL Central race, so perhaps it will see a late surge at the gate. This franchise drew more than three million fans every year from 1996-2001. It hasn’t had a losing season since 2012 but has managed to top two million in attendance just once in that span, 2017, the year after it lost to the Cubs in the World Series. The only explanation for such poor attendance is that the fans aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. Cleveland rocks? Not when it comes to its baseball fans.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 32,470
No city can call itself a baseball town if it can’t sell out playoff games, and for a long time Atlanta routinely failed to do precisely that. The Braves won only one World Series in their preposterous run of 14 straight division titles, but the phrase “spoiled by success” perfectly describes their fan base. The Braves manage to draw a tick under 33,000 fans per game, but it always feels like half of those fans are just bored in the summer heat, and with no beach for hundreds of miles, choose to go to a baseball game instead.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 19,309
When the Pirates finally ended 20 years of losing with a 94-68 campaign in 2013, the Bucs posted their highest attendance since 2001, PNC Park’s inaugural year. They set the all-time franchise record for attendance in 2015, with just under 2.5 million fans. After winning 98 games that season, the Pirates haven’t topped 82 wins since. PNC Park, still regarded by many as the best stadium in the majors, is often a silent, depressing place to watch a game.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 28,049
Go to a Nats game, and you get the sense that fans there like having an MLB team, primarily because it gives them something to do and not because they have some deep affection for the club. Washington has had its share of playoff flameouts, having not reached the NLCS since moving from Montreal. Perhaps fans are scared to commit.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 22,733
The Reds rank ahead of only the Pirates and Marlins in NL attendance, and considering that Cincinnati only recently started to fade out of the playoff picture, that’s unacceptable. The last time a Reds team drew more than two million fans was 2015, two years removed from the team's wild-card appearance. The fan response has been positive this year, but barely. One expects more from a place with such a rich tradition in the sport.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 37,188
One of the great sports injustices of our time is the fact that Mike Trout, one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen, will likely play out his entire career in Orange County, a place that couldn’t appear less interested in the Angels if it tried. A look at attendance figures would suggest Angels fans are good fans. However, one or two nights watching them elicits a different conclusion.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 25,674
Arizona suffers from a different variation of the same affliction that plagues the Marlins: Because fans have beautiful weather almost every day, they can often find something better to do than sit inside in an enormous, gimmicky ballpark while a decidedly average team takes the field. Arizona fans aren’t horrible, but they certainly aren’t great either. The Diamondbacks have the fourth-lowest average attendance in the National League.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 30,140
Manny Machado’s arrival has energized San Diegans. The Padres have seen an attendance spike of more than 3,000 fans per game over last season. Not bad for a team well under .500 and out of the playoff race. Perhaps having some success for a captive audience will make one of the country’s most pleasant cities a full-on baseball town.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 21,907
When Toronto advanced to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016, it drew nearly 2.8 million and 3.4 million fans, respectively. They packed in 3.2 million more in 2017, and only now, with it obvious that the front office intends to execute a full rebuild, have fans started to stay away.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 22,805
In 2018, the Mariners won 89 games but were outscored by 34 runs. GM Jerry Dipoto decided a rebuild was in order, angering fans. The Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs since 2001 yet they have managed to draw more than two million fans most seasons. This year’s results are ugly and might get worse before they get better, but if Seattle gets back on the upswing, fans will come out to support this team.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 26,036
The Rangers are building a new, retractable roof park, set to open next year, that should draw more fans. Will that be enough to get Rangers fans to show up in droves? Yes. Texas looks like a team on the upswing, too.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 18,954
K.C. has the AL’s third-worst average attendance, but considering how bad the Royals have been lately, it’s somewhat impressive that the Royals aren’t at the bottom. Kauffman Stadium’s capacity is barely a touch over 37,000, so the Royals’ 2.7 million attendance figure in their World Series-winning year of 2015 is impressive. Royals fans are dedicated, knowledgeable and have always been appreciative of good baseball. They aren’t unlike fans of the cross-state Cardinals.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 19,663
The Tigers are a lock to lose well over 100 games, but their fans haven’t completely abandoned them. The Tigers rank 12th in the AL in attendance; and while things haven’t been great on that front, with more than 3,000 fewer fans per game showing up this year compared to last, the sheer scope of Detroit’s rebuild effort makes it impossible to expect fans to continue forking over money to watch a big loser.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 17,007
The putrid Orioles set a franchise record for losses last season, and this year is shaping up to be nearly as bad. They are drawing nearly 2,500 fewer fans per game than they did last year. (They rank 14th in the AL in attendance.) Baltimore, like so many other MLB teams, is clearly rebuilding, which would test the patience of any fan. The road back to competitiveness will be long and arduous.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 37,402
