Attendance woes blamed on DC

September 27, 2008 | Drew Forrester

Andy MacPhail spoke with the media earlier today at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, offering his “end-of-season” review and 2009 preview.

No, it wasn’t really a press conference, per-se.

The Orioles didn’t contact all of us (the media) and say, “Hey, we know Andy doesn’t do questions and answers much, so if you want to come out today at 5pm, he’ll answer questions.”

They just let MacPhail field questions from the 5 or 6 folks who braved the rain and still have to cover the games by virtue of either a contractual obligation with the club or a mandate from their employer.

It would have been nice to ask Andy a few real questions, that’s for sure.

Alas, I guess I’ll have to wait until next spring for that chance. Maybe.

Anyway, MacPhail’s first tidbit centered on the club’s failure to reach 2 million fans at OPACY. Andy blamed that primarily on two factors: trading away the team’s marquee players and, in doing so, indicating to the fans that the team was in rebuilding mode; and, (ready for this…) the new baseball stadium in Washington DC.

I assume the folks gathered for the Q&A session didn’t have the heart to laugh out loud when he blamed the O’s woeful attendance on Washington DC. Remember, the Nats aren’t drawing anyone down there, either.

No one is WATCHING the Nats on TV in Washington, as they’re drawing the equivalent of 9,000 viewers per-game on MASN. Then again, the O’s are only averaging 33,000 VIEWERS per-game on MASN. There was a time when the team 33,000 fans per-game, let alone viewers on TV.

Anyway, MacPhail addressed issues such as the late-season swoon (pitching and depth issues), an off-season with potential signings based on “geographic ties” (Teixeira, Burnett, perhaps?) and the front office staff (expects it to return intact in ’09).

I guess Andy is too busy trying to build a baseball team to completely understand why the fans aren’t coming anymore. And that’s perfectly understandable. He’s the BASEBALL guy, not the marketing guy.

That said, if he’s going to offer comment on issues such as attendance, he should be better prepared to address it.

Is attendance down in Baltimore because of DC’s new stadium? Not at all.

In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s down because of BALTIMORE and the fact that the team doesn’t market its heart and soul to BALTIMORE, both in the season and in the off-season.

You think I’m wrong?

Call the Orioles office on Monday and tell them you’re having a major community event in December and you’d like 3-4 key players to come out and distribute season ticket brochures, sign autographs, put on a clinic, etc.

You know what you’ll hear?

“We can give you Melvin Mora, Bill Swaggerty, Jim Hunter and the Oriole Bird.”

From October 1 through the end of January, the team can’t reach out to the masses because only one or two (Mora and now, after purchasing a home in Monkton, perhaps Markakis) guys hang around town all winter. The rest of the players scatter off across the country, golf clubs in tow, trying their best to forget about another 90 loss season.

Some of that ISN’T the Orioles’ fault. If there’s no pressure in the collective bargaining agreement to make the players stick around, they won’t.

MacPhail has a tough task ahead of him. There are only a handful of impact players available in the off-season and he not only has to wave the MOST money at them, he also has to figure out a way to make those players believe Baltimore is the right choice for them. Good luck with that.

In the meantime, though, I’ll continue to say the same thing I’ve been saying for, oh, I don’t know…the last 3-4 years.

Don’t blame it on Washington DC’s team.

Don’t blame it on losing.

Don’t blame it on the weather, or the kids being in school still…or the “negative media” in town.

The crowds are down because people right here in BALTIMORE have stopped going to the games.

They’ll come back if you show them you care. They’ll come back if you promote the players in the off-season. They’ll come back if you wear your heart on your sleeve and ask them to come back.

They’ll come back if you market the team to BALTIMORE.

The team developed and produced a number of worthwhile game-day/night promotions this year, all designed to get the fans motivated to come back to the ballpark again. Of course, a lot of you never found out about those events because of the team’s silly blackballing of WNST, but nonetheless the club DID put together an improved marketing effort during the season.

Now is when the real hard work begins, though. Staying active in the community throughout the winter is the best way to promote the 2009 campaign and remind the fans that a plan for baseball revival in Baltimore IS in place.

And with all due respect, Bill Swaggerty and The Bird won’t do it.