Nearing the midway point of the season, it's quite apparent that the Miami Marlins could make history, and not the kind you put on a commemorative baseball and hand out to fans to remember. The Marlins' attendance is atrocious. It is unspeakably bad, even for a franchise that's become a national laughingstock because it plays in front of far more empty plastic chairs than living, breathing human beings.
All of that will likely change — maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but certainly, if Derek Jeter and the Marlins continue making savvy personnel moves, fans will take notice. There's reason to believe better times are on the horizon if everyone involved is patient.
As of the weekend, the 25-43 Marlins — who are scheduled to open a four-game series in St. Louis Cardinals tonight after blowing a lead and losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates last night 5-4 at home — were dead last, drawing a measly average of 9,294 fans a game. That's 5,000 fewer fans than the second-to-last team, the Tampa Rays (14,384), and more than 38,000 fewer folks than the almighty Los Angeles Dodgers see every night at their park. There's no sugarcoating what the data says: Barely anyone is coming out to Marlins games. It was expected, but it still stings.
Though it's disappointing to see baseball fans represented this way in Miami, it's mostly the team's fault. Even though the last regime inflated attendance numbers — by counting dogs on Bark at the Park night and fans who bought tickets but never showed — Marlins fans have never truly taken to the franchise outside of a few hot summer runs.
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Soon that will change. Marlins fans will be treated to a glimpse of the future most nights this summer as increasing numbers of players — such as Jordan Yamamoto, who pitched seven shutout innings in his MLB debut last week — get chances to prove a new wave of talent is coming. The Marlins had the best draft in baseball this month: They took NCAA home-run king JJ Bleday among others. As the new talent starts shining in the minors, more fans will take notice.
And the Marlins' putrid, worst-in-baseball TV contract, which pays them just $20 million compared to some MLB teams' $100 million per season, is up in 2020. They'll be able to renegotiate a deal that makes them competitive in bidding for players in free agency. At that time, they'll be able to add proven stars to their crop of young talent.
When all of this comes together, fans will head out to the park. Maybe they won't be the old Marlins fans — they might've had enough — but new ones who are level-headed enough to judge the team based on its play rather than what ex-players (such as the Cards' Marcell Ozuna) are doing in other stadiums across the league.
The Marlins' master plan to build long-term success is moving along perfectly whether or not fans are at the park. Soon enough, more people will begin to notice and pay the price of admission to support baseball in South Florida.