This season was different though as the M’s stayed in playoff contention until the very last game of the 2014 campaign. Under the stoic leadership of first-year manager Lloyd McClendon and the on-field presence of six-time All-Star Robinson Cano, the outlook of the Mariners organization took a 180-degree turn. Now the team just needs some fans.
In the early 2000s when the Mariners were seeing great success, their fans were frequently referred to as the best fans in baseball. From 2000 to 2003, the Mariners averaged over 98 wins per season with an average annual attendance of nearly 3.4 million. Since 2010, the Mariners have averaged just over 72 wins per season, and consequently the average annual attendance has been just over 1.9 million. Obviously it is not as fun to be a fan when your team is doing poorly, but come on, if that does not scream “fairweather fans” then I do not know what does.
Even this season, when the Mariners established through their all-star break that they would contend for the playoffs, attendance at games still struggled. With a perennial superstar like Cano, arguably the best pitcher in the league Felix Hernandez and a winning record, you would think that Seattle could muster more than 25,485 fans per game. To give some perspective, Safeco Field has a maximum capacity of 47,116. In 2001 when the Mariners tied the all-time record with 116 wins, the average home attendance was 43,362.
It is frustrating as a fan to see a team doing well, yet failing to receive the support from fans that most playoff contending teams receive. The Kansas City Royals had the same issue in early September, but after being called out by team manager Ned Yost, the fans responded and turned out for their recently crowned American League wild card champions.
After 13 straight years of failing to reach the playoffs, maybe I am being too hard on Mariners fans. But after all of those years of complaints about a losing team, it seems hypocritical to lack support for the team when they are finally winning. That being said, the final three -game series of the season was a major bright spot in fan turnout for the organization.
With three games left against their rivals the Los Angeles Angels, the Mariners headed home from a tough road trip, but still had a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They were greeted by a strong turnout in all three games, capped by a packed house of 41,000 fans on Sunday, Sept. 22. The M’s had their king Felix Hernandez on the mound, with the team needing a win and an Oakland Athletics loss to force a one game playoff for the second wild card spot.
This provided some hope for an organization trying to get back to the culture of excellence that it once had. Forty-one thousand fans is still not maximum capacity at Safeco, but it is pretty darn close, and much higher than the rest of the season’s average attendance. While I believe the Mariners would have won a couple more games had their home crowd been stronger all season, if the attendance in that final game is any indication of what it will be like next year—there is some electricity waiting to be turned on at Safeco Field in 2015.
Contact Max Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org