When it comes to trends in fan attendance, Major League Baseball is taking it on the chin. And the Giants just clocked in as having the biggest overall drop in attendance year over year.
Far from experiencing growth, the league has been seen a drop in overall attendance, year-over-year, four seasons in a row (2016-'19). The worst came between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when average attendance figures reflected a net loss of 4.1% league-wide, according to baseball-reference.com.
When it comes to the biggest losers, though, the San Francisco Giants ring in as the worst. With a whopping 6,538 fewer attendees per game, the G-Men take the top spot in this disgraceful category. Percentage-wise, they are third-worst, at 17%, behind the Minnesota Twins (18%) and Toronto Blue Jays (33%).
USA Today had this to add to the conversation surrounding San Francisco's startling drop in fan support:
"The most startling loss comes in San Francisco. The Giants have been almost perennial contenders and drew at least 3 million fans in 18 of 20 seasons at Oracle (neé [sic] Pacific Bell and AT&T) Park. Bound for their third straight losing season and with a concerted rebuilding effort at hand, the Giants are averaging 32,665 fans – down 17% from an average of 39,278 in March-April 2018."
Included in that excerpt is something crucial: the Giants appear to be in "tank mode" (though, the article uses the eloquent and less accusatory phrase: "rebuilding effort"). The organization has spent much of this young season accumulating and starting several players who are either just about to wash out of the league or are very green and unproven, often having lackluster performance track-records in AAA. There has already been an ongoing carousel between the big club in San Francisco, and the minor league-affiliate Sacramento River Cats. What's really interesting, or even somewhat annoying, is that GM Farhan Zaidi appears content with keeping some top prospects in the minors, when it's apparent to even the most casual of fans that it is far beyond time to start bringing up the youngsters from the farm for valuable big league experience.
Obviously, there are other factors which could be at play when it comes to slipping attendance numbers. There could be micro-economic factors, not clearly visible, contributing to individuals being more frugal with their otherwise expendable income. Basketball could be stealing fans, for the moment, as fellow Bay Area team the Golden State Warriors are ensconced in what should turn out to be another lengthy and exciting playoff run.
Weather could play a role, though, California teams can rarely blame issues on inclement conditions. What is painfully obvious is that the league as a whole is experiencing losses at the ticket booth. Butts in seats is a solid indicator of the health of any spectator-dependent organization.
The San Francisco Giants experienced a long playoff and competitiveness drought, ahead of their magical 2010-2014 even year World Series run, during which they still managed to nearly fill the park every night. Maybe the allure of the city, the history, and the beautiful park aren't enough for Bay Area fans anymore. They've had a strong and consistent dose of winning... and they want more. Perhaps, for San Francisco, a little winning will do a body good.