David Montgomery Doesn’t Want to Rebuild Because Attendance Will Fall
One of the items I wrote about over the weekend at HardballTalk involved Phillies president David Montgomery and his reluctance to rebuild. Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times reported that Montgomery worries about falling attendance when considering blowing up the team.
“In 1998, what were we drawing? Where were we ranked of the franchises in the city? We were last,” Montgomery said. “When I took over, we thought it was a moral victory to go 44-46 in the second half and still lose 97 games, drawing a million and a half and we couldn’t get into a new ballpark.
“Some people say that the Phillies worry too much about attendance. Yes, we do. When you are low in attendance, the risk is only on the upside. When you are (drawing well), the risk is dropping any further. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”David Montgomery via Kevin Cooney, Bucks County Courier Times
The only problem is that attendance has already fallen since the Phillies have begun losing.
- 2009 (year after winning the World Series)
- 3,600,693 total (3rd in MLB)
- 44,453 per game (3rd)
- 2010 (year after losing the World Series)
- 3,777,322 (1st in MLB)
- 44,968 per game (2nd)
- 2011 (year after losing the NLCS)
- 3,680,718 (1st in MLB)
- 45,441 per game (1st)
- 2012 (year after losing the NLDS)
- 3,565,718 (1st in MLB)
- 44,021 per game (1st)
- 3.12 percent decline in total attendance from the previous year
- 2013 (year after finishing at .500)
- 3,012,403 (8th in MLB)
- 37,190 per game (8th)
- 15.5 percent decline in total attendance from the previous year
- 2014 (year after finishing 73-89)
- 1,369,694 (9th in MLB)
- 30,438 per game (13th)
- Prorated: about 2.5 million total (about a 17 percent decline in total attendance from the previous year)
According to Baseball Reference, the Phillies have seen the largest drop in average attendance among all 30 teams in baseball, seeing 8,230 fewer fans per game. The Toronto Blue Jays have seen the next-largest decline, at 4,171 fewer fans.
The Phillies’ current situation is partially a result of the front office’s unwillingness to rebuild previously, to continue to attempt to win with an aging, injury prone core of players. To refuse to do so any longer would only intensify the hurt they’re feeling at the box office. They’re not going to win with 36-year-olds Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz; 35-year-old Ryan Howard; and 34-year-old Jonathan Papelbon. (And let’s not forget 37-year-old Marlon Byrd.) It’s historically unprecedented for such an old team to reach a high level of success, not to mention one with all of the injury worries the Phillies have accrued.
Rebuilding is bad-tasting medicine that the Phillies front office is simply going to have to swallow if they want to have fans to attract to the ballpark in the future. It will be tough to see familiar faces go, but we should be seeing Papelbon, Byrd, and A.J. Burnett (and Rollins and Utley if they can talk them into waiving their 10-and-5 rights) moved by the trade deadline. Lee could be moved by the August 31 waiver deadline if he comes back strong, but he could also be moved just as easily in the off-season. The Phillies should take anything they can get for Howard, Ruiz, and Kyle Kendrick.
It was at least somewhat understandable when the Phillies refused to accept defeat two seasons ago. But now? The doe-eyed optimism is no longer cute — it’s delusional. It’s time to rebuild.