The Miami Marlins are leading the league in something: falling attendance.
Enduring what may be the roughest sophomore season ever in a new ballpark, the Marlins account for about one in every five unsold tickets throughout Major League Baseball when compared to last year’s sales. That gives the Marlins the highest share of the blame in baseball for the league’s nearly 3 percent decline in ticket sales for 2013, accounting for 21 percent of the decline in ticket sales across the league.
Even so, the unwanted distinction isn’t quite as bad as the 40 percent share that Sports Illustrated assigned to the Marlins last week. A brief item in Tom Verducci’s column got picked up by Deadspin.com and then ricocheted through Twitter as yet more evidence of the Marlins’ hapless 2013 season.
“Today’s Tom Verducci column in Sports Illustrated contains a very sad bit of information about everyone’s favorite laughingstock of a franchise: the Miami Marlins,” Deadspin’s Tom Ley wrote.
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Why the difference in the numbers? Sports Illustrated took the Marlins’ drop in ticket sales — now about 308,000 for the year — and divided it by the league’s net decline of about 707,000 tickets sold for the year. The result: 44 percent.
But the Miami Herald looked at it another way. Using statistics from baseball-reference.com, we tallied up the overall losses from the Marlins and the 17 other MLB teams reporting ticket-sale declines this year to determine the gross decline. That amounted to a drop of nearly 1.5 million tickets, and the Marlins accounted for 21 percent of that slide.
Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida, agreed that the Marlins’ loss should be measured within the pool of other teams’ losses. Measuring it against the net loss for the entire league will distort the portions for each team. “You’re comparing the biggest loser to some of the gainers,’’ Snaith said. “Which makes them an even bigger loser.”
On the flip side of the Marlins’ dismal season, the Baltimore Orioles lead the league in new ticket sales for 2013. The Orioles can claim a 19 percent share of the nearly 790,000-ticket increase reported by the 12 teams that are having better seasons at the box office than they did in 2012. (Baltimore had the biggest increase, at about 152,000 more tickets sold, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are a close second with an increase of just under 150,000 tickets and a 19 percent share.)
The Marlins, not surprisingly, favor the Herald’s math. “The decrease is not 40 percent,’’ team spokeswoman Carolina Perrina de Diego wrote in an email. “The decline from this year evens out the increase from last year.”
With their debut at Marlins Park in April 2012, the Marlins did see a surge in ticket sales from their final season at Sun Life Stadium. In fact, the Marlins led the league in growth at the box office last year, according to the statistics provided by baseball-reference.com.
In 2012, the Marlins saw an increase of 600,000 tickets overall, which amounted to 16 percent of the new tickets sold by the league last year. That was well ahead of the 12 percent share provided by the No. 2 finisher in the league, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
That year, the league saw a net increase of about 1.4 million tickets sold, factoring in both the stadiums that saw sales increase and stadiums that saw decreases.
If using that figure, the Marlins in 2012 would have accounted for 50 percent of the league’s increase in ticket sales.