Why Can’t the Padres Capture Our Imagination (and Money)?

I’m working on my Padres preview for Hardball Times, and one question that confounds me is this: Why won’t San Diego get behind the Padres? I don’t have an answer, but I’d love to hear some theories.

While you’re thinking about that, here’s a nice table for your viewing pleasure:

Padres Winning Percentage and Home Attendance, 2004 – 2007
Year W-L Pct Att/G
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
2004 87-75 .537 37,244
2005 82-80 .506 35,429
2006 88-74 .543 32,837
2007 89-74 .546 34,445

This marks the first time the Padres have enjoyed more than two consecutive winning seasons. They also reached the playoffs two straight years (and came within one strike of making it three straight) for the first time in franchise history.

I get that it’s popular to bash the club for not being aggressive in the free-agent market (only somewhat warranted, IMO, given the nature of said market) or the amateur draft (a problem that I agree needs to be addressed), but we literally are looking at unprecedented success from this organization and yet, attendance has fallen by 7.5% since the Padres moved downtown.

To be fair, the Padres saw tremendous growth on moving into Petco Park, but still. Here’s that table again, with their final year at Qualcomm thrown in for good measure:

Padres Winning Percentage and Home Attendance, 2003 – 2007
Year W-L Pct Att/G
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
2003 64-98 .395 25,063
2004 87-75 .537 37,244
2005 82-80 .506 35,429
2006 88-74 .543 32,837
2007 89-74 .546 34,445

You see, perhaps, why teams are anxious to build new stadiums? A club coming off a 98-loss season can reap tremendous rewards (especially if taxpayers help flip the bill, which is another issue altogether). Meanwhile, a club that wins 82-89 games a year struggles to keep bodies in seats.

Why is that?

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124 Responses »

  1. the perception that Moores is more concerned about profit than winning is garbage.

    Why would people think that? How about the fact that in order to fill gaping holes in the team (backup CF and injury replacement for Edmonds, a rotation that may need 30 more starts out of their top 5) they are using minimum salary players or non-roster invites? There was a cheap, better alternative in Kyle Lohse available for around $4m yet the Padres would rather have Germano, Rusch, Estes fill those starts. Other then to save money what other motivation could there be? Lohse was better then all of them last year, is coming into his prime, and has the benefit of gaining a draft pick when he signs with another team for 2009.

    Same thing with the pick of Schmidt over Porcello. The only explanation is that the Padres wanted to save money (although with their track record of developing young players it might be smart to save money but that’s a whole other problem).

  2. 84: You misspelled Angels… if you want to be the spelling police haha

  3. 87: You could add Michael Young to that list

  4. 102: N/M I get it

  5. 96/Neyer: Don’t want to paste everything, obviously, as Neyer reads DS. He listed his answer(s) to Geoff’s original question: They have not established a winning tradition, they play in a relatively small market, they’re not sexy. That was the main gist of it. If you want to know anything else, let me know.

  6. 101: I’m not sure that signing Kyle Loshe would have done much to change the public’s perception about FA.

    I hate to say it, but I don’t think the public will even react to “reasonable” or “intelligent” FA signings. They’ll always be accused of being cheap if they do that.

    Then, the second we over-spend on a FA, everyone will be going back to the Nevin/Klesko debaucle.

  7. I don’t see any problem with attendance. Like The Fathers mentioned, those gigantic attendance at Jack Murphy was driven by the giveaway and the specials (Sky show, 4th of July, $5 Mondays etc.)
    Take those away, I bet Jack Murphy attendance is far fewer than the averages suggest. I average 40-50 games in 97-99 and there are nights when only about 9K-11K people at the games and yet, the average for those years were above 22K, I believe. I think Petco averages higher than 11K even with limited sold-out capacity. Jack Murphy was hosting about 50K-65K for special nights.

    The reason I don’t go to more games at Petco are:
    - more travelling time (I used to work 3 miles from Jack Murphy) trying to get to Petco during traffic rushhour is no fun,
    - more expensive tickets (walk-up that cost $2 more/ticket),
    however, when I go it’s quite easy to get in and out of the area, certainly not any harder than getting in and out of Jack Murphy,
    - catch games on radio/TV is pretty easy during the week.

    None of my reasons are due to the team but there are plenty of fans who are disgruntled by the construction of the team.
    Low scoring games for an extended period of home games seem to really bug the casual fans. I’ve had arguments against this notion but to no avail. They’d rather the team ‘tried’ for the big name players than for the alternatives who may be more suited to the ballpark and team. These people, I simply cannot convince that the team has been winning with the new philosophy and are not willing to give the team a chance. I believe that El Hombre and Mashing Macedonian are going to be the sluggers the team needed in the lineup along with the flawed Khalil Thabit Greene.

    Even my optimistic outlook on the Padres cannot blind me to the flaws in the roster. I believe the team still needs more pitching and defense, and I have yet to see those addressed. I’m willing to wait breathlessly to see if the plethora of OFs and suspect arms will pan out. This uncertainty is also a reason for some fans not to turn out at the ballpark. Perception of the team not trying to win is hard to shake off short of the team going on a winning streak early and often which really is not what the team has shown since moving to Petco (slow April, hot May, slow June).

    I have no answer on how the team can sell out every home game as I don’t believe they will do that even the year after winning the WS.

    Good news: 2 weeks until Opening Day 2008.

  8. Sorry, busy day at work. I just wanted to respond to a something. My problem is not with a lack of scoring. My significant issues are cost and lack of passion, both fans and players.

  9. 105 … Thanks, MB … that’s exactly what I wanted … and I buy each of Neyer’s points … and I think they are establishing a “winning tradition” (but still need being to establish a “winning in the post-season tradition”) … and doing that will go a long ways towards making them “sexy” … a lot further than OG’s behavior has gotten them, anyway ;-)

  10. My 2 cents:
    Petco better for anyone to watch a game that had to deal with the supposed ADA seating at Qualcomm, and for me, cheaper!

    Access to Petco better but not perfect. And although I do occasionally eat at the park, the chance to eat outside the park is great.
    Product on the field better – I’ve been attending games since 1975 and four winning seasons is great – not that I don’t want more.

    Re: Star players – One reason that Adrian, and likely Chase should he live up to expectations, will never be “big” stars is that this is tiny media market. Players in LA, and even SF, play in cities where media exposure is huge, even if it’s 3 hours behind NY. LA is likely the most paparazzi ridden city in the US, if not the world. Being seen with Alyssa Milano will raise your notoriety whatever the reason. San Diego is a place that Hoffa could come to disappear and no one would notice, and it’s been like that forever.

    Re: San Diego fans – I believe that one reason San Diego has a smaller group of die hard fans for the Padres (and even the Chargers, but I digress), it that professional baseball came to SD so late – not in the heyday of baseball. The east coast teams, even the ones that are now bad, have multi-generational families of fans. They have the tradition of being fans of the Red Sox, or the Yankees or the Cardinals. And even native born San Diegans don’t have more than 3 generations (and that’s pushing it). I have heard that rooting for a team is a bit like the music of high school – for most people that is the music they are connected to them most strongly regardless of how old they are. And it is the teams of the youth and young adult years that often hold the most significance for fans even after they have moved away. Did 1996 and 1998 effect who is now buying tickets?

    Sorry for the long post – I got in a lot for my 2 cents. I leave tomorrow for Peoria.