It’s time for the Orioles “to get clean”

August 20, 2012 | Drew Forrester

Of all the things regarding the Orioles I followed while I was on vacation, I have to admit attendance at Camden Yards was the least of them.

For starters, it’s not really a big deal anymore with the club’s owner all but guaranteed upwards of $50 million or more from the regional sports network he started six years ago.

And this year, for the first time since we were all starting to stare Y2K in the face, the team’s record on the field is of the utmost importance.

In sports, winning and the discussion about how it’s happening are always more important than attendance.

Well, almost always.

In this town, particularly, attendance is an interesting topic because the baseball team used to draw more than 45,000 people per-game.  Now, unless they’re giving away a bobblehead or playing the Yankees over a weekend series, the Birds are lucky to draw 20,000 live, breathing human beings at the ballpark.

And since the Ravens fill every seat, every game – thereby eliminating any silly notion that Baltimore “isn’t a sports town” – there’s clearly a disconnect between the baseball team and their fan base.  Or what’s no longer left of it.

But will September baseball that matters bring the people back en masse?  When the Orioles host the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 12-13-14, will the seats be filled to the brim as Charm City experiences important baseball for the first time since Clinton ran the country?

Will they?

I don’t know.

“What has happened to the attendance?” is a debate that many have entered.

We all know the answer to that question.  It can be summed up nicely by just saying this:  “The team has stunk, the organization has been poorly marketed and the advent of their own attendance-death-knell, the TV deal with MASN, has made it easy to simply say, ‘F-it, I’ll stay home and watch some of the game until they fall behind 6-1 in the 4th inning.”

That’s it in a nutshell.

Combine a horrible on-field product (which, they had from 1998 through 2011) with terrible marketing (it’s been as bad as the on-field assembly, if not worse by a whisker) and put every home game on TV and you have the recipe for no one showing up.

How many times over the last few years have you said to yourself, “I’d go down there tonight, but I got home late from work and I’m kinda beat…I’ll just watch it on TV.”???  Or, “It’s just too hot and humid tonight.  I’ll just catch it on MASN.”  It’s easy to stay home and watch it when you can — wait for it — “stay home and watch it.”

But as S.E. Hinton once wrote, “That was then, this is now.”

In terms of the Orioles, “then” was prior to this season.  Attendance has been falling for years.

“Now” is the 2012 edition of the Orioles, competing hard every night, winning more games than they’re losing and looking more and more like a team that will play September baseball that counts.

So will people fill the ballpark after Labor Day when the Birds square off against the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox to finish the campaign and, perhaps, decide their post-season fate?

Your guess is as good as mine.

The numbers this season, with the team winning a lot of games, haven’t necessarily improved enough to put any direct correlation between being better ON the field and having more people in the stands.  The statistics say their average attendance is up about 23%.  Some of that could be attributed to winning, of course.  Some of it, I assume, is connected to the Hall of Fame statue series they’ve done this season, one of the club’s better and most impressive public relations efforts in a long time.  But the “why?” isn’t all that important.  “Why?” are only about 4,000 additional fans coming back to the ballpark so far this season?  Who cares, really?  If more people are showing up, that’s a good thing, even if they’re showing up mainly for a free t-shirt or a bobblehead or to hear Eddie Murray speak.

But for a team tasting winning for the first time in 15 seasons, a bump in attendance from 21,000 to 25,000 per-game can hardly be considered massive.

I’ll say it again, though.

None of it matters.  None of the stuff I just chronicled REALLY matters, now, because what lies ahead is the only thing the club should be worried about as August starts to wind down.

The marketing and sales folks at The Warehouse should be thinking about one thing:  “How do we get people to come to the games in September and fill the stadium so we might create a homefield advantage for ourselves in games that are really important?”

That’s it.

That’s the question.

Here’s one answer that isn’t legitimate.

“As long as we’re winning, they’ll come back.”

Wrong, I’m afraid.

