At the Marlins' home opener on Monday, commentators threw around words like "respectable" and "surprising" to describe the announced crowd of 34,439 (minus a few troublemaking protesters, of course). By the season's second game last night, though, the more appropriate adjectives were "embarrassing" and "unsurprising."
The Fish drew just 14,222 to watch another loss to the Braves, a new record low for the ballpark -- though that's one mark bound to topple more often than an Italian government.
The dirty secret of the home opener was that the Marlins threw out every trick in the book to pull a decent crowd into the game: two-for-one Groupon specials, free tickets for military members and firefighters, bonus ticket packages.
That was a one-game gambit, though. By the time yesterday's game kicked off, Marlins Park looked eerily like Sun Life Stadium during all those baking, meaningless midsummer games. Wasn't the whole idea behind building a new ballpark to avoid these kinds of scenes?
If you needed any further proof that decent teams, not new stadiums, draw fans, please open your textbooks to "Marlins, Miami."
Fielding a decent team is the one thing, however, that the Marlins are almost certain not to do this year. With a 1-7 record, the Fish now stand alone as the worst team in MLB. Their sole remaining star, Giancarlo Stanton, can't stop walking and so far has zero RBIs. As a team, they've now hit two homers and driven in 15 runs -- OK numbers for a middling second-baseman, but very bad numbers for a whole lineup.
Jeffrey Loria made an appearance last night after hiding out in a suite and slinking away midgame on Monday. He wandered into the half-abandoned section behind the dugout and pulled a hat down low over his eyes.
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What was Loria thinking while watching this team stumble to another loss, 3-2? "Perhaps I shouldn't have traded my entire payroll away to Toronto"? "Mayhaps kicking fans out of games for carrying harmless signs doesn't help our ticket sales"? "Should we stop suing our own season-ticket holders?"?
Nah, more than likely he was doing the math: His franchise has more than doubled in value since he bought it, jumping 16 percent this year alone thanks to his new taxpayer-bought stadium, new MLB television deals, and league revenue-sharing. With the second-lowest payroll in the Bigs, there's not much overhead to worry about. Samson was right: Who cares if fans show up?
Fight that smirk, Jeffrey. The couple of fans left sitting nearby aren't enjoying this show nearly as much as you are.