M's fall 4-2 but faithful fans keep coming
The Mariners absorbed a fourth straight defeat, 4-2 to the Boston Red Sox, but there was also another familiar Safeco Field sight to behold: the all-but-packed lower and middle grandstands, not to mention the heavily-filled upper deck.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Boston @ Seattle, 1:40 p.m., FSN
Another night of groans, strikeouts and opponents' blasts leaving the ballpark greeted Mariners fans brave enough to witness the latest mid-summer beating of the home team.
But there was also another familiar Safeco Field sight for them to behold: the all-but-packed lower and middle grandstands, not to mention the heavily-filled upper deck. So, as bad as the news may have been on the field for the Mariners on Tuesday night, absorbing a fourth straight defeat, 4-2 to the Boston Red Sox, it was still business-as-usual away from the diamond.
In fact, very few teams in baseball lose quite like the Mariners while still drawing fans. Only two other teams in the American League have squeezed more home fans on-average out of each victory than the Mariners have: the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers.
It's a reality that strikes fear into the hearts of Mariners fans worried that ownership won't improve the product if the turnstiles keep spinning. But also one the Mariners insist is crucial to their business survival, providing the revenues to keep pouring more than $100 million per year into their flawed team.
"We try to put together a consistent product, something that fans can enjoy at the ballpark," said Gregg Greene, the team's director of marketing. "Whether it be the experience here at Safeco Field, or the giveaways. Fans are still coming out for bobblehead nights or some of the other big events we have, like Turn Back the Clock Day.
"We try to do things that are unique and not the same each year that people can come out and really enjoy," he added. "And you've got to credit our fans. We have a loyal fan base here in Seattle. They want to come out to the park, they want to cheer on the team."
Not as many as in past years, mind you.
The Mariners averaged 43,308 fans per home game during their last playoff season in 2001 and more than 30,000 every season since — including 32,994 last year. They are now at 29,103, down nearly 4,000 per contest from last year.
But still, it's better than many other sub-.400 teams could hope for.
A crowd of 38,425, bolstered by thousands of Red Sox supporters, watched Boston take a first inning lead Tuesday on a J.D. Drew home run to right off R.A. Dickey. Boston scored three more runs off Dickey in the fifth, one on a Mike Lowell double and others on sacrifice flies by Drew and Jed Lowrie.
Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed just three hits through seven innings before Ichiro doubled home Seattle's first run in the eighth after 18 consecutive scoreless frames. Jose Lopez then singled in another, but the Mariners went quietly from there.
The Mariners have the AL's worst record at 38-62. Divide those 38 victories into their average of 29,103 fans per contest and you get 766 fans per game for each win. Only the Yankees at 971 and the Tigers at 790 are getting more home fans per victory in the AL.
Some winning AL teams, like the 55-43 Chicago White Sox, or the 55-44 Minnesota Twins, are only averaging 532 and 468 fans respectively per home game per win.
Some of the National League squads do a better job of drawing fans, even with poor records. Heading into Tuesday, there were eight NL teams averaging more fans per game for each of their wins than the Mariners.
But being 11th highest out of 30 teams is hardly a disaster at the bank for a Mariners squad going through one of the worst seasons in its history.
"We're trying to give fans a first class experience here at Safeco Field, win or lose," Greene said. "They're going to be greeted with a smile and treated with respect regardless of the team's performance. That's not to say we don't care deeply and passionately about what happens on the field. But we strive to treat our fans with respect and give them a great show every night, win or lose."
Fans attending Tuesday's game seemed to agree.
"We love coming here," said Samantha Smyth, whose son, Braden, 8, was clad in an Ichiro game jersey. "The atmosphere is great and we love getting the garlic fries and seeing the Mariner Moose."
Patrick Jarret, at the game with his wife, Billie, said he'd prefer to see a winning team.
"But the ballpark is first rate," he added. "We know that we can come here and have a great time, with no rainouts. And when it's a day game, and the roof is open, it's a great place to be."
Team CEO Howard Lincoln tried to reassure reporters at a press conference last month, to announce the firing of general manager Bill Bavasi, that the Mariners are about more than making money.
"Change is in order," Lincoln said, adding that the ownership group had not pocketed any recent profits, putting them instead back into the team.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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