(Please see next page)

12 Comments For This Post

  1. Bill Says:

    Don’t usually agree with you but your right the day of ticket surcharge is just foolish. Wanted to o to the red sox game last week, cheapest ticket was19 dollars. Even the red sox and Yankee fans don’t sell the park out any more. Not on the week days any way. That’s another policy that should change. But I will say the town itself is much more excited about the team. I have any friends , some transplanted from other cities who could care less for years ago are beginning to embrace the team and watch them on a nightly basis, hopefully those type do cone out in September. The team is very likable and deserves support. (DF: Of course you don’t usually agree with me, you’ve been apologizing for the team for 5 years or so. That’s OK. I appreciate the fact you finally admitted the club has been gouging people on the surcharge. Must have been tough for you to do that…)

  2. sal Says:

    go os, drew is part of the gestapo of the dinky wnst, who like to bash the os even when there winning because the cant get press passes, bunch of cry babies…

  3. Bill Says:

    Well it’s hard to agree with you when 90 percent of the time your wrong and biased. Nice to see you wrote a blog on the website. (DF: Oh, right, I forgot. You’re the guy (that’s “you’re”, not “your”) that’s in charge of deciding when I’m wrong and biased. LOL. Say hi to Dan Duquette today when you take him his afternoon bottle of water.)

  4. tsnamm Says:

    All great ideas Drew…now lets see if they’re even going to play meaningful baseball in Sep…every baseball analyst has wondered what smoke and mirrors the O’s have been using to stay in contention, and now it looks like the air may be out of the balloon…with the Ray’s passing us and the Yankees not slowing down, we can hope to stay in contention for the 2nd wild card spot. The team did as close to next to nothing to improve itself at the trade deadline to make that push, instead hoping for more luck and magic. The organization will need to address the starting pitching, with the team still winning in spite of the fact that the starting pitching has been mediocre at best if not overall poor. That is not going to continue indefinitely and will end probably sooner rather than later. This year has been nothing short of a miracle, and if the team is truly trying to improve, they need to face facts and not keep wishing for miracles to make them relevant again.

  5. Steve from Sandpoint Says:

    Wow, that must have been one hell of a vacation you were on. To think that anything you said is going to happen is foolish thinking. Nice article but, the O’s are not going to change for you or the fans, why be nice when 50 mill profit seems pretty good, without saying we are sorry for our mistakes.

  6. unitastoberry Says:

    If the Os compete and are in it to the end that’s going to bring back some old guys like me. In fact I’m looking at buying some tics for after Labor day just in case.

  7. Jason Manelli Says:

    Totally agree, the O’s have been behind on PR for the last decade, and they usually take your advice a couple of years after you give it! So I look for them to droop the surcharge sometime around the summer of 2014 or so.

  8. BudIce05 Says:

    Got my Eddie Orange Jersey and Brooks White Jersey for the track down I-476 and subsequently to I-95 to support our O’s secure a playoff spot. Like I stated before my love for the O’s as a ball team exceeds my disdain for Pete and his yes men. Especially when they are winning as they have this year.

  9. Robert Says:

    As long as that same-day surcharge stays in place I will do the same & stay away. As you implied, a permanent policy reversal (not just this September) & an apology would go a long way to repairing the burned bridge, otherwise, I just as soon spend my spring through autumn free time doing far more enjoyable activities, like riding my bike, tending my vegetable garden, throwing a frisbee, or anything active outside (we only have from April-October to enjoy the outdoors in these parts). I suppose I owe the O’s brass an thanks for showing me that there is life without baseball, and not only that, it’s much better than watching the team on tv or in person. Cheers.

  10. bill Says:

    Thanks for the great work. You guys at WNST are the best. That’s why I read the site every day and comment on everything.

  11. bill Says:

    Does anyone know how I can get rid of this premature gray hair I have? And who should I see about fixing my teeth? No one up here in Dover, PA seems to know how to do it.

  12. bill Says:

    I, Bill Neuhaus, do not like WNST. I hope all you know that by now. (DF: I couldn’t really tell…but thanks for clarifying that, Bill.)

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