Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how good Milwaukee fans are.
As fans, we’ve put up with a lot of crap over the past 40 years, with only a few flashes of success to make up for it. Yet we’re still averaging 34,509 a night, good for 11th in all of Major League baseball. That’s a higher average attendance than playoff contenders in Texas (30,526), Atlanta (30,042), San Diego (26,038), Cincinnati (25,379), Tampa Bay (23,081).
Why do I bring this up? Because Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg recently said that no matter what happens with his Rays this October — including winning the World Series — he’ll be forced to cut the team’s payroll from $72 million to $50 million or less. They “can’t come close” to making a profit this year, and really, it’s because the fans aren’t showing up.
The Brewers were able to raise payroll by $10 million this season because 3 million fans made the trip to Miller Park in each of the past two seasons. Their opening day payroll of $90 million is higher than the Rays could ever imagine, despite the fact the Brewers play in the smallest market in the league.
Really, it’s a shame that the Rays can’t afford to keep their team together, and the fans are the ones to blame. This is one case where the old argument about baseball economics doesn’t apply — even if there was some sort of salary cap, the Rays wouldn’t be making enough money to spend up to that cap.
It’s sad, because the Rays are genuinely one of the most interesting teams in baseball. They’re one of the few American League teams I can watch without being bored to tears. How much longer, though, can they continue to exist in their current location and remain this competitive?
By just about any measure, this has been a disappointing season for the Brewers. It says a lot about the fanbase, though, that so many people continue to come out for the games, and that makes me proud. This club may not draw 3 million again for a long time, but at least I can take solace in the fact that Tuesday night’s season-low attendance of 22,761 (the lowest total since 2007) is just 320 fewer fans than Tampa Bay’s average home attendance, and while we may not see a $90 million payroll next year, the days of dipping down to $50 million should be over.