‘Upon reflection, it’s not a reflection…’

September 29, 2008 | Drew Forrester

Today, Greg Bader spoke about the attendance.

Yesterday, Andy MacPhail gave a half-hearted stab at explaining why attendance is down at OPACY this year.

Today, on the final day of the regular season, it was Bader’s turn to put orange spin on the diminished crowd figures.

Here’s what Bader offered to The Sun today as part of his going-away message:

“Considering all the circumstances, we certainly expected to come in with the attendance that we did,” said Greg Bader, the Orioles’ director of communications. “It’s not a direct reflection of how the fans feel about the organization. I think people look at the club and certainly see that we’re in a better position now than we were at this time last year. This is a long-term process that [club president Andy MacPhail and manager Dave Trembley] are leading us on. This is certainly part of that process.”

OK, let’s break that down for a sec.

Did he really say: “It’s not a direct reflection of how the fans feel about the organization…”???

This weekend in Detroit, the Tigers had crowds of 39,617 and 40,156, yet they’ve been out of playoff contention since Bastille Day.

San Diego has 62 wins this year and they had 27,227 on Friday. Hell, Seattle is awful and they produced 24,000+ crowds this weekend in their season finale series against Oakland.

Three teams with terrible win/loss records drew very good last weekend-of-the-year crowds. You see, they still show up to support teams in Detroit, San Diego and Seattle, even when they’re not winning.

“It’s not a direct reflection of how the fans feel about the organization…”

It’s not?

And there it is, all there for you in black and white.

The Orioles refuse to believe they have an attendance illness.

People in Baltimore don’t love the Orioles anymore.

It’s just that simple.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Even when they’re losing, they could still be drawing fans.

But it’s that stuffed-suit approach that they employ at The Warehouse – “just tell them this…they’ll believe it…” – that has finally caught up with them.

We’re not believing it anymore. No, it’s not about the new ballpark in DC. It’s not about rebuilding. It’s not about the economy (unless Detroit, Seattle and San Diego are functioning under a different economy than Baltimore…).

It’s about a city that doesn’t love the franchise anymore.

This isn’t even about not reaching 2 million fans in home attendance. There were, in fairness to the O’s, some extenuating circumstances that helped contribute to the team not reaching that mark for the first time in OPACY history this year. Doubleheaders, rain-outs and a game with Oakland that wasn’t made up added (or subtracted, in this case) to the team’s failure to hit 2 million.

But it’s not about the failure to reach 2 million.

It’s about the failure of the team to admit they’re the ones in control of the attendance. They’re the ones selling the tickets.

It’s THEIR marketing.

It’s THEIR message.

It’s THEIR community work.

It’s THEIR relationship with the media.

It’s THEIR connection to the fan base in Baltimore.

All of it needs repair.

And the way to repair isn’t by saying, “we don’t think this is a reflection of what the fans think of us…”

It sure as hell is a reflection. A crystal clear reflection, at that.

If you owned a steak restaurant and for three years you were doing 300 people a night, 5 nights a week, what would you think if suddenly you started doing 150 people a night 5 nights a week?

Would you say, “I need better food, better service and better value for my customers…”

Or, would you say, “The fact that I’m now serving 150 less steaks per-night than I was last year isn’t a reflection of what the customers think about my steak.” ???

I’m going to take a well-deserved break from covering the Orioles for a while.

I’ve put in more than my fair share of hours on them this season and I think I’ll shut it down for a month or two until free agency rolls around in mid-November.

I’ve fixed enough of their problems this year.

Now, they’re on their own.

“Not a direct reflection of what the fans think about the organization…”

Holy cow.