Rockies fans might strike you as nondescript, laid-back folk who enjoy Denver’s outdoor lifestyle, but they are by and large a solid group. Colorado has the fifth-best attendance in the majors, impressive for a sub-.500 team that's a non-factor in the NL playoff race. Denver has many entertainment options, so the attendance figure is impressive. Or maybe they just love lots and lots of offense -- common in high-altitude Denver.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 28,414
Twins fans have always created a great atmosphere, and while Target Field isn’t the “Homer Dome” of the 1980s and 1990s, crowds are loud and proud nonetheless. They might not spring to mind when good fan bases are discussed, but Twins fans definitely fit the bill. Home runs help, too. Minnesota is on pace to obliterate the 2018 Yankees’ all-time record of 267 taters in a season.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 31,331
We have a soft spot for Mets fans. And it has nothing to do with how many people tune in to SNY’s game broadcasts — broadcasts that are second to none in the big leagues, by the way. It has nothing to do with how many fans attend the games either. It has everything to do with the fact that the Mets, like the Jets in football, are the “other” team in town, and yet their fans are every bit as passionate as Yankees fans but have an endearing self-deprecating streak.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 22,292
The White Sox play in a charmless stadium and aren’t very good, yet their fans stand by them. If there’s any justice in the world, we’ll get a Mets-White Sox World Series sooner rather than later.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 33,501
No team has been more successful this decade than the Giants, whose three World Series titles trump Boston’s two. San Francisco, barely alive in the wild-card chase, hasn’t won it all since 2014. San Francisco's crowds are engaged, enthusiastic and seem to understand that they’ve had it pretty great these past 10 seasons.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 35,228
It must be nice to be an Astros fan. The team, stripped down to the studs a few years ago as part of a truly comprehensive rebuild, is a monster. Houston averages more than 35,000 fans per game, and this year’s local TV ratings are up significantly over 2018. That shows that fans haven’t been spoiled by success and still have an appetite for more.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 38,187
Once the Cubs broke through in 2016 and ended their 108-year World Series drought, their fans, who were already showing signs of becoming an arrogant, infuriating bunch, jumped into that role with both feet. Cubs fans still show up in droves, a reality owing in part to Chicago’s status as the country’s third-largest metropolitan area, but they are genuinely loyal to the team. Problem is, a taste of victory has led them to presume that every subsequent year will feature more of the same. Now that it hasn’t, they’ve become garden-variety big-market fans with outsized, borderline unreasonable expectations.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 36,093
Red Sox fans used to be everyone’s favorite long-suffering group: a bunch of perpetually tortured souls who wanted just one World Series title and an end to the Curse of the Bambino and the heartbreak it caused for generations. Then Boston won it all in 2004, and fans turned into a whiny, infuriating collection of people almost overnight. The fans show up in droves, and they know the sport, but everything that has happened since that 2004 title makes it impossible to cheer for Boston in a game in which you have no natural rooting interest.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 34,506
Despite horror stories we hear about Philadelphia fans, they are some of the most devoted in the sport. The Phils rank 10th in the majors and sixth in the NL in attendance, impressive considering the team has fallen out of the NL East race.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 41,871
This is an arrogant fan base with borderline insane expectations, but both attributes are understandable. Yankees fans are a fickle lot, and they’ll turn on just about anyone in an instant. For players who deliver the goods, however, there might be no better place to play. While the atmosphere at the new Yankee Stadium isn’t as good as it was at the old building, when the place gets rocking, the pressure can still crack even the steeliest opposition. The Yankees lead the AL in attendance this year. They are the biggest game in town, and their fans deserve to be recognized for their loyalty, like them or not.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 35,761
Despite playing in the league’s smallest TV market, the Brewers often play to a full or mostly full house; and even though Miller Park has a roof for the colder early months of the season, fans still have to brave the weather to get there.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 48,880
Los Angeles is known for being a less-than-rabid sports town, which might have to do with chronically late-arriving crowds, but that’s likely a function of traffic more than anything. The Dodgers pull fans from a huge population area, but that shouldn’t diminish the fact that they lead the majors in average attendance by nearly 6,000 fans per game. It’s a celebrity-packed crowd, to be sure, but it’s also a knowledgeable, vocal one that can create an incredible, electric atmosphere.
2019 AVERAGE HOME ATTENDANCE: 42,933
The Cardinals are one of only three MLB teams, along with the Dodgers and Yankees, to average at least 40,000 fans per game this season. That’s all the more impressive when you consider that the population bases of New York and LA are several times bigger than the St. Louis metropolitan area. Cardinals fans pride themselves on their baseball knowledge and their appreciation for the game, so much so that they are known to regularly cheer excellent plays — by the other team. The Cardinals are the biggest game in town, and large crowds regularly brave brutal heat to watch a team that rarely disappoints.
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