The Marlins are averaging just under 19,000 fans per home game this season. (Lynne Sladky/AP)
To paraphrase an old saying: “You can put the Marlins in a new ballpark, but they’re still the Marlins.”
The formerly Florida Marlins became the Miami Marlins, moved 15 miles south into Little Havana, opened a climate-controlled retractable roof ballpark (largely with public funding) and spent nearly $200 million on three top free agents last winter, but they are effectively right back where they started.
The Marlins not only have the worst record in the National League -- 10-25 for a .286 winning percentage that projects to a measly 46 wins over the 162-game season -- but their attendance is also so low that they are closing the roughly 10,000-capacity upper deck of the ballpark for some weeknight home games, according to the Miami Herald. The Marlins frequently resorted to that maneuver at old Sun Life Stadium.
New ballparks notoriously suffer from a second-year slide, with attendance dropping as the novelty wears off, but this is a decline from what was already a disappointment last year. At the Winter Meetings two years ago, owner Jeffrey Loria said the club was expecting 2.8 millions fans in the new ballpark’s first season, but sold only a shade more than 2.2 million tickets, a rate of 27,400 per game.
Through 16 home dates in 2013, the Marlins are selling only 18,864 tickets per game, which would be a few more than 1.5 million fans for the season -- roughly the same as in the last three years they played at Sun Life.
The Marlins, as you know, traded away all their high-priced players over the offseason, and now are back to the same level of attendance, playing in a ballpark they don’t even fully open for some home games. So what do they have to show for the transformation of two winters ago? New uniforms and air conditioning.