Is Relocation in the Miami Marlins Future?

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 03: Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter speak with members of the media at Marlins Park on October 3, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 03: Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter speak with members of the media at Marlins Park on October 3, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Tonight at 7:10 PM, the Miami Marlins will kick off the second half of their season in interleague fashion. Their opponents, the Tampa Bay Rays sit a distant third in the American League East, despite a solid 49-47 record.

Despite the Rays relative success this season, they have an attendance problem, just like their Sunshine State sister squad. 631,939 have passed through the turnstiles at Tropicana Field, or just under 14,700 per contest. For contrast, the Miami Marlins have seen 487,505 darken their doorstep, for an average of just 9,559. This three game series, of course, will be played in Tampa Bay.

Miami’s attendance figure is especially egregious, considering that last seasons’ National League worst figure of 19,543 per game is over double this seasons’ haul

. That figure was also courtesy of the Miami Marlins, despite the best outfield in baseball and a club considered by many “experts” to be “just a starting pitcher or two away from competing.” If this attendance trend continues, the Marlins will score a sixth consecutive season where they rank dead last in NL attendance. The last time they weren’t last? 2012, under Ozzie Guillen, when they drew 27,400 per game to brand-new Marlins Park with the renamed “Miami” Marlins. They were still just 12th in the then-16 team NL. this will also mark the 14th time in the last 15 years they’ve been last.

Derek Jeter has addressed the attendance woes in the past. Craig Davis of quoted Jeter’s reasoning for reporting attendance “truthfully,” as opposed to what the old ownership group was reporting.

"We’re not happy with it. We have to grow those numbers. But I think reporting it that way gives us an opportunity to show some growth over time. – Jeter"

In all but three seasons of their existence, the Florida / Miami Marlins have closed their season in the bottom third of attendance, more often than not either last or second-to-last. Their lone successes were 1993, 1994, and 1997, when they finished fifth in the league each season. Of course, those first two seasons can be attributed to the novelty of a baseball team in South Florida, and the 1997 season to the Marlins first World Series title. By the time the 2003 team repeated the trick, the Marlins were firmly at the bottom of the barrel, where they have remained ever since.

How to fix this? Far greater minds than mine have tackled the problem without a good answer. Derek Jeter himself guarantees a turnstyle revolution in the next few seasons, but his plan seemed to have a few holes in it. Reporting the attendance by paid customers (instead of whatever Loria and company were doing) is commendable, but it’s led to some embarrassment. Jeter has had to defend himself by noting that attendance really is better this season, despite the cold, hard numbers. Jeter was quoted by the Associated Press on April 13th as saying:

"If you put a winning product on the field, then people will come. – Jeter"

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And again, that’s a theory that South Floridians have proved wrong before. In the Florida Marlins second World Series winning season, against the Jeter-led New York Yankees no less, the Marlins averaged an NL 15th-of-16 with 16,089 guests per home game.

Is this a losing battle with no solution? In 50 years, will the Miami Marlins be the Oklahoma City Marauders, or the Montreal Expos Mark II?

The only thing that loyal Miami Marlins fans can do (and yes, I know you’re still out there) is by supporting the team. Do this by going to the games, if you can. Re2pect the Process. What else do you have going on, anyway? It’s baseball season!

Next: Team Building, Analytics Style

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